Boxer Amir Khan has denied betraying his British upbringing after being criticised for saying he would represent Pakistan at the Rio Games, insisting he only wanted to boost the sport in his parents’ country of birth.
But the Bolton-born fighter also admitted he would not be willing to face an accompanying two-year ban from the World Boxing Council that would jeopardise his professional career, making an Olympic appearance unlikely.
Speaking to AFP in an exclusive interview in Islamabad, where he launched his first boxing academy on Saturday, Khan said he was a “proud British fighter” who had represented his country at the Athens Games and would therefore not want to deprive fellow Brits of a ticket to Rio De Janeiro.
“I’m not doing it because I’m not happy being British. I’m a proud British fighter, but it’s the way people took it out of context and calling me a traitor -- I meant it in a way that I’d rather give someone else an opportunity instead because Pakistan has no boxers,” he said.
“But, you know, at the moment we are just waiting and seeing. I don’t think I’ll be allowed to do that anyway because obviously, the WBC, they won’t allow it.”
World Boxing Council president Mauricio Sulaiman denounced a rule change by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) to allow professionals to compete against top amateurs in the Olympics, calling the move dangerous.
Amir’s announcement was also met with consternation by some fans on social media and his former promoter Frank Warren, who wrote on boxingscene.com he was “a little disappointed” in Khan, who rose to fame after bagging an Olympic silver medal in 2004.
The 29-year-old stands at a critical juncture in his career following a stinging loss to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez last month, that took his career record to 31 wins and four losses.
Khan, a two-time former welterweight world champion, stepped up two divisions to fight his brawny middleweight opponent after he was denied a coveted matchup with Floyd Mayweather, who retired last year