[h=1]Amir Khan faces Lamont Peterson challenge in pursuit of American dream [/h] Amir Khan has friends in high places in the US but must overcome Lamont Peterson before the bigger paydays arrive reddit this Comments (23) Kevin Mitchell in Washington guardian.co.uk, Friday 9 December 2011 18.00 GMT Article history Amir Khan poses with his belts in front of the Capitol Building in Washington DC ahead of Saturday's fight against Lamont Peterson. Photograph: Patrick Mcdermott/Getty Images Boxing champions generally prefer invitations to invasions. Not Amir Khan. He is content on the road, a warrior whose borders are restricted to those he imposes on himself in the ring, and on Saturday night he adds Washington, DC, to his postcard list when he fights the local challenger Lamont Peterson in the sixth defence of his world light-welterweight title. It is an unusual situation. On boxing forums, an idiot minority at home still spout hate against Khan, and, although his British fanbase is solid, it is nowhere near the size of the one that made his friend and one-time putative rival, Ricky Hatton, such a phenomenon. If Khan is to be crowned as pre-eminent in his sport a scenario reliable observers beyond his inner circle regard as possible over the next year or so he will do it straddling the Atlantic. In terms of bankability, of the four British fighters slotted into world title fights over 22 days from Martin Murray in Germany last Friday, followed by John Murray in New York last weekend and to be rounded out by Carl Froch in Atlantic City a week on Saturday Khan shines brightest, especially in the United States. And, as all the pieces in the Khan jigsaw fall into place, the picture forming is more Norman Rockwell than Banksy. The 25-year-old lad from Bolton has an American fiancee and an apartment in Los Angeles. Marriage to the New York student Faryal Makhdoom is on the horizon, although probably not within immediate sight; choosing between Hollywood and the north of England might be a tough call for the couple when Khan gets round to giving her an engagement ring. His commitments to keeping Team Khan and Khan Productions in the black, meanwhile, is a significant imperative. There are many mouths to feed. His main business partners are American, the most powerful in his sport, Golden Boy Promotions. He also has a good working relationship with Home Box Office, the prime mover in televising fights and the path to the greatest wealth. Three of his past four fights have been in the United States with more to come after tonight. None has been on pay-per-view here yet, but that day is not far away if he strikes the mother lode, a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr, probably in London towards the end of 2012. That, however, is a chapter of his story still to be written. There is the small matter of beating Peterson first, a fight his trainer, Freddie Roach, thinks may be his toughest yet. "It think it will be 50-50 on the night," Peterson says of crowd support among the expected 9,000 customers on Saturday night. "Amir Khan has a lot of fans in America. I know that." Peterson has had only two of his 31 professional fights in the city where he was born, the nation's capital which, when he was a starving six-year-old thrown out of a homeless shelter, he got to know by way of sleeping at bus stops and in abandoned cars with his brother, Anthony. He's still a hungry fighter. The boxing ring is his real home. It's where he feels safe. That much he shares with Khan. However, when Khan flies in and out of the United States now it is a smoother process than the occasion on which he was left idling in Vancouver on the eve of his Madison Square Garden debut against Paulie Malignaggi in May 2010. Then he invited suspicion from American border control. Now he's a face. "The waiting time to get through immigration has got less," he says of his increasingly frequent visits. "The last two times they have let me through right away and it is nice when that happens." It is a small detail, perhaps, but one that impresses on Khan what everyone in boxing knows: he is becoming an American fighter, if not stylistically or emotionally, certainly geographically. There will be fights for him in the UK still, but the American casinos and dedicated sports television outlets unquestionably drive boxing. This is a business where you need friends in high places, preferably with a twang. Kery Davis is the senior vice-president of programming at HBO. That makes him one of the two or three most influential people in boxing. If he likes what a boxer brings to a fight, that fighter has only to deliver consistently good revenue for HBO to stay in regular and lucrative employment. When Khan turns up for work, Davis likes what he sees: a media-friendly and intelligent client who invariably provides packed or near-full arenas right across the United States with blazing fists and dramatic action. "One of the things I love about Amir is his ambition in the game," Davis says. "He wants to be known as the best fighter in the world. Remember the Gordon Gekko quote from Wall Street? 