Amir Khan is on a roll. The 32-year-old superstar boxer with 33 wins and numerous world titles to his name gives a tough boxer’s handshake, the customary fake jab and a short shuffle of the feet – all while wearing a diamond-encrusted Franck Muller watch worth at least $45,000.
Having already punched his way to a cool $30m fortune from a multi-billion dollar sport that has little time for anyone coming second, Khan has fast become the Muslim-world’s answer to Floyd “Money” Mayweather.
He is a promoter and sponsor, the owner of Khan Promotions and Pakistan’s Amir Khan Academy, and co-owner of India’s Super Fight League (MMA) and Super Boxing League. He also invested heavily in properties in Liverpool, Manchester and Bolton, including a multimillion-pound banquet hall and wedding venue catering to the British Asian community.
And of course, there is Khan the philanthropist, with his own charity organisation that feeds the homeless, supports orphans and provides clean drinking water in the developing world.
And if that wasn’t all enough? “Cryptocurrencies mate, that’s where it’s happening.”
Cryptocurrencies? Yes, you read that right. But more of that later. Right now, Khan is getting used to preparing – and doing a pretty good job of it – for life after boxing.
“Boxing is a sport where you make a lot of money, so you’ve got to be smart. I’ve seen fighters go broke after making millions, like Mike Tyson. There are only a handful of fighters that have made enough money to carry them through their lives.
There’s always been big talk of me doing a big fight in Dubai. I’ve always wanted to do one in Dubai
“You have to enjoy what you’ve got at the moment. But life after boxing does get quite serious. No one ever thinks about their future. I’m one of those guys who do. Where am I going to be in ten years’ time? This is all going to stop. One day another champion will come up and I just have to have my feet on the ground.”
It has been some journey – he started training at age eight and competing at 11, winning a silver medal in the lightweight division at the 2004 Olympics and becoming Britain’s youngest boxing Olympic medallist at age 17.
He then became the unified light-welterweight world champion, having held the WBA (later super-welterweight) title from 2009 to 2012, and the IBF title in 2011, as well as the Commonwealth lightweight title from 2007 to 2008 and WBC silver welterweight title from 2014 to 2016.
In 2007, ESPN named him prospect of the year, while the International Business Times ranked him among the world’s top 10 best active boxers in 2011.
But is it all coming to an end? Khan claims he can “count on one hand” how many fights he has left in him.
“Before it was in the 10s. I’ve been in the game for a long time and my body has taken a lot of beatings.”
But it’s not over until it’s over and the boxer is yet to hang up his gloves. For much of the last few months, the boxing world was abuzz with the question of whom he would fight next. He had the choice to fight against Sheffield-native Kell Brook in an all-British fight likely to sell out Wembley Stadium, or battle the undefeated American champ Terence “Bud” Crawford, considered by many as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
At the time of writing, it was reported that Khan had accepted the latter, a fight with Crawford at Madison Square Garden in New York in April. Brook had gotten under his skin by “getting a little personal”.
You have to enjoy what you’ve got at the moment. But life after boxing does get quite serious
“I think it’s wrong,” Khan says with a hint of irritation.
“I’ve always been respectful. But if he’s constantly talking smack about me, saying I’m not good, that he’ll beat me and knock me out... He’s already knocking and hurting the fight. Then he comes and asks for a crazy amount of money... If I wanted to fight Kell Brook, I’d say good things about him so people then watch the fight and think it’s 50-50. He’s been very stupid and managed it the wrong way.”
Khan knows a thing or two about management. His impressive portfolio includes a brand ambassador title for Berkeley Assets, a private equity firm with offices in Dubai and London. The partnership builds upon a previous multi-fight sponsorship deal with Cryptech World, a blockchain firm acquired by Berkeley earlier in 2018.
What does a boxer know about private equity and cryptocurrencies? That “anyone can get into this business” – all they need is between $10,000 to $100m.
“We came to talk to people about how this works and how you can make money on money. You don’t have to have millions. People get scared or think it’s a rich person’s game. Even I thought [private equity] was only for big commercial banks or big commercial businesses. Who is going to come up with $10m, $15m?”
“It’s about having young people be the face of it… It gives opportunities to people out there, and that’s the reason [I chose to work with them]… I won’t associate myself with a company I don’t really trust. My name and my image are very important to me,” he says.
What’s equally important is his drive to give back. Khan’s voice grows softer at the mention of his charity, the Amir Khan Foundation.
I won’t associate myself with a company I don’t really trust. My image is very important to me
“I love to give back. I feel like God put me here for a purpose, to help people around me. God has given me more than I ever, ever expected in the sport. I say my thanks and try to help other people who could one day be in the position I’m in. I’m trying to open all these doors. I’ve opened boxing academies in the UK and places like Pakistan. I open orphanages to help educate young kids, school them.”
In Khan-style, the boxer is quick to credit donors for the growth of the foundation, calling his role at the charity the “easiest” one. But he is more critical of the celebrities not yet involved in giving back.
“I just feel that there are a lot of footballers and celebrities out there who think it is hard to get involved in this. It’s not. If you put your mind to it and get your team together, it’s one of the easiest things you’ll ever do. But it’s so rewarding.”
Despite his talk of retirement, it may be unforeseeable when Khan forgoes life in the brutal but rewarding world of boxing. He lights up at the memory of winning a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics when “people never expected” him to win.
Anything you’re going to achieve in life, it’s all about hard work. I’ve worked very hard my whole career
“I was 17 and nobody ever expected me to win a medal. I was not even a senior in British levels, and I was fighting against men. Some were 35, 33 years old. It’s like myself fighting a 17-year-old now. It’s crazy.”
But there’s no big secret to Khan’s success inside or outside the ring. “It’s all achievable,” he says.
So what does it take to bag 33 professional victories? Hard work, plain and simple.
“Any field you’re working in, and anything you’re going to achieve in life, it’s all about hard work. I’ve worked very hard my whole career and it paid off.”
And it will continue to do so whether in the world of boxing, private equity or cryptocurrencies, because all it takes is a short shuffle of Amir Khan’s conquering feet to keep him rolling with the punches – in and out of the ring.
A frequent visitor to Dubai, Amir Khan says the city caters to everyone. “If I’m with my boys, we can have a good meal and go out at night. You’ve got nice beaches. The wife can go out shopping, or we can go for a nice dinner or a nice walk,” he says.
“For my two daughters, for them there is access to little playschools and amazing babysitters if the wife and I want to go out on a romantic dinner. It’s a very safe country. My wife can walk back at night [by herself] and I know nobody is going to say a word.”
Prior to the end of his career, Khan plans to step into the ring in Dubai – provided someone is willing to organise it.
“There’s always been big talk of me doing a big fight in Dubai. I’ve always wanted to do one in Dubai, and in the Middle East.”
Khan predicted the December 31 fight between retired boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. and 20-year-old Japanese kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa to be “easy money” for Mayweather, calling it “silly” and a “mismatch”. It ended in 120 seconds after Nasukawa was knocked down three times in quick succession, earning Mayweather a whopping $9m, or $75,000 a second.For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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