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Boxer Amir Khan: The Most Interesting Champ in the World

Before he took on Lamont Peterson, the British bruiser got in the ring with Men's Fitness.

“Boxing is the toughest sport by far.”


AMIR'S WEEKLY CONDITIONING
Preconditioning (First Two Weeks)
Monday: Track work
High-intensity sprint drills, cones, agility drills, ladder drills (50 minutes)
Tuesday: Pool work or ocean swim
Quarter mile to half mile swim or sprint interval pool drills
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: Strength training circuit
14 plyometric and isometric exercise stations (50 minutes)
Friday: Stairs
304 flights with three breaks, alternating single-step, double-step and triple-step strides between breaks

Conditioning and Sparring (After First Two Weeks)
Sparring three times per week, conditioning three times per week.
Sparring rounds increase each week.
Before sparring rounds reach six, continue with daily conditioning.
When sparring rounds are above six, take day off conditioning and focus on recovery.

It's a statement that's hard to argue after watching what Amir “King” Khan endures to prepare for his next opponent, Lamont Peterson, on Peterson's home turf in America. The Pakinstani-Brit will defend his WBA Super and IBF Light Welterweight Championship titles on December 10 in Washington, DC.

WILD CARD
At just 24 years old, Khan is a relative rookie in the world of professional boxing, but the 27 fights he already has under his belt tell a different story. Khan started boxing when he was eight—his father's solution for his uncontrollable energy. He was an instant natural, winning numerous accolades when he started competing at the age of 11, including a gold medal at the 2003 Junior Olympics and a silver at the 2004 Olympics.

Now, Khan is heralded as one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world, a distinction he doesn't take for granted. “I've got a job that I love doing,” Amir says as he gets his hands wrapped. “I'm one of the lucky ones. And because I'm young as well, I like to learn—know what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, the techniques and how it is going to help me in a fight.” Khan is surprisingly gracious and friendly in person, a departure from the popular perception of boxers—that they're unapproachable boors who would as soon give you a right hook as shake your hand.

Many of the world's best boxers train at the Wild Card Boxing Gym in Hollywood, CA, where Khan works with owner and renowned trainer Freddie Roach, who also counts Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao among his clients. Even with decided victories over tough opponents like Zab Judah, Khan realizes that it's important to have the best man in the business in your corner. “Freddie's brought the best out of me. He's made me into a better fighter,” Khan says. “He's made me into a fighter who uses his brains. Before I used to go in with my heart, and I have a big heart. I take shots and I'll come back in. If they want a war, we'll have a war. But Freddie said to me 'Why would you want to have a war and go crazy in a fight when you can make it easy?' And to make it easy is to stick to boxing skills.”

IN THE RING

Khan credits Roach with making him a smarter boxer.

Khan's ability to grow with each training session is one of the keys to his success, and his exhaustive workouts extend far beyond the ring. “We do a lot of hill running, a lot of steps. The Santa Monica steps,” which are the equivalent of running up a five-story building countless times a day. “We also do a lot of swimming to keep the muscles nice and loose as well. We do a lot of sprint work, just to get the heart rate working high, because in a fight you might be pacing yourself, then bang-bang-bang, you're throwing a combination.” He has the help of his father, his uncle, his best friend and even his little brother Haroon, an amateur fighter out of Pakistan.

But it's inside the ring where all of his hard work comes together. “Sparring is the closest thing to a fight,” Amir explains after going eight full rounds with two very formidable partners. “You're putting everything together. The techniques, the work we do with Freddie Roach on the pads and the instruction he gives me. Sparring is about getting your timing right. It's about taking shots and knowing what to expect. So it's the closest thing to a fight.” If that's the closest thing to a fight, then Khan's opponents are in trouble. Even when going up against a more powerful foe, his lightning-fast jabs and footwork always keep him one step ahead of his opponent. He takes hits with a defiant, “Come on!” and absorbs more punishing blows before striking back with combinations that send his sparring partner reeling.

“It's mainly about putting everything together, pretending that I'm fighting Lamont Peterson. So I picture everything I'm going to do against him. I don't think Lamont is nowhere near as strong as the guys I'm sparring with. So if I can hang with them, when it comes to fighting Lamont, I'll be much more comfortable.”

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