Being involved in professional boxing as many people in the trade can readily testify, can be a minefield for the most resilient of businessmen, let alone for those such as Asif Vali, who is still cutting his teeth after just a year in professional boxing. So how is he is coping so far?
"I am starting to find my feet now," said Vali. "But I did know about business and pretty much every business you go into is going to be the same and with a bit of patience you get to the goals you want to get to. It is very difficult in boxing because there are so many people wanting to give me the right or wrong advice or even the totally wrong attitude advice, and you have to make your mind up."
So how do you decide what is the right decision for Team Khan?
"Amir has his own company that looks after his own boxing affairs and his image rights are held with that company," said Vali. "Myself and Shah started off a separate company with his (Amir's) uncle and Shah's daughter and I've got a couple of girls working there from my side of the family. It started off as a family affair and its grown and the decision that we come to at the end is a family decision. We've never had a bad decision yet, touch wood, hopefully that will never happen."
Team Khan is indeed a family affair but Asif Vali is quick to point out that he is not related to the Khans in any way. "No I'm not related to the Khans," said Vali. " Were just very good friends. It's been about ten years now. When Amir first walked through the door of the gym where I was and I saw him I thought this kid is good. I was manager there at the time and thought I wanted to get involved with Amir so I went to Shah and I spoke to him."
On the surface Asif is indeed a very personable guy but when it comes to dealing with the day to day business affairs of Britain's brightest boxing prospect Asif is the one that adopts the more aggressive image while Shah adopts the more relaxed approach.
"He's (Shah) a smooth operator," said Vali. " I'm more or less the loud guy, I'm the one that can make the harsh decisions when I have to but Shah keeps my feet on the ground and reels me in when he has to and says 'lets have a talk about this'. It's a bit like good cop bad cop if you like. He's the good guy and I'm the bad guy."
At the moment all seems to be moving along as planned at Team Khan but Vali admits that the 19 year-old boy wonder is progressing faster than he would like.
"Everything is going to plan so far but a little bit speedier than we thought, quicker in the boxing ring as well," said Vali. "Personally I'm glad that Amir's last fight got cancelled, we needed the break, now we've all refreshed ourselves and now two thousand and six is the year for brighter things."
So where does Vali see Khan's progress at the end of 2006 in terms of possible title challenges?
"Obviously he(Amir) needs to get the experience, he's had some quick experiences the way things are going he's up to six rounders and he needs to be up to ten rounders by the end of the year. I wouldn't like to see Amir fight in an eliminator just yet but if that comes in front of us were seriously have to consider it.
"He doesn't need to be boxing ten rounds by the end of the year but people's expectations such as the media is there and their asking the questions," added Vali
Vali made it very clear though that they would consider Khan's fast track progress only if the team thought it was the right decision. "From the boxing side of it we as a family and Frank (Warren) will sit down and look at it and if we don't think its right for us we won't take it."
As one can imagine there are many businesses in both sport and the corporate world willing to lend their name to such a high profile clean living young sportsman, such as the recent Reebok deal, but Vali is adamant Amir's personal image will take priority over financial gain.
"Whatever deals come forward for Amir we consider very carefully," insisted Vali. "Reebok was a great opportunity with a great Bolton link and we had to get involved in that and it's a great story. It's a great chapter for where we are at the moment. People do want to get involved with Amir Khan but its not just about the money its about the right profile for Amir."
Team Khan seems to have thought of everything up to now and it is not surprising when you consider that they spoke to just about everyone in boxing before Amir threw his first professional punch.
"Naz (Naseem Hamed) was there we went to speak to him," said Vali. "We Spoke to Barry McGuigan and lots of different people. A lot of mistakes can be made if you're not careful. I don't know what the ratio of boxers going bankrupt is but we knew we had to get the best possible advice for Amir. We think we've done ok. We got the best lawyers, the best managers we got Bolton Football Club helping us out, you name it we've them all around. These people are on board every day, fifty two weeks of the year."
Speaking to Khan one senses that he is indeed a well balanced and confident young man and that is an observation fully endorsed by Asif Vali.
" He's is very confident young man," said Vali. " He does not get phased by nothing, he's not bothered by boxing in front of thousands of people or even doing interviews. He knows what he wants he's got his own plans in his mind. He keeps telling us what he wants to do and the day we stop listening is the day that he will switch off and that's what happens to a lot of boxers. When you don't take their thoughts into consideration then that's when things go wrong."
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April 27, 2006