This week sees former champion Amir Khan inaugurate the completion of a brand-new Orphan Village complex located in the West coast region of The Gambia in West Africa.
The state of the art Orphan Village has been created by the UK based humanitarian charity, Penny Appeal, working in conjunction with the Amir Khan Foundation.
The village fulfils a shared vision of the two charities to help transform the lives of vulnerable orphaned children, taking them off the streets and into loving homes. The Orphan Village contains 10 Orphan homes, each housing 10 children who are cared for by a full-time foster mother.
The carefully constructed foster care programme ensures each child is given a fulfilling and loving childhood, catering for their physical, emotional and even spiritual well-being.
In addition, every single child in the orphan village will be granted a place at the best private school in the country, offering them the best start in life possible.
Just as Amir Khan is a champion in the ring, so too does he champion the work of serving those most in need around the world.
Leveraging his fame and fortune, Amir has dedicated much of his life to a range of life-saving humanitarian work, setting up his own charity and working alongside award-winning charity, Penny Appeal.
Amir Khan said: “It’s a dream come true for me. I visited the site a few years ago and it was literally a wasteland. Now, working alongside Penny Appeal we have been able to transform this space into a sustainable Orphan Village which will benefit generations of vulnerable children to come.”
Founder and Chairman of Penny Appeal, Adeem Younis, whose team oversaw the construction of the village added: “I’m delighted to finally see our vision come to life. After years of hard work and dedication from both Penny Appeal and the Amir Khan Foundation, we have unveiled one of the best provisions for vulnerable children in the entire country. The children who are housed here are treated as if they were our own, receiving the best facilities and opportunities we can offer. There is still, however, much more still to do and I look forward to on-going partnerships with the Amir Khan Foundation and I’d like to thank all those who gave generously to make this dream a reality”
MTK Global has established itself in Central Asia with the signing of four prospects hailing from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Already boasting fighters from the U.S, Cuba, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Great Britain and Ireland on its roster, MTK Global has now added amateur sensations Shakhobidin Zoirov and Hurshid Tojibaev of Uzbekistan and Sultan Zaurbek and Azhbenov Nurtas of Kazakhstan.
The medals boasted by the quartet are too numerous to mention but highlights of their successes are Zoirov’s Olympic gold, Tojibaev’s victory over Team GB’s Joe Cordina, Zaurbek’s toppling of Olympic champion Robson Conceicao and Nurtas’ win over another Olympic king, Fazliddin Gaibnazarov.
With Kazakh fighters such as Gennady Golovkin and Beibut Shumenov holding world titles in the professional ranks, Central Asia’s amateur system is the envy of the world and MTK Global CEO Sandra is pleased to have laid down a marker by securing a quartet of its most highly-rated fighters.
Vaughan said: “This is a real breakthrough for MTK Global. Central Asia is arguably the most productive conveyor belt of top-class boxers and this is just the beginning of our involvement there.
“The amateur achievements of these four young fighters are well documented but we believe they will excel even further as professionals and we look forward to guiding their careers.
“Signing our first Olympic champion in Shakhobidin Zoirov is a huge moment. There really is no limit on how far we can progress – just about the only certainty is that he won’t be the last Olympic champion we sign.”
Amateur phenom James Branch is driven by the dream of lifting a barrow load of professional titles that eluded his father (also James).
Senior, a mercurially gifted junior at the Repton conveyor belt of champions in Bethnal Green, east London, was touted to shine on the world stage when he vaulted to the pro sphere under promoter Frank Warren back in the mid 1990s.
However, personal circumstances resulted in his immense potential remaining unfulfilled and he withdrew from the profession in his early 20s, after just four paid starts.
‘I’ve got to finish off the job Dad started,’ states the 22 year old southpaw who lifted seven All-England amateur titles including the 2017 Senior ABA Cruiserweight crown.
‘Dad was one of the best amateurs of his generation, a nine-time national (junior) champion who, like me, just missed out on the (1996) Olympics due to an injury. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for him as a pro. I came along and brought added pressure.
‘But he ‘made’ me. With mum, he’s my rock for every situation, a life coach as well as a boxing coach. He’s steered me through all the shit side, the injuries and amateur politics.
‘Stylewise, we’re very similar though I’m probably a bit more flash and confident and, as a southpaw, even trickier. I’m quite ‘flairy’. I use my reactions, work off my opponents.
‘Though I started training aged eight, I couldn’t get any bouts in the UK because, one, I was James Branch’s son and, two, I was very big. I finally had my first bouts at a tournament in Denmark when I was 13 and I destroyed the Danish and Polish national champions. They complained afterwards that it couldn’t possibly have been my debut.
‘Initially, there were added pressures. It was always: ‘That’s ‘Special Branch’s’ Boy’. But, winning seven times in two and a half weeks to reach the (2014) Senior ABA final, aged just 17, helped me step out of the ‘old man’s’ shadow.
‘As a kid, I actually wanted to be a weatherman but, once winning became a habit, boxing became my life. There’s no better feeling than having your hand raised inside a boxing ring. I only lost three of my 50 amateur fights and I’m still fuming about them!
‘(Current Commonwealth cruiser king) Lawrence Okolie narrowly outpointed me in one of our two bouts, Warren Baister beat me in that ABA final when I was just 17 and the other loss was years ago against a kid I couldn’t name or even recognise now.’
When a back injury extinguished his goal of participating in the 2016 Rio Olympics, the ‘Special’ one continued in a singlet for a further season - finally adding that elusive Senior ABA title to the impressive family horde – before opting to punch for his lunch under Martin Bowers at The Peacock facility in Canning Town.
‘Twenty-two is very young to turn pro, especially for a cruiserweight but I’d already won all the national titles and couldn’t really work with the GB coaches in Sheffield. They did their best but had this ‘one-style suits all’ mentality and mine didn’t fit,’ says the Hainault born and based ex carpenter.
‘Working with Martin has been a blessing. Another mentor and a proper gent. He’s taken my strength and fitness to new levels.
‘It’d be nice to have three or four fights before the year is out but I’m in no rush. I intend to have a very long and successful career so I’ll take my time to adapt, settle into the profession and improve.’
After a false start at April’s aborted O2 bill, the evasive Branch kickstarts his professional innings in a four rounder on the parade of prospects at the Arena on June 23rd.
‘It’s a brilliant stage, a dream. Fans will see, I am the future,’ warns Jamie.
‘I know professional boxing is more a business and fans will be looking for me to spark people out in style. In the amateurs, you only have three rounds but I still stopped quite a few and plenty more were ‘broke’ by the final bell, didn’t know what was going on. With one more round, I’d have finished them.
‘I think my style will actually be very marketable for the pros. I’ve got excellent reflexes and natural awkwardness, and I can open opponents up with my movement.
‘Often in top amateur matches, fans were on the edge of their seats as a fired back with my hands down. I’m a very cool, relaxed customer who intends breaking opponents down, then stopping them.
‘Of course, it’s good to look a million dollars but next weekend I just intend to win, no matter what. If you keep winning, you won’t go wrong in this game!’