WASHINGTON – Britain’s Amir Khan, a talented world boxing champion on an eight-fight win streak, could also play an important role in combating anti-Muslim prejudice, according to his US promoter.
“He has the character and the background to unite the cultures very well,” said Golden Boy Promotions chief executive officer Richard Schaefer. “He has what it takes to be that ambassador, to unify countries and people.”
Khan, 26-1 with 18 knockouts, will defend his World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation light-welter weight titles in Washington on Saturday against hometown hero Lamont Peterson, 29-1-1 with 15 knockouts.
Khan, who turns 25 on Thursday, took the gamble of fighting in his rival’s hometown after a visit to the US capital in September as a special guest of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
During that visit, the Englishman of Pakistani heritage took part in a dinner paying tribute to Muslim athletes to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.
“It was a big thing to be invited by the secretary of state,” Khan said. “It was a tremendous honor when you think of how many Muslims there are in the world and how many big sports stars there are.
“It was an opportunity to send out some good messages, for people to respect who we are. I’ve never been shy of speaking about my religion.”
Schaefer and Golden Boy boss Oscar de la Hoya are pushing Khan to the next level in boxing, with a likely rise to the welterweight division in 2012 setting up a potential showdown with unbeaten US star Floyd Mayweather.
But Schaefer would not be surprised to see Khan follow the path of Filipino star Manny Pacquiao, a member of Congress in his homeland who has aspirations of one day serving as president.
“He might not be like Manny, running for president, but I think he has a tremendous future in politics as well,” Schaefer said.
“That (Clinton’s invitation) shows he is being recognized at the highest level to be such an ambassador.”
Khan, who took a lightweight silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, works alongside Pacquiao at times in trainer Freddie Roach’s Los Angeles gymnasium. But so far, he says the political urge has not hit him.
“I’m a normal guy. I’m going to stay away from politics,” Khan said. “There is a lot of stuff happening in the Middle East and Pakistan, but I don’t want to get into it too much.
“I like helping people, doing charitable work, making things better.”
Khan has given to charity, helping raise $125,000 for “Islam Help” in September to bring food, water and medicine to needy areas in drought-stricken East Africa.