By Alistair Hendrie
Despite winning an Olympic silver medal and two world titles at light-welterweight, it’s fair to say Amir Khan has never enjoyed soaring levels of popularity in Britain. Consider his following compared to predecessors Ricky Hatton or David Haye, particularly while boxing away from home, and there’s no contest as to who attracts the fewest travelling fans. A string of detrimental tabloid stories, coupled with his recent move to America, only compound Khan's dwindling popularity among his countrymen.
Indeed, Khan’s last seven fights have been promoted by Oscar De La Hoya’s US stable Golden Boy Promotions, a company now looking to tap into the British market. Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy, has announced plans for quarterly shows in the UK, starting in the second half of 2013 if all goes to plan. The company are eager to promote the likes of Olympians Anthony Joshua, Luke Campbell and Anthony Ogogo on the undercards of money-spinning world title fights.
Significantly for Khan, this could give his public standing a well needed shot in the arm. His recent victory over Carlos Molina caused barely a stir in his homeland, and given Khan’s glowing credentials in the ring and business nous outside the ring, now is a prime opportunity to raise his stock in the UK.
The first idea that springs to mind is a grudge match between Khan and Kell Brook on the undercard of a UK show headlined by, say, Floyd Mayweather or Adrian Broner. This kind of show would be perfect for a venue such as London’s o2 Arena or the Manchester Arena. Not only would a plan such as this give Khan the chance to quash Brook, a long time rival, it would also provide the Bolton fighter long overdue exposure in the UK.
Khan has high hopes for his own promotional company, Khan Promotions, so if he is serious about building a substantial stable in Britain, he’ll need to do everything he can to endear himself to his natives. You feel there could be a blot on Khan’s legacy if he retires without another significant win in Britain. Of course, his last fight on his own shores was a win over Paul McCloskey in 2010 which, sadly enough, lacked any sense of substance or meaning.
However, there’s no doubting Khan’s level of fame, or even influence in the UK. For instance, during Khan’s run to a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, he was Britain’s sole participant in the boxing event. At the recent London Games, though, Britain clinched five medals, further reinforcing the influence Audley Harrison, and Khan four years later, have had on funding, training and performance levels in British boxing. Combine that with lucrative sponsorship deals involving JD Sports and Reebok and Khan still holds significant prestige in the UK.
Still, Golden Boy’s proposed shot at British stardom can hand Khan a sense of acceptance in Britain, something he has always campaigned for. Should Khan be granted a tantalising rematch against Danny Garcia, possibly in the UK, imagine the wild levels of ecstasy if Khan could avenge his defeat to his bitter rival. Paulie Malignaggi, the WBA welterweight champion, could be another attractive rematch option for Khan, especially due to Malignaggi's popularity in the UK. After all, Khan boxed Malignaggi away from home first time around, so it would be a no-brainer to arrange a rematch in Khan’s home country.
Although this is mere speculation at this early stage, De La Hoya and his business partners are still arguably the most influential group in boxing today. It would come as no surprise should he strike a deal to provide Britain with some of its biggest events since Frank Warren fought tooth and nail, in 2000, to bring Mike Tyson to the UK.
For example, imagine how much excitement and hysteria a Mayweather fight could generate in the UK. Granted, Mayweather does what Mayweather wants but if there’s one man to make an idea a reality in this business, it’s De La Hoya. He’s already snapped up some of the brightest starlets on the planet such as Broner, Saul Alvarez and Leo Santa Cruz, so it makes consummate business sense to bring his prominent stable to the UK, and not just for Khan.