Boxer Amir Khan: the Most Interesting Champ in the World

Boxer Amir Khan: the Most Interesting Champ in the World

“Boxing is the toughest sport by far.”

Preconditioning (First Two Weeks) Monday: Track work High-intensity sprint drills, cones, agility drills, ladder drills (50 minutes) Tuesday: Pool work or ocean swim Quarter mile to half mile swim or sprint interval pool drills Wednesday: Off Thursday: Strength training circuit 14 plyometric and isometric exercise stations (50 minutes) Friday: Stairs 304 flights with three breaks, alternating single-step, double-step and triple-step strides between breaks Conditioning and Sparring (After First Two Weeks) Sparring three times per week, conditioning three times per week. Sparring rounds increase each week. Before sparring rounds reach six, continue with daily conditioning. When sparring rounds are above six, take day off conditioning and focus on recovery.

It’s a statement that’s hard to argue after watching what Amir “King” Khan endures to prepare for his next opponent, Lamont Peterson, on Peterson’s home turf in America. The Pakinstani-Brit will defend his WBA Super and IBF Light Welterweight Championship titles on December 10 in Washington, DC. WILD CARD At just 24 years old, Khan is a relative rookie in the world of professional boxing, but the 27 fights he already has under his belt tell a different story. Khan started boxing when he was eight—his father’s solution for his uncontrollable energy. He was an instant natural, winning numerous accolades when he started competing at the age of 11, including a gold medal at the 2003 Junior Olympics and a silver at the 2004 Olympics. Now, Khan is heralded as one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world, a distinction he doesn’t take for granted. “I’ve got a job that I love doing,” Amir says as he gets his hands wrapped. “I’m one of the lucky ones. And because I’m young as well, I like to learn—know what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, the techniques and how it is going to help me in a fight.” Khan is surprisingly gracious and friendly in person, a departure from the popular perception of boxers—that they’re unapproachable boors who would as soon give you a right hook as shake your hand. Many of the world’s best boxers train at the Wild Card Boxing Gym in Hollywood, CA, where Khan works with owner and renowned trainer Freddie Roach, who also counts Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao among his clients. Even with decided victories over tough opponents like Zab Judah, Khan realizes that it’s important to have the best man in the business in your corner. “Freddie’s brought the best out of me. He’s made me into a better fighter,” Khan says. “He’s made me into a fighter who uses his brains. Before I used to go in with my heart, and I have a big heart. I take shots and I’ll come back in. If they want a war, we’ll have a war. But Freddie said to me ‘Why would you want to have a war and go crazy in a fight when you can make it easy?’ And to make it easy is to stick to boxing skills.” IN THE RING

Khan credits Roach with making him a smarter boxer.

Khan’s ability to grow with each training session is one of the keys to his success, and his exhaustive workouts extend far beyond the ring. “We do a lot of hill running, a lot of steps. The Santa Monica steps,” which are the equivalent of running up a five-story building countless times a day. “We also do a lot of swimming to keep the muscles nice and loose as well. We do a lot of sprint work, just to get the heart rate working high, because in a fight you might be pacing yourself, then bang-bang-bang, you’re throwing a combination.” He has the help of his father, his uncle, his best friend and even his little brother Haroon, an amateur fighter out of Pakistan. But it’s inside the ring where all of his hard work comes together. “Sparring is the closest thing to a fight,” Amir explains after going eight full rounds with two very formidable partners. “You’re putting everything together. The techniques, the work we do with Freddie Roach on the pads and the instruction he gives me. Sparring is about getting your timing right. It’s about taking shots and knowing what to expect. So it’s the closest thing to a fight.” If that’s the closest thing to a fight, then Khan’s opponents are in trouble. Even when going up against a more powerful foe, his lightning-fast jabs and footwork always keep him one step ahead of his opponent. He takes hits with a defiant, “Come on!” and absorbs more punishing blows before striking back with combinations that send his sparring partner reeling.

“It’s mainly about putting everything together, pretending that I’m fighting Lamont Peterson. So I picture everything I’m going to do against him. I don’t think Lamont is nowhere near as strong as the guys I’m sparring with. So if I can hang with them, when it comes to fighting Lamont, I’ll be much more comfortable.”

DISCIPLINE Khan trains for 10 weeks, six days a week to prepare for a fight. “It’s a full-time job when I’m here. No distractions. Just focus on training, working hard. Just eat, sleep, boxing, really.” Khan, like all professional athletes, also puts extra emphasis on his diet. “We have our cheat days here and there; that helps you out mentally, [but] we do watch the diet. And especially two weeks before the fight. It’s like a car; you’re not going to put the wrong fuel in a car, so it’s like putting the right fuel in your body.”

Khan admits boxers don’t have sex before fights.

As for that widely reported myth that boxers abstain from sex before fights? Amir reveals, “It’s true. Fighters shouldn’t have sex a couple of weeks before a fight. You need as much energy in your body as possible to be at the top of your game. You need to [make] a lot of sacrifices. And it’s worth it, because to be announced the winner after a fight, it’s the best feeling ever.” AMBITIONS OUTSIDE THE RING Despite his strict regimen, Khan is quick to say he isn’t an automaton who only knows how to punch guys so hard they puke up their own livers. “I’m a chill guy. I’m quiet. I never go around saying I’m a tough guy,” he says, preferring to nurse low-key hobbies than flash his status in swanky clubs. “I like to hang out with my friends. I like cars. I like watches. I like spending time with my family, going on holidays and exploring new things.” And it frustrates him that his new found fame means he can’t maintain his quiet lifestyle in his native U.K. anymore. “I can’t walk the streets. I can’t go anywhere. It’s a nice thing sometimes when you can be yourself and chill. That’s the reason I like training here in America because I’m left to do my training and no one really bothers me.”

And to ensure that he doesn’t develop a world champion ego, he turns to charity work. “I love helping because I like to stay positive and not many sportsmen do that. I build schools in Third World countries and hospitals and stuff. I’ve built a boxing center in Bolton, where I’m from, which keeps the kids off the street.” He explains, “Because boxing changed my life forever, so I want to change all the kids’ lives by having a boxing gym there—keeping them off the streets, keeping them away from the police, giving them discipline. There’s computers there. They can come and do their homework there. It’s in a deprived area, so not all kids can afford computers and use the Internet.” Amir Khan may be young, but he’s wise beyond his years. “I’d like to pass this message across to young people out there—anything in life is achievable.” he says. Whether you enjoy the sport of boxing or not, Khan’s inspirational words ring true—work hard and train hard, and you’ll never be down for the count.

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