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Amir Khan: Fighting stereotypes

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Amir Khan is a British boxer and WBA World Light Welterweight champion
  • Khan beat American boxer Pauli Malignaggi in first fight in the U.S. in May
  • Born and raised in Bolton, a town in northwest England; still lives with family
  • Devout Muslim, he is proud of his family heritage and status as role model

Watch Revealed with Amir Khan at the following times: Wednesday 16 June: 0830, 1630, Saturday 19 June: 0830, 1700, and 2030, Sunday 20 June: 0500, 1730, Monday 20 June: 0300 (all times GMT)

(CNN) -- Amir Khan is a rare thing in sport: A world champion boxer who still lives with his parents and a prominent Muslim who is not afraid to address the image of Islam today.

Khan tasted international boxing success when he was just 17, winning a silver medal at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004. Now 23, he holds the WBA World Light Welterweight title, defended against Pauli Malignaggi in New York in May.

But bright lights and big cities haven't distracted the boy from Bolton, an unassuming town in northwest England. He still lives, and for the most part, trains, in his hometown.

"I'm so close with my family ... my Dad never missed an amateur fight or a professional fight, my uncle's the same, they've always been with me that's why I have so much respect for them," Khan told CNN.

Video: Amir Khan, a British role model
Video: Promoting Amir Khan in USA
Video: Lets get ready to rumble
Video: Khan's family proud of him
Video: Freddie Roach happy with Khan's progress

Khan spoke to CNN's Revealed team after his big fight in New York, about his life as a sportsman, British Muslim and role model.

CNN: Why do you love boxing?

Amir Khan: It feels like home, even when I step in the ring. As soon as I walk into any gym in the world I feel at home. I know everything, I know what to do. It just feels so comfortable. I can do what I want there. It feels even more comfortable than walking into my own house and my own bedroom. That's how much I love boxing.

I like to entertain when I'm in the boxing ring; I like to show speed, power and explosiveness. It's an art, people need to see [it as] that, not as a violent sport, and when I go into the ring to hurt someone it's because they're trying to hurt me. That's the only reason I hit them back.

CNN: Do you enter a different zone as the fight approaches?

AK: I totally enter a different zone. It's like when I'm in the gym I'm 100 percent there ... it's like autopilot, I'm just doing it, man, my body's just making me do whatever. Time starts going slower approaching the fight, maybe four days before the fight, time just stops.

CNN: Do you think people look for a race issue when you fight?

AK: Being a Muslim and being a Pakistani a lot of people are going to bring that issue up. I'm flying the flag for Britain and Pakistan, I'm proud to be British and British Pakistani, and I think there's a lot of people, Muslim people, just like me. So, when you do get a lot of people [talking about] terrorism and stuff like that, it's only a very small percentage. There's a bigger picture out there and I want people to follow my footsteps and do what I'm doing.

Being a role model does put pressure on you but I'm only doing what I love to do.
--Amir Khan, boxer
RELATED TOPICS
  • Boxing
  • Islam
  • Amir Khan

CNN: How does your faith help you?

AK: My faith keeps me humble and keeps my feet on the ground. I pray and I do things privately. It gives me strength when I go in the ring. I know I'm not on my own, I've got God on my side as well, God's helping me, God's going to give me that inner strength to go in there and win the fight. Boxing in the ring is a lonely place, it's just you and your opponent, no one else, so you know spiritually when you have that help it makes a massive difference. It gives you so much confidence.

CNN: Do you sometimes just want to be a boxer without the image?

AK: At times I used to think to myself, I've got a lot of pressure on me, but I'm happy with it. People see me as a Pakistani Muslim British fighter. I'm fine with that and being a role model.

CNN: What does it mean to you to be seen as a role model?

AK: It's nice, I think I'm probably the only Asian Muslim role model in Britain, there's no other Muslim, Pakistani, Indian or whatever role model in the country ... that does put pressure on you but I'm only doing what I love to do. I'm a boxer, I'm a normal guy, I'm never going to change no matter how big I get.

I'm never going to be big-headed and I hate those who are. I never look down on anyone and I'll always speak to people, I've got time for my fans ... even if I have to go out of my way to do it, I'll take a picture, and I've been doing that and maybe that's the reason that God gives me so much -- and has given me so much -- success.

CNN: Where would you be if it weren't for boxing?

AK: I've got a lot of friends who were in school with me and they've taken the wrong path and I think I would've taken the wrong path with them. I would've definitely gone the wrong path or maybe still be with my parents. With the respect I have for them, they would've kept me on the right path, but I wouldn't be anywhere like where I am now.