Having moved into the top 10 in most outlets’ pound-for-pound ratings (including SI.com’s), light welterweight champion Amir Khan returns to action Saturday against Lamont Peterson in Washington, D.C. (9:45 p.m. ET, HBO). SI.com caught up with the 24-year-old British sensation, whose plans for the next year could include a high-profile showdown with Floyd Mayweather.
Age started fighting?
8 years old.
What’s your first boxing memory?
Just going to the local gym for the first time with my dad. I remember I was always very hyperactive as a kid and to burn off some energy my dad thought it would be a good thing to take me to our local club around the corner from my house. The first time I stepped in there and saw people on the punching bags, taking out their anger, I knew this would be something I would enjoy. I’ve not looked back since.
Who’s your favorite all-time fighter?
Muhammad Ali. I used to watch his old videos and fights growing up. He was just as special outside the ring as he was in it.
What’s the greatest fight you ever saw?
There are a few that come to mind in recent years, like the trilogy between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward. Those were some real hard battles that had fans on the edge of their seat. There are of course the Erik Morales-Marco Antonio Barrera fights. And also Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo: that was a see-saw fight that could have gone either way but the ending was the most dramatic I’ve ever seen.
Who was the toughest opponent you ever fought?
My toughest opponent was probably Andriy Kotelnik, whom I beat to win my first world title. He was a very skilled fighter but I managed to outbox him and knew I would have to be at my best to beat him and win the belt.
What was your favorite subject in school?
I loved sports classes, anything physical.
What’s on your iPod?
Mostly hip-hop and R&B like Drake, Jay Sean and Tinie Tempah.
What is your favorite movie?
What is one misconception about boxers?
I guess a lot of people think boxers are as brutal outside the ring as they are in it. They don’t realize that boxing teaches discipline and that a lot of us are nice people away from the ring.
What would you be doing if you weren’t fighting?
A sports teacher or coach. It’s a field I think I would have enjoyed working in.
What is your biggest guilty pleasure?
Watches. I have a soft spot for them! I think I deserve to treat myself every once in a while after all the things I put my body through.
Favorite meal when out of training?
Mum’s home cooking! Anything she makes!
What would you change in boxing?
I would protect fighters and make sure their interest is number one. Golden Boy Promotions is doing that because Oscar De La Hoya knows what it’s like from a fighter’s perspective, but there are many that are mistreated and taken advantage of.
What car do you drive?
Range Rover Supercharged Overfinch.
What’s the biggest thing that changed since you became a world champion?
I guess more and more people begin to know who you are. I was always well known in the U.K. after I competed in the Olympics, but my fanbase worldwide has grown significantly since I became a world champion.
Name three people you’d like to have dinner with (living or dead).
Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X and Tupac Shakur.
What advice would you give to young fighters coming up?
Enjoy it, but if you are serious about making it as professional you have to be focused and disciplined. And that means getting up and putting in a hard graft even if you don’t really want to.
What’s your favorite place to vacation?
What is your dream venue for a fight?
I would love to have a huge fight at the Reebok Stadium in Bolton. It’s the home of the soccer team that I support.
What sports do you watch outside of boxing?
Soccer and UFC mostly. Sometimes I’ll watch cricket, which is popular in England, if my cousin Sajid Mahmood (who is an England international) is playing.
Your idea of happiness?
Just being with family and friends and spending time with them. I think family is the most important thing in life, alongside health.
Your greatest fear?
I think every fighter would say losing.
Your present state of mind?
Focused and ready for battle on December 10th. It’s going to be a great fight!
When it’s all over, how do you want people to remember you?
As a great champion who entertained the fans. I want to win as much as I can over the next few years and do some big things in this sport.
– As told to Bryan Armen Graham