AMIR KHAN expects to go on to become a multi-weight world champion after trainer Freddie Roach backed him to emulate friend and pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao.
Khan, who began his professional career at lightweight but moved up to become WBA light-welterweight champion in the summer, has enjoyed an astonishing turnaround in fortunes since teaming up with Roach and sparring partner Pacquiao.
In September last year he was blown apart in a huge upset defeat by unknown Colombian Breidis Prescott. After immediately relocating to California to join Roach’s stable, however, he has bounced back in style, defeating legendary Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera before claiming Andreas Kotelnik’s WBA belt in July.
Roach believes the 22-year-old from Bolton has yet to fully fill out and expects him to follow six-weight world champion Pacquiao by eventually claiming world honours in multiple divisions.
Khan agrees, speaking ahead of tonight’s maiden title defence against Dmitriy Salita: “In the future I’m looking at moving up in weights, putting in some great performances and putting British boxing back on the map again.
“We’ll see how my weight goes but at the moment I’ve got this weight and the next weight, welterweight. Then we’ll see where we go from there.”
Highly-respected trainer Roach concurs. He said: “He has the body and frame to move up in weight for sure, 135lbs (lightweight) was okay but I like him much better at 140lbs (light-welterweight).
“And as he goes on and matures a little bit, he’ll definitely be a welterweight (147lbs) and maybe end up in the middleweights some day, I would say.”
Khan weighed in half a pound under the 10 stone limit while Ukraine-born New Yorker Salita was on the limit.
Khan insists he is hungrier than ever after fulfilling a lifetime ambition against Kotelnik to take the WBA crown.
“Winning the world title is probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” he said.
“It’s made me more hungry to win more things in this game and it brings something out in you because you know you’ve got something there which you have to look after. You have to train harder and make sure you never lose it.
“I have to keep winning my fights and I’m never going to lose my world title to anyone. I’ve won it, I know how hard it was for me to win it, and I’m not going to let go of it.”
Unbeaten mandatory challenger Salita, 27, who has a record of 30 wins with 16 stoppages and a draw, is unsurprisingly confident he can make the step up in class.
“There’s no doubt Amir is the best fighter I’ve fought,” he admitted.
“I went into training camp knowing it would be foolish of me not to think that way.
“I’ve prepared myself well and I’m looking forward to going out and doing the business.
“I’ve watched quite a few of Amir’s fights, even some of his Olympic fights and I’ve seen the changes and progression he’s made, including those changes under Freddie.
“But we have a gameplan and on Saturday I’m going to take the title.”
Chief support in Newcastle will be Kevin Mitchell’s WBO lightweight title eliminator against Prescott.
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