'Greed is good.' Well, in sports, greed is good. I think Amir has an opportunity to be a special fighter in this sport. He's got a lot of the qualities the special fighters have. Does he have all of them, or enough of them? We'll see." Khan does not lack for other important friends. Golden Boy's founder, the original golden boy himself, Oscar de la Hoya, enthuses with all teeth gleaming. "Amir can be become the No1 fighter in the world. He is the future. I think he will be the pound-for-pound best within a year. He has everything and the American fans love him." Roach agrees. "I see him more global than American. Manny Pacquiao [his eight-division champion] is still bigger in the Philippines than he is here but he can make a lot more money selling tickets here because of the economy, and he's from a very poor country. Amir is going to have a great American audience. It's growing. And obviously he's got the English audience since the Olympics. So, we have options. A lot of HBO fights are in America because it's the biggest pay-per-view audience, but Ricky Hatton had one of the biggest when boxing in the UK, so we've got to keep exciting both sides of the pond. "He's definitely filling a vacuum here. We don't have the superstars we once had. I would say Amir's about halfway there. He's got the body frame to hit 147 and there are some really big fights at that weight, and at '54 too. If he does well in those divisions, he will be pound-for-pound the best fighter in the world." Davis adds: "He's making a name for himself, certainly, and I truly like the fact that he is willing to come to Washington, which is where Lamont Peterson is from, where there will be some excitement for this fight. "I appreciate, too, the fact that he went to New York and fought [Paulie] Malignaggi [a New Yorker, who has come to DC to watch Khan, and thinks he will win]. Those attributes are good and he does very good numbers for us. He's becoming familiar to our subscribers. They know who Amir Khan is and they like him." But does he have to make it in America to be a boxing superstar? Not necessarily, Davis says. "I believe you can be big in two countries. Ricky Hatton definitely showed that. It's an advantage, in fact, to have two markets. I definitely would not want him to forgo being a huge star in the UK, but I do believe in order to become a fighter on the level of Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather, he would have to be able do it in this country." A win over Peterson will take him considerably closer if he performs well here and in his next fight, which could be against Timothy Bradley, his farewell appearance to the light-welters as he lets his body grow into the welterweight division, where boxing's biggest attractions operate. There are summer and end-of-year dates yet to be filled with major fights in HBO's calendar including around the time of the London Olympics. That is a happy coincidence that has not been lost on Davis who, although stopping short of promising Khan a shot at Mayweather, is open to the idea as long as he keeps winning in style. "Certainly Amir fighting Floyd later in 2012 in London potentially is the kind of big fight we want. But, you know what? He's got a big obstacle in his way on Saturday night. So, just like him, I'm not looking past that." His problem is not calling out fighters with better earning potential, such as Mayweather, who is keen to fight him; it is doing business with contenders who see him as their one chance for a major payday. Peterson is such a fighter. He turned down an initial offer of $150,000 (£96,000) to take the fight in London, which was ramped up to $300,000 plus a rematch clause when negotiations opened for a fight last April. He preferred to take $10,000 for an eliminator against Victor Cayo, whom he knocked out in July. That made him the mandatory challenger. "It paid off," Peterson said recently. "The money situation is squared away, the rematch situation is squared away. So, I'm very happy. Everything that I did made it worth the risk." If that puts Peterson's cheque closer to $400,000, the champion is probably fighting for three times that, although figures are not published in the District of Columbia. Khan's temporary move to the much smaller Prime Time in the UK after a defence against Bradley fell through (the American was not happy with a 50-50 split) did not look like one of the great business decisions at the time, although it was not entirely his fault that key fighters on the undercard of his defence against the Irishman Paul McCloskey withdrew at the last minute, weakening the show to the point where Sky pulled out. Recently, Sky have come back to the party and Asif Vali, Khan's business manager, made sure to thank them for their participation during his stint on the podium at Thursday's wind-up press conference. It does not do to make enemies in boxing. Khan is a throwback to the days when British world champions such as Jack "Kid" Berg and Ted "Kid" Lewis made America their hunting ground. Hatton was in that tradition. Others got lost in the mix. Naseem Hamed, to whom Khan is often compared, planned to emulate them; he took over New York when he fought Kevin Kelley at Madison Square Garden in 1997. The late Budd Schulberg, who wrote The Harder They Fall and On the Waterfront, was ecstatic. "This kid is going to conquer America," he said. But, after losing to Marco Antonio Barrera four years later, Hamed changed his mind about moving to live in Detroit, and his brilliant career fizzled out. Hatton, though, was a welcomed invader on nine visits to the United States and the casinos and bars of Las Vegas still miss his boozed‑up army from Manchester. Khan's invasion is more subtle. He has a significant audience in the Asian community, and that is considerable in Washington. Mostly, he excites audiences of all backgrounds and ethnicity with a blizzard of punches and a chin that could let him down at any moment. It is a combination that American fight fans love. "It is in his DNA to take risks," Roach says. Khan has no doubts about his destiny. "The pound-for-pound title, as I get older, stronger, wiser, I think it's touching distance away. I just have to stay focused. We're getting there. Still a lot of work to do. I think my time will come, among the superstars like Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. I keep the fans on the edge of their seats. You can never be bored watching one of my fights. I've always said I will retire around 28, so I've got three years to do it."