BN: It’s nearly two years after your last fight, how are you adjusting to retirement?
It’s good. I’m living a very peaceful, chilled life. There’s no pressure on me to wake up and go for a run; train. The pressure, knowing you have a fight coming up – it’s not there no more. It’s the best thing ever, man.
I know I need something else to keep me busy, and at the moment I’ve not even done that because I’ve just been enjoying my time off. I’m going to go into something else – properties; real estate – and I’m spending time with my kids [Lamaisah, nine; Alayna, five; Zaviyar, three], because I never spent time like this with them before.
I’ve got enough money in the bank – tens of millions – investments, and everything I own is cash paid. I’m very happy. However the last fight [last year’s defeat by Kell Brook] went, I’m still happy, because boxing’s been good to me and financially I’m secure. I’ve got no worries at all. I’m enjoying my life – I just want to see my kids grow. They give me that happiness; that buzz. It’s brilliant, I’m telling you.
Living in Dubai as well, because with the gun crime [in the UK; Khan and his wife Faryal Makhdoom were last year robbed at gunpoint in east London], it gets a little bit dangerous, but other than that I love England. I love coming back. Dubai’s very hot; there’s too many nice restaurants; you always meet people there. That’s why I’m putting on weight now. I’m not doing nothing crazy – I cleaned up the mess I had from before, [with] my investments, and I’m in a place where I’m in control of everything. My family’s happy; my wife’s happy; my kids are very happy. I live a very simple but comfortable life.
As a fighter I [achieved] more than I ever expected. What I did in the game – looking back at it, I’m thinking, “I did really well from the sport”. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but as time’s gone on I’ve realised I did really well, financially; winning titles; going to America and making a name.
The only little hint of sadness in my career is the drug-testing thing [Khan tested positive for the banned substance ostarine after losing to Brook and was banned for two years from April 2022]. If you look at the amount that was found in my blood — everyone has said this, but — UKAD [UK Anti-Doping] have done a statement. They said that it’s unintentional, and instead of giving me a four-year ban, they gave me a two-year ban. You know why? Because I didn’t have the source to prove how it got into my system. If I’d given them the source of how it got into my system, I would have won the case. It’s not like I lost the case, because they said that I didn’t cheat. I’m not a cheater.
It’s a bit of a sad thing, because it wasn’t going to give me any benefit, what was found in my system. It wasn’t going to give me any benefit in the fight. It wasn’t going to make me any stronger; any faster. I’ll give you an example, the amount that was in my body — say you got an Olympic-sized swimming pool; one grain of salt. That’s all they found — that’s the equivalent. That’s what it was.
BN: Have you since learned how it got there?
No. I wish I knew. If I did know, and I’d given a valid reason to UKAD, I’d have been okay.
BN: You stayed on your feet while taking a lot of punishment from Kell Brook…
That was roadwork from Bomac [then-trainer Brian McIntyre]. Trust me. A lot of people will be saying, “Maybe because he was taking something”. I’ve not really heard anyone say that, but if you think about it, I did all that roadwork — the training was different. It’s all in the book [Khan’s autobiography Fight For Your Life]. We would run every day. The amount of exercise that we did on the legs — I’ve realised now, maybe me going down [previously] was probably not my chin. I think it’s not having the strongest legs. Kell Brook is a hard hitter. He’s a big puncher — and he didn’t put me down, and he caught me with a good shot, but my legs still kept me up. It was the strength in the legs that kept me standing.
Another example of that is when I fought against [in 2010, Marcos] Maidana. [Conditioner] Alex Ariza had me running every day, and the legs were solid. Look at the other thing — Danny Garcia when I fought him [in 2012]. I got put down. Who trained me for that fight? Not Alex Ariza. When I’ve trained on my legs — Alex is another trainer who trains the legs solidly — you would be able to take a shot. So maybe the weakness was the legs.
BN: How much did Alex Ariza oversee your nutrition when you worked with him?
I had my own team – I had Taz [Khan, my uncle]. We only used to take the supplements that we ordered from the UK. I used to work with a company called USANA. They provided all my stuff, and I used to take them. [Ariza] wasn’t always with me on that side – he wasn’t really my nutritionist. He was my strength conditioner only. He used to give me advice, “You should take this; you should take this; you should take the [vitamin] B12 injections”; I used to go privately to a doctor and get them done, but for supplements, I used to get them myself.
