Amir Khan captures WBA welterweight title

MANCHESTER: Highly touted Amir Khan finally lived up to lofty expectations, earning a unanimous decision over Andreas Kotelnik on Saturday to capture the WBA junior welterweight title on Saturday.

The 22-year-old Khan's blistering victory came five years after a career-launching Olympic silver medal, and 10 months after he was knocked out by Breidis Prescott in 54 seconds.

Two judged scored the fight 118-11, while the third had it 120-108.

"It's the best feeling ever," Khan said. "I picked the right shots and was composed. I stuck to the game plan and stayed concentrating.

"In the early days I used to rush and fight with my heart, but now I use my brains." Khan (21-1) was stepping up a division to face Kotelnik, but didn't appear to lose any speed. His quick combinations and impressive footwork helped carry him to a triumph in front of Naseem Hamed, one of only two other Brits to become a champion at a younger age.

"He showed courage, heart. I'm very, very impressed," Hamed said.

After his surprising loss to Prescott, Khan began working with well-respected trainer Freddie Roach, who has helped guide Manny Pacquiao to the top of the pound-for-pound lists.

"That defeat made me a better fighter," Khan said.

A fifth-round stoppage victory in March in the same M.E.N. Arena ring over highly respected Marco Antonio Barrera helped restore Khan's confidence, if not his credibility, and his newfound polish showed while handing Kotelnik (31-3-1) his first loss since 2005.

"I want to thank Freddie Roach for making this happen," Khan said. "He's taken me to a different level and now I'm a world champion." The 31-year-old Kotelnik struggled to cope with Khan's relentless punching and couldn't land anything to trouble his younger opponent.

"Khan chose the right tactics," Kotelnik said through a translator. "I wasn't myself today. Khan was the better fighter so he won." Khan impressed with his counterpunching, and his nimble defence gave Kotelnik little opportunity to land the knockout blow he needed.

"I was strong, I took some big shots, but I stayed focused throughout the rounds," Khan said. "The amateurish mistakes have gone now. Freddie Roach and the team, the sparring I've got in America, is probably as tough as the fight here.

"I'm still young, I'm 22. I've got big things in the future to come." That future involves a big payday across the Atlantic, Khan hopes.

"It's time to go to America and fight the big names over there," he said. "Now I'll get people knocking on my door. I want to fight the likes of (Juan Manuel) Marquez, because I think my style will go up against theirs." Earlier, Khan saw the British Olympians looking to follow in his footsteps. On the undercard, a trio of Britain's Beijing competitors easily made it three wins out of three since turning professional, but created little entertainment.

Middleweight gold medalist James DeGale stopped Ciaran Healey at the end of the first round with a sharp left body shot.

There was a second-round stoppage victory for Frankie Gavin, who knocked down Graham Fearn twice to claim a third straight win.

Gavin, whose medal chances in Beijing were ruined when he had weight problems going into the games, finished Fearn with a left hook to the body.

Billy Joe Saunders also stopped Matt Scriven, who had lost his previous 27 fights, in the second round. Saunders lost in the second round in Beijing after being tipped to win a gold medal at light-welterweight.