Amir Khan slams critics with ‘best of British’ claim
Amir Khan feels more appreciated in the United States than Britain — but he is determined to win the hearts and minds of his own public.
An opportunity to boost his popularity comes in the early hours of tomorrow morning when he faces Zab Judah in a light-welterweight world title unification showdown at the Mandalay Bay Events Centre.
Why such a gifted and courageous fighter is met with indifference and occasional hostility in his homeland is difficult to fathom.
Khan feels his achievements warrant greater recognition, something that has been more forthcoming in America since decamping to Los Angeles to train at Freddie Roach's Wildcard gym.
“There are still sceptics around at home, but I always say that I'm the best, most exciting fighter Britain has had for a long, long time,” he said.
“You can put any name against me, but I know I'm the most exciting.
“A lot of people don't give me the credit I deserve, but I fight because I love the sport and want to put on good shows.
“When I retire, the people who didn't think I was that good will think ‘hang on, Amir was good after all'.
“I definitely feel more appreciated here than in the UK. At this moment in time, I'm getting more love in America from boxing fans.”
Khan believes his willingness to accept hazardous fights explains why he is admired across the Atlantic.
IBF champion Judah falls just short of top class and at 33 his best days are behind him, but he remains a dangerous opponent who possesses the power and guile to cause an upset.
The fight with Judah only materialised after Timothy Bradley, recognised as the division's most formidable operator, refused to face the Olympic silver medalist despite having reached a verbal agreement to do so.
Mexican great Erik Morales is being lined up later in the year, as is a step up to welterweight to face Kell Brook before the defining moment arrives — a proposed clash with Floyd Mayweather in autumn 2012.
“People in the States realise I'm taking the big fights on and understand boxing a bit better,” said Khan, holder of the WBA belt.
“They know I wanted to fight Bradley, but he wouldn't take it.
“Judah's another name who was very dangerous and I took it straight away.
“I could’ve waited for Maidana to win a world title and then fought him, but I took it early. I'm taking risky fights and getting respect for that in America.”
The retirement of Ricky Hatton and defeat of David Haye by Wladimir Klitschko has presented Khan with the chance to woo the British public.
Khan knows winning alone is insufficient to court approval.
“To win over the British public I've got to put on great performances,” he said.
“You have to put on exciting fights, fights that will make people want to buy the next pay-per-view.”