Monday, 7 December 2009

AMIR KHAN, BOXING AND RACISM (AND AMIR's DAD DISAGREES)

Amir Khan: If I were white, I'd be a superstar

British holder of WBA light-welterweight title argues he is
not fully accepted because of his Asian Muslim background

The Guardian

The British boxer Amir Khan believes he is not fully
accepted in this country because of his Asian Muslim
background and insists he would be regarded as a
"superstar" if he were white.

Speaking before the defence of his WBA light-welterweight
title against Dmitriy Salita in Newcastle tomorrow night,
Khan spoke of his frustration at how his attempts to break
down racial barriers had been stymied by bigotry, whereas
he had been treated "like God" since moving to the United
States.

"I can only say that sometimes ,skin colour does make a
difference," Khan said. "I know for a fact if I were a
white English fighter maybe I would have been a superstar
in Britain, and the world."

Khan, who won a silver medal at the Athens Olympics in
2004, has been booed in each of his three fights since
being knocked out by the Colombian Breidis Prescott last
year. He admitted that the racist abuse he has received on
internet forums hurt, but said it made him more determined
as a boxer. "It made me come back even stronger," he said.
"It made me a better fighter. I'm proud to be British."

His remarks come on the eve of a fight that has its own
resonance, pitting a Muslim against a Jew, and which is
being celebrated as a symbol of tolerance.

Khan added: "I try to fix things between the Asian
community and the English community. There are always going
to be racial things there, not getting on with each other
and stuff. I have tried to break that barrier. I'm British,
I went to the Olympic Games for Britain. I could have
chosen to go for Pakistan if I was like that, if we were
all like that – and also, me being Muslim as well. I
respect other religions and other cultures."


Khan father rejects bigotry claim

Amir Khan's father has refuted his son's claims racism has
prevented him from becoming a "superstar" in Britain

BBC

Khan defends his WBA light-welterweight belt for the first
time against Dmitriy Salita in Newcastle on Saturday.

But the 22-year-old insisted he has suffered from racial
bigotry and said: "If I were a white English fighter maybe
I'd have been a superstar."

However, Amir's father Shah told BBC Radio 5 live: "I don't
agree with it. I don't know why he made those comments."

Khan has been booed in each of his three fights since being
knocked out after just 54 seconds by Breidis Prescott last
year - the only blemish on his 22-fight record.

He relocated to California to join Freddie Roach's stable
following that defeat and bounced back in style, defeating
legendary Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera before claiming
Andreas Kotelnik's WBA belt in July.

But since then the Bolton-born Muslim has faced jeers by a
small, but vocal, minority - most recently at an appearance
as a guest at the recent Prizefighter tournament at
London's ExCel Arena, which Khan put down to racial
prejudice.

"It's probably jealousy but I can only say skin colour does
make a difference," he said.

"If I were a white English fighter maybe I'd have been a
superstar in Britain.

"I never get racist remarks but it's always out there which
you can't stop. You just live and learn about what people
are like. I just choose to ignore them.

"I went to the Olympic Games and won a medal for Britain
and then won a world title for Britain but sometimes you
don't see the appreciation.

"Straight after the Prescott fight, people said I was
finished and racial remarks were made. But it made me come
back stronger and a better fighter. I'm proud to be British
and it's a very small minority but it does hurt you and it
pushes you all the way Amir Khan

"I'm proud to be British and it's a very small minority but
it does hurt you and it pushes you all the way."

Khan's furious promoter Frank Warren, meanwhile, has
criticised the media, accusing them of "playing on his
naivety" in the pursuit of headlines.

"I'm really disappointed that people keep asking Amir these
questions. We've managed to keep race and religion out of
this fight and I find it offensive and sad," he said.

"People don't ask David Haye what it's like to be black.
They don't ask Catholic fighters about the problems in
Northern Ireland. When James Degale got booed, they didn't
put it down to racism.

"Amir is 22 and perhaps they are playing on his naivety. It
must play on Amir's mind - why are people asking me this
all the time? It's totally unfair on Amir, and it is very
disappointing."

Shah Khan believes his son is generally seen in a positive
light and added: "I think the attention he gets now at this
stage of his career is incredible.

"I think he is known all round not just in England but
round the world.

"I think he is almost there anyway. He has got a long way
to go yet and he is still young, he is only 22."


Amir Khan: the victim of bad luck and bad people

Racism is the only explanation for the continued abuse of
an able and intelligent fighter

The Guardian

Amir Khan will have more than just a WBA belt at stake when
he fights Andreas Kotelnik on 18 July.

