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World Sport

Teenager Khan is through to final


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Mario Kindelan
Olympics 2004
Amir Khan
Amir Khan

ATHENS, Greece -- Britain's Amir Khan is now only one bout away from becoming the youngest Olympic boxing champion since Floyd Patterson won gold in 1952, after defeating Serik Yeleuov of Kazakhstan in the semifinals.

Cuba's Mario Kindelan, who now stands between Khan and the lightweight title, is likely to give him the stiffest test of his short career.

The triple world and defending Olympic champion rocked his semifinal opponent Murat Khrachev of Russia in the third round and was an impressive 20-10 points winner.

The 17-year-old Khan showed once again why he is the hottest boxing prospect to emerge at an Olympic Games since Oscar De La Hoya took gold in Barcelona in 1992, when he outclassed Yeleuov.

Khan started slowly, losing the first round and sharing the second, but the young Briton dominated his opponent in the last two, eventually running out a clear 40-26 points winner.

Khan's defeat of Yeleuov follows stunning victories over Greek Marios Kaperonis, European champion Dimitar Stilianov of Bulgaria and a first round demolition of South Korea's Baik Jong Sub in his quarterfinal.

Khan was born on December 8, 1986 in Bolton, Lancashire, to Pakistani parents and was first introduced to boxing at the age of eight. He won the World Junior Championship in 2003 and followed that up earlier this year with the European title.

But it is Khan's Olympic exploits that have propelled him onto the world stage, causing him to be besieged by television networks and media in Athens in recent days.

The youngster is the first member of Bolton's Asian community, who make up nine per cent of its population, to have gained such huge national prominence although he was honored with a civic send-off by the city's mayor before leaving for the Olympics.

Khan's exploits have given a huge boost to the town's small Pakistani community - the majority of the Bolton's South Asians are of Indian descent - while pictures of his father, Shajaad, wearing a Union Jack while supporting his son have helped dispel the notion among some that Britain's Moslem community is not prepared to integrate.

Kindelan won his last world crown in 2003, even though he had to fight from the quarterfinal stages on with a hairline fracture in his left arm, and has rarely been tested in major competition since he won the Pan American Games title in 1999.

Kindelan has already announced that he will retire "at the top" following Sunday's final.

The Cuban has immense experience to go with lightning speed and a very economical punching style but will be going up against a young boxer who has already outclassed Yeleuov and Stilianov as well as showing immense punching power to stop Baik, a man who finished fifth at last year's world championship.

Should the teenage Khan somehow manage to overcome a man 14 years his senior, who in the past five years has failed to find a serious rival, it will be truly one of the great achievements of Olympic boxing and of Bolton's small Pakistani community.


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