BN: If you hadn’t retired would you be trying to clear your name?
One hundred per cent. I’d have gone to UKAD and done a full investigation and made sure my name come out clean. It was just because I retired [that I didn’t]. “It makes no difference. I’m not going to fight again.” But the [uncertainty, from the public’s perspective]…
It could have been from drinking from someone’s drink. A lot of my friends are on steroids, because they want to be big. The new thing is that everyone wants to be on steroids. I might have shared a drink with someone. But I’ve never cheated in boxing.
BN: Brook told Boxing News that it was you who demanded testing…
I’m the one who said that I wanted drug testing. Can you believe that? Everything, I put in the book, because I know I’ve never been a cheater. Look at the performance I had [Khan was stopped in the sixth]. It wasn’t like I was strong, or sharp. I had nothing left. I was a flat fighter in that fight. I didn’t want to be there. If I knew I was on something, mentally I’d have psyched myself up. “I’ve been on this, and I’m on this, and I’m gonna be stronger.”
It upsets me, because I’ve never been a cheater, and I never would cheat. But to be honest with you, I’ve stopped caring, because at least I know myself – and my own team know. My team; my coaches; my old coaches and my ex-coaches; they all know that I would never have done that. That’s what makes me happy. I don’t really care what other people think, because they’re always gonna have an opinion, and they’re probably always gonna have this opinion on me, because I was very successful. I did do well – they’re always gonna wanna have a go.
BN: How much of a wider problem is it in the sport?
It’s a massive problem in boxing, and it’s quite sad that it’s happening, and I want to stand up to it. I’m totally against people taking drugs in boxing, and a lot of fighters are going to be out there taking drugs. When a fighter gets caught he needs to be banned from boxing permanently, because you’re risking someone’s life. You’re risking your own life as well and you’re making the sport look really bad. Why is it that it’s only boxing that’s getting caught recently? It’s disgusting that people can cheat, and disgusting that they’re not scared about hurting someone. These people have families.
BN: How close have you come to considering a comeback?
I’ve been offered amazing deals in Saudi Arabia; Dubai; Abu Dhabi, for a big fight there. But if I ever did do that, I’m going to have a spar with 10oz gloves; see how I feel and how I take a shot and if I still have it in me – if my body’s still in shape. Because I don’t know if I can still do it. It has to be a fight that motivates me so much that I would jump to the occasion. What would motivate me is a [Floyd] Mayweather; Manny Pacquiao; Conor McGregor, or Khabib [Nurmagomedov]. At the moment it’d have to be an exhibition, because obviously I’m a banned fighter. When my ban comes off, after that it could be an actual fight. Let’s see.
BN: Could you have retired with the same sense of peace without fighting Brook?
Yeah, 100 per cent. I didn’t have to fight him. I swear to God, I would have been happy. I would not have cared – never, in a million years – because I know what I did in my career. I only did it for the British public – I swear to God that’s the only reason I did it. I didn’t need the money, and I was happily going to call it a day. It’s just that I said, “I’ll do it for the British public”, because everywhere I would go people would say to me, “Fight Kell Brook; fight Kell Brook”, and I just couldn’t take the fact that I’m always being asked this question. “If I don’t fight him it’s always going to linger.” So at least now it’s dead and buried – no one’s going to talk about it.
BN: After losing to your bitterest rival, you were very gracious in defeat. How much were you hurting inside?
You know what? It didn’t, really. Honestly speaking. You know when you lose love for something? The week of that fight, and around that time, I’d lost love for boxing. I didn’t really care, or anything, about the fight. “It is what it is.” There is no regret there, because I didn’t want to be around boxing. I remember, the last thing I ever did, when I walked out towards the ring – I looked at a clock. “In two hours this fight will be over and I’ll never need to look at boxing again.” It was a big burden on me. I don’t know if the burden was because everyone wanted me to fight Kell Brook all the time and that name was always there. That made me feel like, “You have to take this fight” – maybe I could have retired taking an easier fight. But there was something there – I was glad. “After this fight I’m gonna be happy.” It’s the wrong way of thinking about it, because I’ve never thought like this before where I’m looking at a clock thinking, “I want it to be over – in two hours’ time I’ll be in my bed”. That makes me think I was already halfway out the sport. I’d checked out.
