Khan Age: 22 Bouts: 22 Wins: 21 Losses: 1 Stoppages: 15 Height: 5ft 10in Reach: 72in
Salita Age: 27 Bouts: 31 Wins: 30 Draws: 1 Stoppages: 16 Height: 5ft 9in Reach: 69in
Britain’s Amir Khan is relishing the prospect of facing a fighter “as skillful as me” when he defends his World Boxing Association light-welterweight title against Dmitriy Salita tonight. Khan will put his world title on the line in Newcastle for the first time since dethroning the Ukrainian Andreas Kotelnik in the summer.
Khan, 22, an Olympic silver medalist in Athens in 2004, produced a punch-perfect performance to beat the technically sound Kotelnik but he expects a tougher time of it against the unbeaten New Yorker Salita.
“He’ll bring out the best in me,” said Khan. “I don’t get many fighters who are as skillful as me but I think Salita is, he’s very skillful. He’s got a style which is probably going to make me look good. He’s tough and doesn’t give up, he’s got a big heart in the ring.”
Khan has spoken regularly of the need to step up in performance when making the first defence of his WBA title and believes the time he has spent in Los Angeles with his trainer Freddie Roach since the Kotelnik fight will bear fruit at the Metro Radio Arena on Saturday.
“We’re improving with every fight and getting better and better,” he said. “We learned a lot from the Kotelnik fight about the weaknesses. We’ve worked on it, improved on it and we’re going into this fight not making the mistakes we made against Kotelnik.
“Freddie is a great trainer and he’s always working on what I should do and shouldn’t do. Everything we do in the gym is done for a reason. I see myself as being a better fighter now than I was when I fought Kotelnik.”
Khan, asked about the constant criticism he has received on Internet forums, and about being booed by sections of the crowd in March this year in Manchester when he defeated ageing Mexican ring legend Marco Antonio Barrera, revealed: “I think it’s probably from jealousy, and I can honestly say sometimes skin colour does make a difference.
“I know maybe if I was a white fighter, an English fighter, maybe I would have been a superstar in Britain, or even in the world. You don’t really see it a lot, I never get racial remarks but it is always out there. You can’t stop it, it’s one of those things but you live and learn from what people are like. I just choose to ignore them and get on with my career.”
Khan cites that as one of the reasons why he may be more comfortable training from a base in Hollywood, California, under the masterful shadow of trainer Freddie Roach and No 1 pupil Manny Pacquiao, admitting that a culture of celebrating success is much more evident.
“I have Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley and others coming into the gym to watch me train. I’m a fan of theirs. I’m just left alone in the United States to get on and do what I do best. I want to go on a be a great champion.”
The slurs on Khan here in Britain were at their height after his only career defeat, when he was flattened in 54 seconds by Prescott, the heavy-handed Colombian, in Manchester last September. “Straight after the Prescott fight, people were saying, ‘he’s finished, he won’t come back from that, he won’t come back the same’, and there were racial remarks made and whatever, but it just made me come back stronger made me a better fighter.”
There is no room for rascism in socitity let alone our sport of boxing, and although it is a small minority of morons giving him a hard time, these fools surely cannot and should not be classed as boxing fans, but narrow minded sad and unhappy with there own lives.
Khan added: “I’ve never really experienced the racism first hand, or in my face, but I’ve seen it on websites and chat forums. I’d rather stay away from those arguments. I just love sport and choose to ignore it.”
Khan reminded everyone that he went to the Athens Olympic Games bearing Great Britain on his shorts. “I’m proud to be British, it is a very small minority who say that, it does hurt you, but in a way it has pushed me all the way in my career. I represented GB in the Olympic Games, I won a medal for Britain, and I’d even say I won a world title for Britain. Sometimes you don’t see the appreciation.”
Khan, who is 23 on Tuesday, and who has been in the spotlight since becoming an Olympian aged 17, made his professional debut a week after the London 7/7 bombings, and came out to Land of Hope and Glory, swathed in the Union Flag.
It had been his idea. “I’m doing it just to fix things between the Asian communities and English communities. There will always be racial things there and not getting on with each other, and I’m trying to break that barrier. I believe in peace.
“I’m also British. I went to the Olympics for Britain. I could have chosen to go there for Pakistan. I’m a Muslim, but I respect other religions and other cultures. Like my opponent in this fight. Salita is Jewish, and I respect his beliefs.”
That respect outside the ring will be put on hold at around 10pm on Saturday night, however, when Khan transforms himself into the lightning-fisted fighter controlled by master trainer Roach.
Salita has certainly trained around some formidable champions in the gyms of Brooklyn, New York, but is likely to be overwhelmed by Khan’s speed. Salita has built up a respectable record of 30 wins and one draw, and has worked his way towards the status of mandatory challenger, but may have to rely on Khan making a mistake to create what would be a clear upset.
Look for Amir’s Speed to dazzle Salita and his power to overwhelm the American by round 9 with the fight being stopped to save him from further punishment. By Chris Maylett
Full running order for Saturday, December 5 at the Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle.
Doors Open: 5.30pm
Fight # 1 – 5.45pm
4 X 3 Minute Rounds Welterweight Contest RONNIE HEFFRON vs. TBA
Fight # 2
8 X 3 Minute Rounds Light-Welterweight Contest ALEX ARTHUR vs. NIGEL WRIGHT
Fight # 3
6 X 3 Minute Rounds Middleweight Contest BILLY JOE SAUNDERS vs. LEE NOBLE
Fight # 4
6 X 3 Minute Rounds Welterweight Contest FRANKIE GAVIN vs. SAMIR TERGAOUI
Fight # 5
6 X 3 Minute Rounds Middleweight Contest JAMES DeGALE vs. NATHAN KING
Fight # 6 – Floater
4 X 3 Minute Rounds Featherweight Contest STEPHEN SMITH vs. IAN BAILEY
Sky Broadcast Commences Live @ 8pm
Fight # 7 – 8.10pm (Live)
THE COMMONWEALTH FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
12 X 3 Minute Rounds @ 126 lbs
JOHN SIMPSON vs. STEPHEN BELL
Fight # 8 – 9.15pm (Live)
THE VACANT WBO INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP AND ELIMINATOR FOR THE WBO WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
12 X 3 Minute Rounds @ 135 lbs
KEVIN MITCHELL vs. BREDIS PRESCOTT
Fight # 9 – 10.20pm (Live)
THE WBA LIGHT-WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP OF THE WORLD
12 X 3 Minute Rounds @ 140 lbs
AMIR KHAN vs. DIMITRY SALITA
Fight # 10 – Swing Bout # 1
6 X 3 Minute Rounds Light-Heavyweight Contest TONY BELLEW vs. MARTIAL BELLA OLEME
Fight # 11 – Swing Bout # 1
6 X 3 Minute Rounds Cruiserweight Contest ENZO MACCARINELLI vs. KRISZTIAN JAKSI
Fight # 12 – Show Closer
4 X 3 Minute Rounds Light-Welterweight Contest EISA AL DAH vs. JIMMY BRIGGS
*Please not the bill, timings and running order are subject to change without notice.*