Amir Khan has accused young Asian sportsmen and women of allowing excuses and a poor diet to stop them fulfilling their potential. The 35-year-old former world champion boxer picked out Asian footballers, in particular, for supposedly lacking dedication and allowing racism to undermine their development.
Speaking on Monday during a farewell press conference, having announced his retirement from boxing last week, Khan was asked if he was proud of his legacy. He turned professional in 2005, having won an Olympic silver medal the previous year at the age of 17, at a time when there were few high-profile boxers of South Asian heritage in Britain. The situation is very different now and many talented Asian boxers cite Khan as their inspiration.
“They all want to try now,” Khan said. “It’s an amazing platform for them to see what I’ve done and that it’s possible for them to do the same and achieve what I’ve achieved. People used to say: ‘We are Muslim, we are Asian, we can’t make it in boxing. We’re not going to be picked.’ It’s an excuse that all Asians use – that we’re never going to be picked. Look at football for example. There are no Asian footballers but guess what they all say? ‘We won’t get picked because we’re Asian.’ I think that’s a fucking load of bullshit, really. It’s a load of bollocks. Asians, when we can’t to a certain extent, give up. We don’t have it in us.”
“Look, us Asians are not really meant to be fighters,” Khan continued. “We’re not supposed to be good sportsmen and women. Our diet is appalling. It’s curries. It’s not the right diet to be a champion. If you put us against a lot of English fighters their diet is a lot better. They’re stronger than us. But obviously I changed my way of living. Luckily, I started very young. But not many Asians become sportsmen and women because we don’t have the diet. We don’t have the dedication. But if we see someone doing it, like if they’ve seen me do it, maybe that can inspire and motivate them. If Amir Khan has done it, being Asian and living on chapatis all his life and eating curries, we can do it. But you still have to take it easy on those things.”
Khan remembered how his own ethnicity, as a young British boxer with strong family roots in Pakistan, was often attacked. After the terrorist attacks in London in 2005, he chose to speak out and stress that his allegiance lay with Britain and remind people that he had been born and raised in Bolton. “I’m glad I’m a fighter and I can pack a punch and have a little go if I have to,” Khan said from his home in Bolton. “If another Asian had made those remarks, some other Asians may have taken it the wrong way and wanted to start a fight. But no-one started a fight with me.
“Look, I only spoke the truth. I am totally against terrorism. I think it’s wrong. All nations should respect each other and be together. Look at my house now. I’ve got a Jewish brother here, an Indian brother here and a Pakistani brother here. I’m a very multicultural brother. When people bring religion or racism into something I think it’s all bollocks. I’ve always been against it and I’ve always spoken the truth.”
Khan lost the final fight of his 40-bout career in February when he was stopped by his bitter rival Kell Brook – who also announced his retirement earlier this month. The two fighters made their peace with each other after the fight but Khan suggested on Monday that he knew long before the first bell that his career was about to end. “When I was in training camp I got injuries but I didn’t want to tell people because I didn’t want them to say: ‘Amir is making excuses,’” he said. “I tore my rotator cuff, my tendon split in half in my right arm. It’s still sore now and I can’t lift it up much. Then my knees were hurting in training camp. I was still pushing myself hard and that’s when it hit me: ‘Do you know what? I don’t have it left in me.’
“But I couldn’t let anyone down, especially the fans. I can’t walk away from this fight, so I’m going to go ahead with it. But deep down I wasn’t mentally prepared. I’d trained hard, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t have it in me. I was already done as a fighter.”
Khan insisted that he had “no regrets because everyone would have hated me for not taking that fight. In boxing there is always a winner and a loser and people know I gave them the fight they always wanted. Maybe it might have been a different story if it had been a couple of years earlier, but it is what it is. On that night Kell was the better fighter and he won.
“I think I’ll be remembered as a fighter who never shied away from anyone. I tried to give everyone the biggest fights they ever wanted, tried to have them on the edge of their seats and win, lose or draw, it was always an exciting night. I hope people will always remember that Amir Khan was an exciting fighter, who gave his all when he stepped inside the ring.”
Khan also let it slip that he will return to reality television later this year – having appeared in I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here in 2017 . “I’ve been asked to do a very, very big show. I can’t give the name to you. But I’ll give you a clue. I’ve been on it before so …” After he burst out laughing Khan said, a little bashfully, “I’m not saying nothing. I’ve been asked to go there. I think it’ll be brilliant. I think people get to see another side of me and it would be nice to do something like that.”