The Great British-Pakistani-Muslim Hope

Pat Jordan in the New York Times Magazine:

19khan1Amir Khan is a slender 19-year-old with smooth skin the color of café con leche. His handshake is weak, his long, delicate fingers as easily crushed, it seems, as the stem of a flower. He began boxing when he was 8, in the tough old mill town of Bolton, in northern England. He is a British citizen of Pakistani descent and a practicing Muslim. At 11, he was a boxing prodigy. By his teens, he was the best young amateur boxer in the United Kingdom. In 2003, when Khan was 16, he won a gold medal at the Junior Olympics, which were held in the United States. One opponent at the event told him that if he fought at the Olympics the next year in Athens, he would “shock the world.”

So, Khan says: “I went home and looked at the rules. You had to be 18 to compete in the Olympics.” He petitioned the British Amateur Boxing Association to make an exception, but the A.B.A. refused. Khan threatened to fight for Pakistan. The A.B.A. relented, and that summer Khan was named the sole member of the British boxing team. “It would have been an embarrassment to have no boxer on the British team,” he says.

Khan advanced to the gold-medal bout by, as the press variously put it, “outclassing,” “demoralizing” and “hammering” his first four opponents. His graceful style elicited comparisons with Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali.

More here.