His journey to an Olympic silver medal aged 17 at the 2004 Athens Olympics was one of the most exhilarating and surprising achievements in modern British sport.
Yet, based on what we know about Amir Khan the professional boxer, there is little to suggest he can emulate that feat when he faces the WBC middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez this weekend.
As upsets go, it would be a corker.
Maybe not quite James ‘Buster’ Douglas of 1990, Mike Tyson, Tokyo proportions, although not far off it.
Khan has enjoyed a good career in the paid ranks, holding the WBA and IBF light-welterweight belts in 2011 and seeing off the likes of Marcos Maidana, Zab Judah and Devon Alexander.
Considering the problems Maidana gave Floyd Mayweather Jr in their welterweight match ups, that particular win looks greater nearly five a half years on.
With Khan though, there has always been a tendency to recall the gory rather than the glory. As Alvarez approaches, it is impossible to avoid this train of thought.
The Breidis Prescott knockout, the Willie Limond knockdown and long count, the Danny Garcia stoppage. Since the Garcia disaster – Khan was a heavy favourite going into the bout – he has avoided punchers and it doesn’t take a genius to work out why.
Financially it is a strategy that has paid off; reports claim Khan could earn up to £8 million for stepping up in weight to face Alvarez.
His only chance of hitting the jackpot between the ropes is if the Mexican icon gets complacent. Bolton’s most famous son has the fastest hands in the business. He will hope to pepper Alvarez with shots between, and in and around, his guard like Mayweather and Cuban southpaw Erislandy Lara did. Then, to put it in old-fashioned terms, he must get on his bike.
His victories over Alexander, Maidana and Andreas Kotelnik prove he can execute a purposeful plot, flurrying and moving.
However the strategy was brutally exposed by Garcia. He drew Khan onto a beautiful sense-sapping left hook to the neck through a series of vicious hooks to the body.
That slowed the Briton down significantly, halting his ring-circling game plan.
Chris Algieri, the non-puncher who lost to him a year ago, had similar joy to the body. Their encounter, which Khan won on points, also told us the former Olympian’s worst habits remain.
His opponents cannot miss with straight rights and looping overhand rights, like the one which nearly knocked him out in the tenth round of his battle with Maidana. Worryingly, they are undisturbed by his own power.
Alvarez was out-boxed by Mayweather and Lara [the Mexican won a split decision with many ringside observers believing the Cuban was robbed] yet never hurt, and the punches of the great Miguel Cotto couldn’t shake him up either. It is difficult to see Khan stopping him in his tracks.
And with 32 stoppages from 46 wins, Alvarez can bang; his chilling third-round finish of James Kirkland last year is worth watching on YouTube.
The complete boxer he is not. I’m not sure he would beat middleweight rival Gennady Golovkin. However, considering the above factors along with Alvarez’s well-documented weight advantage, I’m certain the champion has too much for Khan.
The challenger’s defence is not conducive to winning championship fights against boxers of this calibre.
If Willie Limond and Chris Algieri can buzz him, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez can too.
At his best, I see the Khan dropping a spirited points loss. Unfortunately, I can’t shake the thought that he will either be stopped, or pulled out by trainer Virgil Hunter, after nine rounds.