Source: Bleach ReportBy Ray Markarian,
OAKLAND, California — As we drove north on Interstate 880 toward downtown Oakland on a cold Friday night this winter,Amir Khan asked me a question that I could not answer with confidence.
“Look at that hill on the right side,” Khan said. “Is that a temple? Can you see it?”
Khan, a two-time world champion boxer, splits his time between his native Bolton, England, and the Bay Area. We were on our way to the Three Wise Men Toy Giveaway charity event, hosted by the Oakland Police Department, and the majestically lit building was fading away in the distance.
“It’s probably a mosque,” Khan said. “Mosques are important. It’s good to have them close by. That’s my favorite place to go.”
Every Friday around 1:30 p.m., Khan, a devout Muslim, spends his afternoons in prayer at a mosque near his training headquarters in Hayward. More than anything else, religion is evident in all facets of Khan’s life.
At the mosque, Khan rubs shoulders with locals, stands with them in worship, exchanges pleasantries and moves on.
Without question, Khan is the most popular Muslim boxer since Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali and converted to Islam over 50 years ago. As was the case with Ali, it’s been impossible for Khan to keep his religious beliefs separate from the stereotyping and polarization of today’s political landscape.
“Ali was a champion in and out of the boxing ring because he stood up for what he believed in; I am the same way. I stand up for myself,” Khan said. “I am not afraid of saying I am a Muslim. I think some people would be scared to say that they are Muslim, especially during the current time, but I am a proud Muslim. There are a lot of good Muslims out there who are against terrorism, who are against, you know, people killing each other.”
But unlike Ali, who stood at the forefront of controversy, Khan desires to stay away from politics and focus on charity work.
To Khan, showing what it means to be a good Muslim starts in a simple place. It starts with showing that he’s a good person.
Alex Goodlett/Getty Images
Khan’s next fight is May 7 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas against the heavily favored middleweight champion, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. He enters the Alvarez bout as an underdog for the first time in his professional boxing career in what promises to be the most anticipated boxing event of the year to date.