x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Amir Khan progress surprises Warren

Promoter Frank Warren admits the Briton has exceeded even his expectations by challenging for Andreas Kotelnik's world title tonight after only 21 fights.

The Ukrainian WBA light-welterweight champion Andreas Kotelnik, right, poses with Amir Khan ahead of their fight at the MEN arena tonight.
The Ukrainian WBA light-welterweight champion Andreas Kotelnik, right, poses with Amir Khan ahead of their fight at the MEN arena tonight.

Promoter Frank Warren admits Amir Khan has exceeded even his expectations by challenging for a world title after only 21 fights. Khan, 22, bids to win his first world title when he steps up to light-welterweight to face Ukraine's WBA champion Andreas Kotelnik at the MEN Arena tonight. Less than a year ago a world title seemed a long way away after the Colombian Breidis Prescott produced a stunning upset by knocking Khan out in less than a minute. Khan has since regrouped, switched trainers and relocated to the United States to rebuild his career before producing a momentous victory over the Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera in March. And Warren is full of admiration for his charge ? insisting even he did not expect Khan to be at this level when he signed the 2004 Olympic silver medallist in 2005. "It's come earlier than anticipated," Warren said. "There aren't many British fighters that fight for a world title in their 22nd fight. I can't think of too many. "But we believe in him, he believes in himself and let's hope it's going to be his time." Warren, like Khan himself, believes the defeat against Prescott could be the best thing that ever happened to him. "A lot of people thought it was all over then and he has come back in style," said the promoter. "Out of bad comes good and maybe that was a wake-up call. He's gone off to the States to be trained by Freddie Roach which is a good thing ? and it's also a bonus that it's taken him out of his environment, enabled him to be away from home and focusing purely on boxing. "He has matured physically and mentally." Asked if he thought last September he would be fighting for a world title less than a year later, Khan said: "I did, yes. I knew that within a year I'd still become a world champion. "I know people didn't think I'd become a world champion ? even people probably in my own camp, my own team, didn't think I'd become a world champion this quickly. I made one mistake but I've proved everyone wrong by beating Barrera and now fighting for a world title. "And hopefully when I wake up on Sunday morning I'll be a world champion." Khan even believes the defeat by Prescott accelerated his progression to world title level. "The Prescott fight made me change from a boy to a man, it took me out of my comfort zone because when you lose a fight you look at the mistakes and everything. "That is what happened, I've changed from a boy to a man. I've changed everything, I've moved to train in LA, I'm totally focused now. I'm a different fighter, a different person and the way I fight now is totally different." Khan will be supported on a packed Manchester bill by former amateur stars James DeGale, Frankie Gavin and Billy Joe Saunders in their third professional outings. The Olympic middleweight champion DeGale takes on the Northern Irishman Ciaran Healy, 2007 world amateur lightweight champion Gavin meets York's Graham Fearn and Beijing Olympian Saunders faces Matt Scriven. Also on the undercard, Kell Brook defends his British welterweight title against Michael Lomax, Anthony Small and Matthew Hall contest the British and Commonwealth light-middleweight belts and Enzo Maccarinelli looks to bounce back from defeat by Ola Afolabi when he takes on Russia's Denis Lebedev. * PA Sport