Alex Pattle, The Independet
Amir Khan is looking for love. No, that’s not to foreshadow his next involvement in a reality TV show, following his stint on I’m A Celebrity... and the success of Meet The Khans. Rather, Amir Khan is still seeking the adulation of a generation whose hearts he captured at the Athens Olympics, and whose love has wavered in the two decades since.
Fight For Your Life is the new autobiography from the 2004 silver medalist and former world champion, released a year on from his retirement. Ghost-written by John Woodhouse and published by Century at Penguin Random House, the book is split into 12 chapters — ‘12 rounds’, as Khan portrays them. Across the course of these rounds, Khan revisits his upbringing in Bolton, his introduction to boxing, achieving darling status as a 17-year-old, and various defining moments that followed and crafted his complicated legacy.
Khan, now 36, reflects on some of his more triumphant moments, but it is his focus on and handling of the more dispiriting ones that stands out. Perhaps it is telling that the book begins with Khan describing his loss to Terence Crawford in 2019, when the Briton was on the wrong end of a low blow and opted not to continue — instead of taking the full five minutes to try to recover. Rightly or wrongly, Khan came in for criticism at the time. Here, in an admittedly captivating first page, he writes: “It feels like I’ve taken a cannonball in the shorts. The rules state I have five minutes to recover.”
Khan took on a tough test that night and deserves praise for doing so numerous times in his career, such as when he fought and lost to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in 2016. And of course, he has every right to explain the incident with Crawford, it’s just that many readers will take his explanation as an excuse. The same may apply to the way in which he describes his apathy ahead of his final fight — a grudge match with Kell Brook, 10 years in the making, which ended in another stoppage loss — and the glove row that preceded it. It is as though Khan, in seeking to manage the images of these moments, believes he may finally receive that extra bit of credit he feels he is due. In that sense, he is still chasing the addictive adulation that coursed through the British public 19 years ago. Khan’s own dissection of his relationship with the public makes for intriguing reading, particularly when he addresses the role of race in that dynamic. “Win and you’re everyone’s friend; lose and you’re on your own. Win and you’re British; lose and you’re Pakistani,” he writes early in the book. Later, while exploring his Muslim faith, he adds: “Don’t get me wrong, I love Pakistan, but I’m British through and through.”
At this point, it is worth acknowledging the impact Khan had on boxing and the inspiration he provided — two factors that are often forgotten. Before Khan, there were next to no boxers of an Asian background at the top of the sport. He not only inspired others but achieved his accolades without a clear inspiration of his own. The exception may be Prince Naseem Hamed, though Khan admits in Fight For Your Life that his relationship with the icon has always been fraught.
The book also contains ‘juicier’ moments for the non-boxing fan: the moment when Khan was robbed at gunpoint; a leaked tape from his younger years; his time on I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!; the marital strife that brought about a public feud with Anthony Joshua, and Khan’s time hanging out with Hollywood A-listers after moving to the US. Of the feud with Joshua, and his wife’s suggestion of romantic involvement with the heavyweight, Khan writes: “I actually told her, ‘I’m going to divorce you.’ In my religion, say that three times and it’s legal. I did just that. Except there was one thing I didn’t know at the time. Faryal was pregnant. That meant my saying, ‘I divorce you,’ was void. A man cannot divorce a wife who is pregnant.”
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