BN: When did you know that was going to be your last fight?
When I was in camp in America. Normally I’m being pushed, and I push myself even harder. I was pushing myself hard because I wanted to keep Bomac happy, but mid-camp, when I got injuries and stuff – and my shoulder went before the fight, a small tear; I didn’t tell no one; whenever I was throwing my right hand I had problems; it was hurting me – I knew then my body was breaking down. “I don’t love the sport anymore – I’m going to call it a day.”
BN: Who was the best you fought?
[In 2019, Terence] Crawford. Crawford was a machine. Crawford was so good. Maybe that’s the time when I knew – after the Crawford fight – that I was done from the sport. I had to then cash in and leave the sport, or at least make sure that I do the Brook fight and call it a day, because I wanted to give everyone what they wanted. When I fought [Crawford] – he was making me miss by inches; I was falling short; my timing was off. He had everything against me.
His boxing IQ [made him better than, in 2016, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez]. I was still hitting Canelo. Maybe I was at my peak then as well – I was hitting him and I was catching him. But with Crawford I was falling short. Maybe I just didn’t have it in me – I could see then, and I could feel that, “I’m doing something but my body’s not letting me”. I see the shot coming and it was still hitting me. I couldn’t move away in time, and that told me that, “You need to get me out of here”. Imagine – think about it now. You’re standing there and you’re thinking – I moved away and he still hit me – “How the f— did that hit me?” [laughs].
BN: Were you the same after Saul Alvarez knocked you out?
I’ve never been asked this question. That might have been the last fight [I was at my peak], really. Thinking about it, looking at my performances after that…
BN: Was it a mistake to fight him?
At that time I was growing my bank balance; I wanted to be financially secure. When you get paid almost $12m for a fight like that, you break it down in your head. “For me to make that, I have to be in at least four or five hard title fights”. Around that time was when I started thinking that, “It’s a business”, because I’d won my titles. I didn’t really have ambition – if I won one [a title], I won one.
BN: What was your best win?
[Devon] Alexander, [Luis] Collazo [both in 2014], and Maidana. Not bad names, is it? Alexander [is the best of the three]. You know why I liked that? Maidana caught me with good shots; I showed some sort of vulnerability; he was a big puncher as well. But with Alexander, we just gave him a clinic, and no one’s ever done that to Alexander. That fight, what I did to Alexander, he was never the same fighter after that.
BN: How much does it frustrate you that you didn’t fight Tim Bradley when you were both at 140lbs?
I’m very frustrated that that didn’t happen, because [with victory] I would have been the undisputed champion. But it’s boxing – it never happened and it’s one of them things. But it’s quite upsetting, really, that fight didn’t happen.
BN: How do you reflect on the proposed fight with Ricky Hatton that would have taken place in 2013?
I would have beaten him but he’s a friend of mine as well, so that would have been quite hard to do. I’m glad in a way that didn’t happen. We both went our own ways; we both had a good career; we both won titles. Luckily we can still be friends, and I’m glad we didn’t fight, because if we fought each other we’d have had that bit of animosity between us.
BN: Your professional career spanned almost 17 years. When were you at your very best?
I really believe I was at my prime in my early twenties. [Against, in 2009, Andriy] Kotelnik; [in 2009, Dmitriy] Salita; [in 2011, Zab] Judah; maybe Danny Garcia as well but he just caught me with a good shot, because I felt really good and I was in good shape for that fight as well. If you look at all them fights I had, that was my peak – them one, two years. Years after me being at my peak I was still performing at the highest level; still giving good performances with Alexander and other fighters as well. I had a good career, man. I’m happy. When I look back at it I remind myself it was good.
BN: Between the fights with Alvarez and Phil Lo Greco, in 2018, you were vocal about your belief that your finances had been mishandled by those around you…
Everything is settled now. That’s why I’m in a very happy place. Everything now in my life has gone my way – how I wanted it to. I’m very happy – I’m happy with my bank balance; I’m happy with my life. I lost a lot of money, but you know what? I always said that God’s been looking down on me, because I have a good heart – I’m a good person – and God put me in this position where I’m happy with my life and I’m happily retired as well. I never need to come back for a pay day. If I ever come back it’s only ever going to be because I miss it.
BN: What was it like to share a gym with the great Manny Pacquiao when he was at his very peak?
He was amazing. He was at his peak then [in late 200