Amir Khan was an Olympic silver medalist by the impossibly young age of 17. He was used to competing on international stages. But since turning pro in 2005, all of his fights took place in the United Kingdom. First, in his native Bolton and then, quickly, to some of the biggest venues the country had to offer.
Khan knew, though, if he was going to make a lasting splash on the world stage, he would have to have a good showing across the pond. So in 2010, Khan jumped in feet first and took on Paulie Malignaggi in his native New York, right in one of the sport’s most historically important venues: Madison Square Garden.
“I’ve watched all the top-named boxers fight in places in America like Vegas and New York,” Khan said. “To be a global star you have to fight in America. If you can make a name for yourself in America then people around the world will know who you are.”
Amir Khan stopped Malignaggi at the Garden, and since then has fought seven of his nine fights in the U.S. He’ll look to keep that Gotham magic alive when he takes on Chris Algieri on May 29 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
He’s following the blueprint laid out by one of his heroes, former two-division champion Ricky Hatton. Hatton traveled from the U.K. to America for just his second professional fight in 1997. For a country with such a rich boxing tradition, from Ruby Robert Fitzsimmons to Howard Winstone through Randolph Turpin, Lennox Lewis and Joe Calzaghe, there can sometimes be a kind of reluctance for them to come overseas.
“Most people think it’s going to be tougher,” Khan said. “It’s going to be hard to travel. It’s going to be hard to fight in someone’s backyard. I did it from Day One. I came to America when no one knew me and I built my career up from there. I think you have to do it, but most fighters don’t want to do it because they want to go the easy route, which is to stay in the U.K. because they think they won’t be treated right. That’s never been the case for me.”
It doesn’t hurt that Khan’s wife, Faryal, is from New York. If you can’t have the home crowd on your own, marry into one.
For full coverage of Khan vs Algieri, check out our fight page.