In terms of producing pugilistic world champions, the UK continues to punch well above its weight — in some cases literally. One man taking the fight to the world is Amir Khan, who will be defending two world titles against Lamont Peterson this Saturday. Though, as ShortList found out when we called the 25-year-old at his Los Angeles training base, he has an even bigger test in his sights…
Is it harder to defend a title than fight for one?
They say it’s harder to keep hold of a title when you win it because so many people want to beat you, so that makes me train even harder. I train like a challenger, and always will. That hunger needs to be there.
Is your next opponent going to be a stepping stone to bigger things?
He’s not a stepping stone, he’s a real test for me. He’s only lost one fight and knows there are two world titles up for grabs. That said, beating Peterson and looking good against him will open the door for bigger fights.
Would you rather go the distance or deliver a first-round knockout?
It might look good on paper when you knock someone out in the first round, but when you go a couple of rounds, it shows how good you are. After all that training for 10 weeks, you want to show what you’ve been working on. I want to put on a good boxing display.
You were once floored in less than a minute [vs Colombian Breidis Prescott in 2008]. How did that affect you?
It would affect any fighter; it’s how you come back from it that matters. And by becoming a two-time world champion it’s made me a better boxer inside and outside the ring. My next step is to move up to the next weight category and fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. The fighters I want in this weight class [light welterweight] don’t want to face me.
Do you take it to heart when someone rejects an offer of a fight?
I’ve offered big names fights before and they’ve turned the fights down. You feel that the best should fight the best, but that’s not happening. It frustrates you when you don’t get the fights that you want.
What’s the oddest training technique that your coach Freddie Roach has employed?
The first time I joined him at a training camp he put me straight in the ring with Manny Pacquiao. He wanted to get my confidence up by seeing how I’d cope with the best fighter in the world. I was very nervous, but I did really well against him.
Any parts of training you’re not so keen on?
I’m not the biggest fan of eating vegetables. When you’re at the training camp you’ve got to eat the right foods for fuel, so it means no chocolate or crisps. That’s hard. I take my mind off it by playing Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, not that I’m any good at it. I’m better at the boxing game Fight Night. Sometimes I play as myself, but I don’t like seeing myself getting beaten up.
With the Olympics coming around, are you sad that you won’t be part of it?
Absolutely, yeah. I’m an ambassador for it, but at the same time it’s the biggest sporting event in the world, so it’s a shame I can’t compete. Boxing is one of the only sports in which, if you’re professional, you can’t compete. In football you can. If boxing were allowed, it would be huge.
Would you begrudge a Premier League footballer winning an Olympic medal?
I don’t think Premier League footballers know how big the Olympics is. Boxers know how big it is because, for us, winning a gold medal takes you from an amateur to a superstar, whereas other sports don’t appreciate it as much. Boxing gives amateurs a chance, so football should do the same.
You met Mike Tyson recently — how was that?
He’s nice, and a lot calmer now that he’s retired. He fought like the late Joe Frazier — an electric fighter with speed, power and movement, and those guys never took a step back. They always fought the best and were never afraid to jump in the ring with anybody.
Are you planning to follow a similar route to his acting career once you retire?
I’ve been asked to appear in a few films — mainly by Bollywood — and I’ve always said no. If I had time on my hands when I did retire, and I wasn’t too busy down the gym looking for the next Amir Khan, then maybe.
Has there been a time when meeting an idol has proved disappointing?
I’ve been lucky. I’ve met a lot of cool people such as P Diddy, David Beckham and 50 Cent, who I’ve got on with. And they have been excited to meet me, as well.
Have any famous fans ever wanted to go a few rounds with you?
A few famous people have been down to the gym to see me train, such as Ashley Cole and Jason Statham, but they didn’t ask to spar, which is lucky as I know Jason can fight. He’s a couple of stone heavier than me and would probably beat me up.
Amir Khan vs Lamont Peterson is live on Sky Sports 1, 8pm on 10 December