Amir Khan revealed the thought of his career being tainted by defeat to nemesis Kell Brook is what has motivated the Bolton fighter ahead of Saturday’s grudge bout.
From winning Olympic silver in 2004 to unifying the light-welterweight division and fighting on the grandest stages in New York and Las Vegas, Khan’s legacy as one of the finest British combatants of his era is already secure.
But he fears an asterisk being affixed to his legacy if Brook has his hand raised in their 10st 9lb catchweight contest at the AO Arena in Manchester, where only bragging rights are at stake for the two former world champions.
That is enough of an incentive for Khan, who insisted he has left no stone unturned in his preparations after surprisingly linking up with former opponent Terence Crawford’s coach Brian ‘Bomac’ McIntyre in Colorado.
Ahead of his first fight since July 2019, Khan (34-5, 21KOs) said: “You’re always that one fight away from destroying your whole legacy. This is a fight that I could end up losing what I’ve done in my whole career.
“People will be like ‘oh he got beat by Kell Brook’. I have to make sure I do everything. That’s why I was running up hills, I was working so hard, I had to make sure I did everything right because I don’t want to lose to him.
“I don’t like the guy. You can see by looking at people in the eyes how humble and nice they are but he’s not like that.
“People need to see the real side of him. He’s acting the nice guy, he’s trying to show his fans that he’s a nice guy but he’s not. He’s a really bad, bitter person.”
Khan – who scaled 10st 7lbs 5oz at Friday’s weigh-in, with Brook (39-3, 27KOs) one pound heavier but still under the agreed contracted limit – is a slight underdog as bookmakers have favoured the ex-IBF welterweight champion.
All four of Khan’s losses inside the distance have been in the first half of a fight so the 35-year-old is prepared for an onslaught in the opening rounds, but he expects to get the upper hand the longer the fight progresses.
He said: “For the first three or four rounds he’s going to try hard and that is sometimes when I caught early. It’s happened to me before.
“When ‘BoMac’ was training me, he was saying ‘you need to be tight, you need to be smart in the early rounds because you can’t make that mistake you do sometimes’.
“If you look at those fights, (Breidis) Prescott, (Danny) Garcia, it was early in the fight when everything was going my way. I was overconfident.
“It is all about sticking to the tactics, being smart and not making any mistakes and give him a boxing lesson.”
There is a suspicion this fight is happening years too late and both fighters are past their respective primes, but tickets for this event sold out in 10 minutes, with the fans’ enthusiasm underlining the magnitude of the occasion.
They were separated by security at November’s fight announcement and had several tense and inflammatory exchanges at Thursday’s final press conference, with Khan accusing Brook of a racial slur although the Yorkshireman insisted his “poppadom chin” comment was merely referencing his rival’s renowned susceptible punch-resistance.
Brook, also 35, has been courting a showdown against Khan for a long time and while the Sheffield fighter acknowledges they do not see eye to eye – the duo seemed to be verbally sparring when they went head to head on Friday before security pulled them apart – he believes he is not respected by his bitter foe.
Brook said: “Just being a fighter at our level, like Anthony Joshua, David Haye, if we all see each other, we acknowledge each other as warriors and fighters.
“We all know to get to that level what we have to sacrifice in going to bed early, training hard, the diet, we know what needs to be put in, so it’s just that acknowledgement of the respect of another fighter.
“I give anyone who fights at any level from a journeyman to the (Tyson) Furys and the AJs the utmost respect when they climb into that ring. It’s a sport you can get killed in, so respect is due.”