Never mind that he has won an Olympic silver medal and two world titles for Britain, Amir Khan is still the victim of the social media trolls.
His crime in the eyes of those prejudiced few appears to be that the Briton also champions Pakistan, his country of parental origin. Khan says: ‘I do get much more stick than most fighters.’
His reaction is to use his broad shoulders to shrug off the foul-mouthed barbs, threats and insults. He says: ‘I don’t let it bother me. At least they are talking about me, so I must be doing something right. I love both countries. I believe I set an example to youngsters in the UK and I go to Pakistan to do all I can to help improve the lives of struggling young people there.
At some of his big fights the cheering for his exploits has been infiltrated by jeers. More so here on occasion than in America. That sad, negative reaction is less likely this Saturday night as Khan continues his comeback against Colombia’s Samuel Vargas. This potential stepping stone towards a super-fight with Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao and a domestic blockbuster against Kell Brook takes place in Birmingham.
The city has a sizeable Asian population and as he puts the finishing touches to his preparations there Khan says: ‘I have a lot of friends and supporters in Birmingham and they make me feel at home. I’m really looking forward to boxing here.’
He should beat Vargas, who is a step up in class from his first comeback opponent Phil Lo Greco, who he blew away in 39 seconds. Assuming he prevails, he can move on to punching to the unconverted.
Khan is ready, he says, to make his comeback in boxing and shock the world in the ring
He says: ‘I like to prove people wrong. I’ve been written off but I always come back. I hope I can inspire young people to believe it is possible to pick themselves up no matter how severe the setback.’
His own most recent upset was as severe as it gets in the ring. A brutal, totally concussive knock out by Canelo Alvarez in Las Vegas when he moved up two divisions to middleweight in his frustration at missing out on a legacy fight against Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather.
His doubters called time on him but he will not be making that mistake again. Welterweight is the division in which he hopes to challenge Pacquiao for his world title — and the weight to which he insists Brook must return from super-welter for their long-awaited Battle of Britain.
Khan was labelled an 'old man' by Vargas, which has given the 31-year-old more motivation
‘They are both massive fights,’ says Khan. ‘With Manny it could be this winter in the Far East or Middle East. With Kell, maybe a stadium fight next spring. Since he is on record saying he will come back to 147lb there is no reason that shouldn’t happen. I never duck anyone.’
Nor does he intend to if he sweeps Vargas, Pacquiao and Brook before him in the coming months The welterweight division is bristling with Pacquiao’s rival alpha-belt world champions Keith Thurman, Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr.
All would be dangerous opponents but Khan says: ‘It is my ambition to win a third maybe fourth world title and I’d go back to America to fight any of them. I always want to prove myself against the best.’
Khan believes this is a chance to reignite his career and get people talking about him again
After his latest tough camp with veteran American trainer Joe Goossen, the 31-year-old Boltonian says: ‘I feel I am at the fittest, fastest and strongest I have ever been. So although I’m happy in many ways with everything I’ve achieved already, there is more to come. There is no question of me retiring. But when I do I hope the least my critics will do is look back and say, “you know, that Amir Khan wasn’t a bad fighter after all”.’
To that end, he is doing his best to shake off his reputation for high living. His marriage is solid and his sole escapade of late has been a ticket for parking on a footpath outside a restaurant.
‘I love boxing,’ he says, knowing that with a good performance on Saturday, he will go some way to silencing the social media trolls.