Amir Khan is aspiring to be the next Manny Pacquiao after beating Andreas Kotelnik by a unanimous points decision to win his first world title at the MEN Arena on Saturday.
The British boxer dominated the contest with his fast combinations, darting in and out of range to avoid getting into trouble as he cruised to a 120-108, 118-111 and 118-111 verdict on the judges’ scorecards over Germany-based Ukrainian Kotelnik to win the World Boxing Association (WBA) light-welterweight title.
Considering Khan, an Olympic Games silver medalist in 2004, was knocked out in 54 seconds by Colombian Breidis Prescott in the same ring only last September, it was a remarkable turnaround for the 22-year-old.
After losing his unbeaten professional record to Prescott, Khan has since been trained by American Freddie Roach at his Los Angeles gym. Roach also trains Filipino Pacquiao, who is regarded as the world’s best pound-for-pound in any weight divisions after he suffered two knockout defeats earlier in his career.
Khan has sparred with Pacquiao, who the Briton claimed helped inspire him to his commanding performance against Kotelnik.
“Winning a world title is what I’ve wanted and dreamed of since the age of eight,” Khan told a news conference. “Manny was a big inspiration for me. He’s dead nice and he’s always giving me confidence by saying I’m going to be the next champion and I will take his place.”
“He said to me for this fight, speed is going to be the key, and that was the case. Hit and move, and it worked,” Khan said. “I wish I could achieve what Manny has achieved and this is the first step towards that. There’s still room for improvement though.”
Khan’s improvement under Roach was evident in a more controlled and considered display by Khan, whose speed was too much for Kotelnik in the latter rounds.
“Freddie has been drumming it into me to hit and move more,” Khan said. “The days when I used to rush in and fight with my heart are gone.”
Khan became the 25th world champion to be trained by Roach, who believes the Briton has the potential to become as brilliant as Pacquiao.
“I compare him so much to Manny Pacquaio because there are so many similarities,” Roach said. “They have speed, they have power. It took me eight years to get Manny to where he is. It takes time but Amir has potential to follow in his footsteps.”
“I love bringing the best out of people and he’s more of a complete fighter now. He feints better and goes to the body, like an old school fighter. People were saying Amir was done after getting knocked out by Prescott, but in three fights he is world champion,” Roach said.
Kotelnik, 31, who was making his third defense, threatened sporadically but afterward admitted Khan was a worthy winner as he lost his third fight. All Kotelnik’s losses have been on points and all in the UK.
“Amir chose the right tactics and I wasn’t myself, so Khan deserved to win,” Kotelnik said.
Khan hopes to make his US debut, probably in Las Vegas, later this year.
“I want to fight the likes of Juan Manuel Marquez because I think my style will work against his,” Khan said. “I will set new goals and ambitions for myself now. I want to fight big names and in America. It’s time I can go there.”
Khan’s promoter Frank Warren would prefer not to match the new WBA champion against Manchester’s Ricky Hatton, a former WBA champion and world No. 1 at light-welterweight who was knocked out in two rounds by Pacquiao in May.