Over the past two years, Amir Khan has fought three times in the 147-pound division, winning all three in rather convincing fashion. Now that he’s established himself at that weight, Khan is focused on one goal for 2016: He wants to own the division.
“I believe I am the best welterweight out there,” Khan said recently, “and I desperately want to prove it.”
Given the names at the top of the weight class—in no particular order, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Manny Pacquiao, Kell Brook, Tim Bradley, Danny Garcia, Errol Spence Jr.—Khan’s statement definitely can be characterized as bold.
Then again, it’s easy to understand why Khan’s confidence is sky-high right now. The lifelong resident of Bolton, Lancashire in the U.K. is riding a five-fight winning streak, with his trio of unanimous decisions over Luis Collazo, Devon Alexander and Chris Algieri at 147 pounds preceded by wins over Julio Diaz (at 142) and Carlos Molina (at 140).
Given a choice, Amir Khan (31-3, 19 KOs) says he would prefer to step in the ring opposite either Pacquiao (whom he knows well from their time training together) or Brook (a fellow Brit who currently holds a 147-pound title).
“I’d love to take them both on,” Khan says. “Manny is a good friend of mine and always will be. We have trained together for years, so we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses inside out.
“As for Kell, that would be an incredible battle of Britain. He is from Yorkshire, I’m from Lancashire. It’s a matchup that would sell out any football stadium in the country.”
While Pacquiao, who turns 37 years old on December 17, is one of the top pound-for-pound fighters of all time who is winding down his career, the 29-year-old Brook is in his prime, having won all 35 of his professional fights, including 24 by knockout. In fact, only one of Brook’s last seven opponents—Porter in August 2014—has taken him the distance.
Still, Khan would like his chances against his fellow countryman. “I respect what Kell has done, as I respect all boxers who step into the ring,” he says. “But I believe I have the hand speed and the talent to beat him. I’d absolutely love that fight.”
“ I want to be remembered as the best welterweight in the world, bar none, and I feel I have the talent and discipline to do it. ” Amir Khan
Khan won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics as a precocious 17-year-old, then turned pro the following summer. Since then, he has enjoyed a mostly steady 10-year climb that has included beating Andriy Kotelnik in July 2009 to become a 140-pound world champion at the age of 22, and defending his title five times before losing a split decision to Lamont Peterson in December 2011.
Khan's only professional misstep since losing to Peterson occurred in July 2012, when Danny Garcia stopped him in the fourth round of their 140-pound title fight.
He's since rebounded with his current five-fight winning streak, which included the jump from 140 to 147—a jump the 5-foot-8½ Khan says was natural, even if it did take a little adjusting.
“The Collazo fight [in May 2014] was a tough one, as he was so much bigger than anyone I had fought before,” he says of his first bout at 147. “But I felt great in the next two [against Alexander and Algieri], and I feel I have found myself at welterweight and I will only get better.”
Bolstering that feeling is a recent conversation Khan had with former 160-pound world champion Felix Sturm.
“He said late 20s, early 30s is when you are at your peak,” says Khan, who will turn 29 on December 8. “I plan to be around for four or five more years, until I have achieved all I set out to when I turned pro.
“I want to be remembered as the best welterweight in the world, bar none, and I feel I have the talent and discipline to do it.”
Speaking of discipline, although Khan has been idle since his win over Algieri on May 29, he insists he has never been in better shape. For that he gives credit to coach Virgil Hunter, who has vast experience working with top-level talents.
“I’ve got a great team behind me, and nothing is ever left to chance,” he says. “I think the progress I have made over the last few fights is there for all to see. I have tightened up, I’m harder to catch, but I have always been able to out-speed my opponents. That will never leave me.
“I’m a much better all-around fighter than the one who fought Garcia and Peterson. In fact, I’d fight Garcia again in a heartbeat.”
Whether he gets that second chance against Garcia, or a shot at Pacquiao or Brook or someone else, will be determined in the coming weeks. But whoever Khan's next opponent ends up being better be prepared to face a fighter who is at the top of his game, both physically and mentally.
“I really don’t think boxing fans have seen the best of me yet. That is still to come,” Khan says. “There are massive fights out there for me, and I’m going to carry on winning and cleaning up the welterweight division.”