Amir Khan on punishing drug cheats and if big fights in Dubai will ever happen

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(Hiba Khan/Sport360).

The paltry six-month ban handed to drugs cheat Jarrell Miller could “literally kill someone in the ring” because it does nothing to deter future infringers, according to leading boxer Amir Khan.

Miller, 30, returned three adverse tests for EPO, human growth hormone and endurance-boosting GW1516 ahead of June 1’s now-cancelled heavyweight multiple-title bout with Anthony Joshua. The length of the subsequent World Boxing Association’s punishment has been heavily criticised by a plethora of figures inside and outside the sport, with calls for a lifetime ban led by his British would-be opponent.

Down the divisions, Khan has twice lost to boxers – Lamont Petersen and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez – who went on to test positive for banned substances. Speaking in Dubai, the former unified light-welterweight world champion – having held the WBA (later Super) title from 2009 to 2012 and the IBF title in 2011 – was scathing in his assessment.

“Six months, I cannot believe that, after taking drugs,” said the 32-year-old, commenting ahead of last Friday’s Knockout Night from Badou Jack Promotions at FIVE Palm Jumeirah Hotel. “I mean, you are cheating and you can literally kill someone in the ring.

“I’ve been in a fight with someone who has taken drugs, for example Peterson. It can affect you.

“When I was fighting Peterson, I put him down twice in the fight and he kept coming back. He would just not get tired.

“Trainings and workouts should get you into shape, not drugs. I just think the ban should have been a bit longer, make it sound more serious that you can’t take drugs.

“People know it’s a six-month ban, they’ll think ‘that’s only one fight, really.’ They will come back and take it again, it’s just a slap on the wrist.

“I think it should be a bigger caution and you should get in trouble for it more.”

Asked, in response, how prevalent the issue had become, Khan replied:  “It is becoming a really big problem. Before, they never had these tests.

“There are now so many fighters getting caught. It shows that there are drugs in the sport of boxing.

“We need to stop that. By stopping it, give them a lifetime ban – that is how I look at it.

“A lifetime ban needs to be on fighters who take drugs, as it’s not a level playing field.”

Khan is a regular visitor to the UAE. He was even strongly linked to a landmark scrap with Philippines icon Manny Pacquiao for May 2017, which would have been the first of its scale in the country.

The Bolton-born pugilist believed June’s public opening of Dubai Citywalk’s 17,000-capacity Coca-Cola Arena could be a game changer for the Emirates’ fight fans.

He said: “Boxing in Dubai is improving, it’s getting bigger and bigger. There are a lot of expats here from Britain, America and everywhere.

“There are so many big boxing fans. I’ve just heard they’ve built a big stadium [Coca-Cola Arena] downtown, so imagine doing a big boxing event there.

“It’d be huge. It’d be a sell-out. I always said I wanted to fight here.

“If it happens in my career, that’d be amazing. If it doesn’t, I’d like to support another fight to be here. I am willing to put my own promotion team on the line.

“I just need that go-ahead from the top guys here. If they said we were allowed to do it, I’d say Amir Khan Promotions would regularly put on regular boxing events in Dubai.

“And they’d be big boxing events, big names as well.”

Khan suffered a painful defeat – in all senses – against the unbeaten Terence Crawford last month.

Ambitions of claiming the WBO world welterweight belt ended in bizarre fashion when an accidental low shot to the groin in the sixth round saw him pulled out by his corner. This followed a contest in which the pummelled rank outsider had already been sent to the canvas in the first and received several harsh body blows in the fourth.

He was accused of prematurely quitting by several prominent voices, including probable next rival Kell Brook who was ringside at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden.

But this dispiriting bout has not daunted Khan, who previously recovered from September 2008’s loss to Colombia’s Breidis Prescott to become unified light-welterweight world champion three years later, and claimed the vacant WBC Silver interim light-welterweight strap in December 2012 after successive setbacks to Americans Lamont Petersen and Danny Garcia.

“Obviously the last fight was a little bit a difficult, it didn’t end the way we wanted it to,” said Khan.

“Hit with a low shot, but at the same time I’m not taking anything away from Terence Crawford. He’s up there with one of the best fighters in the world.

“I’m just going to go back to the drawing board. I’m still in the top 10 in the world.

“I want to fight someone in the top 10 for my next fight. Hopefully that will be in October or November time – I’m still active, I still feel strong.

“We’ve got names like Kell Brook there, still the top, top fighters there. I’m in a very lucky position that I have the opportunity to put bums on seats.

“TV networks like to see me fight and getting the top guys in the ring is quite easy. I’m still in a good position of getting the big names in, because we bring a lot of money to the table.

“I’m only 32 years of age, although I did say that this is the last chapter of my career. I want to fight maybe one or two more times and then maybe call it a day.

“It just depends what’s out there for me.

“I still have it in me. I still love the sport and I still work hard – I still feel like I’m up there.

“Mentally, I’m quite strong and I know I’ll always come back from defeats. I’ve been knocked out, I’ve come back and become world champion again – I’m sure I can do it again.”

A monumental task was presented to stop an elite American competitor currently ranked second by Ring magazine in its pound-for-pound top 10. Memories of Khan’s murderous knockout by Mexico superstar Canelo Alvarez in May 2016 are also raw – and harrowing.

These disappointments even led to calls that he should immediately call time on an undulating 38-fight, 14-year professional career from which estimated earnings of £30 million have been accumulated.

A love of the sport and dreams of prime time, however, remain undiminished from an athlete who first announced himself to a global audience aged 17 when he won silver at the Athens 2004 Olympics.

And an ebullient Khan was confident he would end an engaging ‘Battle of Britain’ versus Brook in “six or seven rounds” if they, belatedly, meet.

“Kell Brook still excites,” he stated. “It’s a fight that’s always there.

“People say it’s a 50/50 fight, but I believe I would take out Kell Brook in six or seven rounds. That’s the fight that would be an easy sell.”

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