IN ITV’s first foray into live boxing in a decade, 18-year-old Amir Khan waved goodbye to the amateur code in the perfect way with an emphatic points win over his Olympic nemesis Mario Kindelan on this day (May 14) back in 2005.
The legendary Cuban southpaw had proved far too good for Khan at the 2004 Games in Athens, but the “Boy Wonder” proved he was the real deal with his 19-13 four-twos victory at the home of his beloved Bolton FC, the magnificent Reebok stadium.
It was a rousing success for the broadcaster, too. It attracted a peak viewing audience of 6.3 million and was easily the most popular show on ITV that night.
Three other England-Cuba clashes followed Khan’s bout but none would feature similar Amir-like heroics.
Nigerian-born London light-heavyweight Tony Salem was outpointed 26-21 by Cuba’s menacing Yunieski Gonzalez.
Yorkshire featherweight Gary Sykes faced another crafty Cuban southpaw in Eddy Flores and was beaten to the punch and went down on points 16-9.
A young, talented London middleweight by the name of James DeGale made his senior debut for his country against Cuba’s touted Emilio Correa.
It was nip and tuck all the way but the Cuban edged home by a slender 19-17. The two would meet again three years later in the final of the Beijing Olympics where DeGale would bring home the middleweight gold.
Also boxing on the show were, amongst others, Brian Rose, Haroon Khan and Martin Stead.
Ironically, a few hours after Kindelan was beaten, so was his former victim, Puerto Rican great Felix Trinidad. “Tito” was surprisingly widely outpointed by Winky Wright in a middleweight eliminator in Las Vegas. After losing every round Trinidad would announce his retirement a few days later.
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