March 22, 2017
March 22, 2017
Amir Khan

Action Images/Carl Recine

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THERE is a genuine air of sadness surrounding Amir Khan as he emerges from the most turbulent period of his career, which started with that devastating swing of Saul Alvarez’s right fist in Las Vegas 10 months back.

A damaging family feud, seismic changes in his backroom team and a chronic hand injury have required urgent attention before the former unified light-welterweight champion could even begin to think about actually boxing again.

But, now 30, Khan says here begins a new era, one which he desperately hopes will end with another world title around his waist.

He has no fight scheduled yet, although plans are well afoot for his ring return, but Khan has already been in camp for two months. And it is from the reception area of Virgil Hunter’s San Francisco gym that he lays out his plan.

“Obviously a lot has changed in my team,” Khan says, while the likes of Peter Quillin, Karim Mayfield and Tony Yoka go to work on the bags in the adjacent room.

“Taz is no longer working, Saj is no longer working. Saj was my best friend and he left. It wasn’t a nice way they left. I had the final say. I said, ‘look guys, if you’re not going to work, I don’t want to be paying you for doing nothing’.

“They probably thought: ‘this is our best chance to cash out, Amir is done with his career and we’re probably going to ask for redundancy and get out’. And that’s what they all did. They all wanted a big cheque and they left.”

Uncle Taz Khan and long-time friend Saj Mohamed were as close as anyone to the welterweight throughout his career. It is difficult to imagine the boxer without them, or his father Shah, around him.

“I think it is the end of an era…I think it is the end of an old era where we all had good times,” he says, like the frontman in a band reminiscing about a long-forgotten tour.

“They all did well – and did better than a lot of people. We all made a lot of money in the last era but I think it’s about setting my legacy now.

“I’m the boss of everything now. I’m making sure I make the right choices and decide if I do the right things. We will see.”

Financial issues appear to be at the heart of the dispute, and Khan says one particular payment sums up the problems he felt so obliged to act on.

“Something funny happened to me actually,” he said. “I got a bill for a server for like eight grand. I thought, ‘eight grand? What’s that for?’ I emailed the guy back asking what the bill was for.

“He said, ‘oh that’s for the server in your office’. I thought to myself, ‘I’m a fighter – I don’t need an office’. Why would I need an office with a server? I’m a fighter.

“I’m the only person going in the ring but I’m paying server costs and God knows what else for an office that I don’t even need. My office is the gym. The server is for all old emails going back years – what do I need those for? I don’t even look at my emails now!

“When you’re making millions, sometimes people forget about the little costs but they add up, man.

“I lost sight of it because obviously I left it to people that I trusted. I thought they could do everything and I could sit back and focus on my boxing. But it wasn’t like that. It’s funny now thinking about it – I was young then and I relied on my team, whatever they said went. This is a learning curve.

“The way they left everything… I remember being on the phone because I needed the cooker fixed but I didn’t know what to do. I had to make payments but I’d never, ever made a bank payment in my life. I usually bring the money in and everything gets done for me.

“When you start making big money the people around me should have been looking out for my interests but it didn’t seem like that. They were just saying ‘the money is coming in just keep spending it’.

“It was a great wake-up call and I’m glad I did it now. One day I knew I had to do it.”

Khan’s chilling knock-out defeat to Mexican idol Canelo on May 7, he says, was the trigger for his decision.

amir khan

“I lost in May but by October/November it had all changed,” he explains.

“Because I said I wanted to take full control of everything, my old team said, ‘there you go’ and walked away.

“I said to Saj, ‘I want to keep you on, I’ll still pay you and I’ll look after you and even after my career I want you to run and manage everything’. He turned around and said ‘no’. He thought ‘Amir is done now’.

“When he said that it was a big slap in my face because I was always there for him. I thought when it was my turn and I needed him there for me… The people who should’ve been there for me, weren’t.

“I should have got on to my things a few years ago when I was 21 or 22 and made sure everything was right. I didn’t want to ever think about that. I just assumed it would be going the right way.

“I had property advisers who used to rip me off, I had accountants who ripped me off. I changed everything.

“With what I’ve gone through if I told you everything you would start crying. When money starts coming in a lot of people change. When it stops you see their true colours. And when I took a loss and everyone thought I was done, I saw everyone’s true colours. That is why I had to make these big changes.”

It just so happens that as Khan goes it alone, with only his wife Faryal Makhdoom and young daughter Lamysa in tow, he could be on the verge of pocketing the biggest purse of his career.

The 2004 Olympic silver medalist is planning on a tune-up fight next month – with a spot on the undercard of Andre Berto v Shawn Porter on April 22 a possibility – while he may even stage his own UK card around a similar date.

Meanwhile, despite reports to the contrary, talks about a £32m superfight with Manny Pacquaio remain ongoing – and victory over the Filipino senator would also secure the WBO welterweight title.

Amir Khan

He said: “If they want to open the market in Dubai it’s a key fight because you’ve got a lot of Filipinos there, a lot of Pakistanis, a lot of Muslims. It works really well from that end.

“There are a lot of investors who are happy to put this fight on. People are saying that the money in Dubai isn’t there and that’s why the fight is off. But the money is there.

“At the moment there are still talks going on. I know all this stuff that Bob Arum is saying, but behind the scenes things are being done.

Even now I think there might be a possibility that the fight could happen. I really believe there’s still a chance.

“I’m still here training because I have a date end of April, early May anyway. So I spoke to Al Haymon and he said he’s going to get me a fight. The Pacquiao fight is one that would be really hard to turn down if it came to me. Even though I said that I want to have a tune-up fight, I can go into a fight like that being the underdog and winning that fight to get me where I have to be.

“After the Canelo fight my old team thought, ‘he’s had his big fight, he’s done now’. So this is the chance for me now to prove everyone wrong.

“I’m not done. I’ve just turned 30, I’ve still got some good years left in me. It could be my time to shine.”

So is the air of sadness misleading?

“I’m happy,” he insists. “It has matured me a lot – I saw white hair on me for the first time in my life on my beard. That’s all the bills and all the problems.

“I’m happy. It is a time that I prove everyone wrong. My old team will think I made the worst choice by letting them go and say, ‘watch his career go down the drain’. I’m not going to let that happen. I’m looking forward to proving them wrong.”

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