For a while now, a small, ugly knot of fans have been
turning against Amir Khan. They boo him when he walks to
the ring and boo him when he wins. On boxing forums, they
call him arrogant, and worse. Why is this happening to
someone who was a national hero at 17 and is one of the
nicest people in sport?

It is true that hardcore fight fans resented Khan going so
quickly to pay-per-view without a title; this, quite
rightly, matters – but it was hardly the fighter's fault. A
few of them, raised on the myth of infallibility in boxing
prodigies, saw Khan's chin give up on him and reckoned he
was no longer worth following. Again, that is hardly his
doing, just a physiological weakness.

The real reason, though, is the obvious one: racism.

Five years ago, Khan could do no wrong, a 17-year-old kid
who went off to the Olympics in Athens as Britain's only
boxer and came home with a silver medal. He held his own
with one of the finest amateurs of all time, the Cuban
genius Mario Kindelán, and set out on a gilded path to a
world title.

He turned professional as a smiling, gifted star, an
unaffected and polite young athlete from a decent,
working-class family in Bolton, a boxer who took his sport
seriously and was respectful towards his opponents, however
ordinary some of them inevitably were. He showed brilliance
in the ring, and responsibility outside it. Life could not
have been much better.

Then, on 7 July, 2005, London's transport system, as well
as Britain's sense of comfort, was shaken by co-ordinated
explosions in the capital, planted by four young Muslim
fanatics. They killed themselves and 52 others, injuring
several hundred more. Suddenly, all young Asian men and
women were viewed with suspicion by a section of the
public.

Khan, to his credit, made a quick statement condemning the
terrorists and reasserting his pride in his country and his
religion, which he credited with giving him a moral
grounding and the discipline he needed to be a good boxer.
His victories, he said, were for everyone, not just the
Muslim community.

It was not enough for some people. You could hear the
mutterings at his fights. Even when Khan went to Kashmir to
comfort victims of the earthquakes in December that year,
there seemed indifference to his humanitarian effort. The
gilt had come off his image, through no fault of his own.
More problems followed. That December, he was caught
speeding on the M62 and was banned and fined. It would be
the least of his motoring woes.

In 2007, Khan drove his BMW 6-Series convertible at 47mph
through an amber light in the middle of Bolton and hit a
pedestrian, Geoffrey Hatton, breaking his leg. A contrite
Khan was banned for six months and fined £1,000 for
careless driving, but you would have thought he was some
kind of lunatic behind the wheel. What was he doing driving
in a BMW convertible, anyway, the flash git? Why didn't he
sound more apologetic?

The Daily Mail chipped in helpfully in April last year. In
a story loaded with the sort of innuendo the paper's
readers swallow whole for breakfast, they showed him coming
out of a nightclub after "a night on the tiles". Not only
that, they fumed, but (reheating a story they had run a
month earlier), "radical cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed
criticised Khan for wearing shorts embellished with the
British flag".

The Mail were having a bit each way, as ever. They wanted
him to be an abstemious Muslim (which he is) and a
flag-waving Brit (which he is) – but they also needed to
use him as headline fodder for their confused moralising.
How could he win?

Hatton, by this time, had gone into a deep depression. He
sold his home and began to drink heavily. When he died last
May, the Daily Mail, again, went to work on Khan, quoting
the man's widow, Moyra, as saying, "Geoff was a really
happy-go-lucky person before the accident. But it changed
him. He became depressed and got worse each month."

Khan's boxing career, meanwhile, was following a familiar
path – until September last year when he ran into Breidis
Prescott, a murderous puncher hand-picked by his
since-sacked trainer Jorge Rubio. The boo boys that night
were unforgiving, even as he tried bravely to get to his
feet. The cat-calls provided an unwholesome soundtrack.

Yet it was in defeat that we discovered a new maturity in
Khan, totally at odds with the portrayal of him as a
tearaway driver, playboy delinquent and religious
hypocrite.

He fronted up the next day for the TV cameras, made no
excuses, and just a week later attended a charity dinner in
London, where every major face in the sport was on hand.
The applause for him reflected their respect for a fellow
fighter. It was plain that here was a boxer who ducks
nobody, inside or outside the ring.

However, when right-wing minority parties had some minor
successes in the recent local and European elections, the
Islamophobic bigots crawled out from under their rocks
again. There they were joined by other halfwits who would
sing along with any loud chorus, some of whom probably
associated Khan with Naseem Hamed, whom he resembles only
through their shared religion and love of fast cars.

So Khan struggles still for total respect among the cowards
who jeer together in the dark. Some of them will be there
at the MEN Arena on 18 July when he challenges Andreas
Kotelnik for the WBA welterweight title. I hope he looks
after his dodgy chin and boxes so brilliantly that he shuts
them up for good.

1 comment:

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