AMIR KHAN today told Boxing News he had been in talks with other promoters before signing a surprise three-fight deal with Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn that “may well open the door” for a showdown with Kell Brook. But the returning star also admitted that his troublesome hands could yet scupper the showdown.
Khan, 31, will return to the ring for the first time in almost two years when he headlines an April 21 event at Liverpool’s Echo Arena that will mark his first fight in Britain since 2013. The comeback opponent – “no knockover,” claimed Hearn – will be announced next week.
Khan had stated for a long time – and as recently as August 2017 – that he wouldn’t work with Hearn again, particularly during negotiations for that elusive Brook showdown. Before that, they had a brief partnership for Amir’s 2011 victory over Paul McCloskey in Manchester which ended with both parties washing their hands of the other.
According to the 2004 Olympic silver medallist, new talks with Hearn and Matchroom have been taking place for several months, beginning before the fighter achieved new levels of fame – or notoriety, depending on your viewpoint – while finishing fourth on popular celebrity reality show, I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here, at the end of last year.
“We started speaking about it just before I went into the jungle,” Khan explained. “I was thinking to myself, let’s do something about this. Nobody expected me and Eddie to be working together, nobody, but guess what? We’re here now. Let’s put all the drama we had behind us.
“Eddie is the best promoter in the UK, and he can get me the world title shot I crave,” Khan continued. “I can be a world champion again, I know this will happen.
“We spoke to a few of the other promoters [before signing with Matchroom], but Eddie is at the top of his game at the moment. He’s young and he has the same willpower as me to want to be the best.
“It’s important to me that he is working in America now and staging shows over there. He’s working with Al Haymon and Bob Arum, and I work with them as well.”
The former WBA and IBF super-lightweight champion has not fought since an ambitious leap to middleweight left him unconscious at the heavy hands of Canelo Alvarez in May 2016. For Khan, the important thing now is to make up for lost time back down in his more natural surrounds of the welterweight division.
“I’m a welterweight fighter,” he said. “This is where I can win a world title and I want all of those belts. I won titles at light-welterweight and the goal is to become a two-weight champion.”
Since the Canelo loss, Khan has endured a string of personal problems – splitting from and later reuniting with his wife and family – while undergoing multiple surgeries to repair the hand injuries that have kept him out of the ring. He admitted after fighting just seven times in six years, three fights in one year could be an ambitious plan.
“I think the hand is going to fine but, yes, I’m nervous about it [the hand],” Khan continued. “The nerves can’t get me down, I can’t let them affect me. I’ve been punching the bag with it and it feels a lot better than it did before. But it’s all psychological as well isn’t it?
“Three times they opened my hand up in three operations. It’s all about time, now I have to get in the ring and test it. But I know, even if it were to break, I would still fight, I will fight through the pain.”
For Hearn, the reasons for backing Khan’s return are obvious. Always one of the most marketable fighters in the world, the promoter knows that a Khan-Brook blockbuster, despite both losing momentum in recent years, would be massive.
“Great business is great business and this is a great move for everybody,” Hearn said. “This surprises a lot of people because there has been friction in the past and a lot of things have been said, particularly around failed negotiations to make the Kell Brook fight.
“It doesn’t take a genius to recognise that it brings the Brook fight closer. This isn’t a deal to make that fight happen, but it’s at the forefront of our minds to try and deliver that fight at the end of 2018. The barriers to make that in the past was the obvious animosity, but different networks and promoters too. Now all the barriers have gone, we’re all in this together.”
Khan is six years removed from his best run of form. He picked up the WBA 140lb title in 2009 when he outscored Andriy Kotelnik and added the IBF strap in 2011 with a five-round hammering of Zab Judah. At the end of that year, Khan was on the wrong end of a controversial points loss to Lamont Peterson, before being halted in four sessions by the emerging Danny Garcia in a 2012.
That defeat triggered a switch from Freddie Roach to current trainer Virgil Hunter, who has overseen Khan’s career since and will be in the corner for the comeback. Victories over Luis Collazo and Devon Alexander in 2014 exhibited the Bolton man’s class at welterweight, but he laboured to a 2015 points win over Chris Algieri before the Alvarez adventure ended badly in Las Vegas the following year.
Khan’s record since losing his belts in 2011 is 5-2 (1). His return is a welcome one, yet one senses it would take an incredible comeback for the former king to win another world championship.