Trailblazer Amir Khan kickstarted a generation of British boxers and never shied away from the toughest fights
His was a career laden with memorable nights – both good and bad - but never dull, a combination of explosive finishes on his part and crushing defeats on the biggest of stages.
But he was a trailblazer too both for amateur boxing in Britain but also as a British Pakistani fighting at the highest of levels.
He had his critics ever since the first of his career losses inside a minute to an unfancied Breidis Prescott, arguments that he did not have the chin for the heaviest of hitters.
And yet he never shied away from a challenge as seen by the list of opponents he faced: Canelo Alvarez and Terence Crawford – greats of their generation but both of whom got the better of the Bolton boxer.
Both losses were hugely chastening and, in truth, the sixth-round knockout to Crawford back in 2019 was the beginning of the end. He fought just twice more – first over four years against Billy Dibb in Saudi Arabia and then the realisation of a career-long grudge match against Brook.
The career finale was a sixth defeat in 40 fights in the professional ranks but, along the way, he also claimed the scalps of many fine fighters: Marco Antonio Barrera, Paul Malignaggi and Marcos Maidana among the 34 wins.
Khan became a household name overnight as the sole British boxing representative at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004. The silver medal he won there catapulted him to turn professional the following year.
But the impact of that medal is often overlooked. As a result, it led to increased funding from UK Sport for GB Boxing’s amateur set-up in Sheffield paving the way for the likes of Anthony Joshua to climb through the ranks and most recently a record six medals won by British fighters at the Tokyo Olympics. Khan was virtually the inception of that project.
And he proved a trailblazer too for British Pakistanis, who had not previously tended to feature in the ring at such a high level. It was befitting that another, Adam Azim, should have been on the undercard of Khan’s final fight having first watched him, in awe, ringside as a six-year-old.
Khan was under the spotlight from the moment he turned professional, his career moving along smoothly until the shock loss to Prescott in 2008. But he bounced back by first beating Barrera and then winning his first world title, the WBA light-welterweight, against Andreas Kotelnik by unanimous decision.
“Three fights after I was defeated, I’m now world champion,” he said in achieving his redemption. “I’m the world champion. I’m still young and I’ve got big things to come.”
Hard-fought victoriess over Malignaggi and Maidana followed before adding the IBF light-welterweight belt in defeating Zab Judah.
He is still considered by many to have been hugely unlucky to lose those titles on a split decision in 2011 to Lamont Peterson. Not so against Danny Garcia, who ended their fight in just four rounds.
His career got back on track with five straight wins before he made the bold step up to middleweight where he was pulverised in six rounds by Canelo in May 2016. He would not fight for another two years before winning two bouts and taking on Crawford.
The defeat summed up Khan in many ways. He took on a challenge which, in truth, was beyond him at the time. As he put it: “I’m not one of them guys to quit.”
Against Brook – a fight which took place long after both men’s heyday – it was the same result after which he wisely called time. One only hopes neither Khan nor Brook are lured back.