Alan Hubbard

This seems to be the year of boxing's comeback kings.

I have known and liked Amir Khan since he was a schoolboy sensation. I enjoyed watching him win his Olympic silver medal in Athens back in 2004 as Britain's lone ring ranger, and subsequently his World Boxing Association world light-welterweight championship win in Manchester five years later.

I also enjoyed watching him rumble in the Australian jungle as a genuine celebrity trying to get out of there on the TV reality show.

But now I worry about him. And not only because of those alleged sexual peccadilloes that keep making headlines in the tabloids but because of his impending comeback to boxing two years after being poleaxed by Canelo Alvarez.

It is not the clash of dates which sees his Sky-backed return to the ring in Liverpool on April 21 pitted against the appearance of a re-born Carl Frampton in a humdinger of a fight in Belfast the same night, on rival channel BoxNation. As irritating and unnecessary as this is, what bothers me is the risk he is taking with both his well-being and boxing reputation.

Already they are talking about future match-ups with the likes of Errol Spence Jr, Danny Garcia and Keith Thurman, all of whom have jaw-breaking power in their punches.

Okay. They'll probably dig out an opponent who couldn't break the proverbial egg, let alone Amir's vulnerable whiskers, for his first fight back. Someone closer to the fistic prowess of TV comedian Keith Lemon than Thurman.

But what follows after that?

A showdown with domestic rival Kell Brook, now due to box at light-middleweight, would have been a burster once, but it now seems past its sell-by date.

Amir Khan is due to make his boxing comeback ©Getty Images
Amir Khan is due to make his boxing comeback ©Getty Images

I understand that some time before he signed for Matchroom, Khan was offered a healthy six-figure purse by Frank Warren to meet the skilful Bradley Skeete, but turned it down.

Khan argues that a cold, clinical KO of the sort he suffered against Canelo, and also against Breidis Prescott way back, is less harmful than taking a beating over several rounds - and he rightly points out he was boxing well against the Mexican before he was chinned in the sixth.

Of course he is entitled to continue his career at 30 but he has to be in perfect condition to do so. Some may question whether in the past two years he has truly lived the life of an athlete.

It is regrettable that Khan's return to the ring, which marks his first fight on British soil in five years, falls on the same night as Frampton's more intriguing featherweight encounter with fellow former world champ Nonito Donaire, a date which Warren had pencilled in first. 

Now ask yourself this.

Would you, as a TV viewer, rather watch Khan, who sadly has never really had a fan-base over here despite his undoubted talent, shedding 24 months of ring rust against a hand-picked pushover, or the immensely popular Frampton in a potentially fiery dust-up with a genuine world class opponent?

Sadly, for me, as much as I like Amir, it's a no-brainer.

On the subject of ring comebacks, I was this week asked by boxing's bible, Ring Magazine, what I am most looking forward to in 2018. 

Without hesitation I said it was the return of Tyson Fury as I suspect this will put boxing's big cat among the heavyweight pigeons.

My answer may surprise some as my relationship with Tyson is a long way from that with Amir. Fractious might be an understatement.

As with Amir, I have known him since his teens, when the former British national coach Terry Edwards introduced us in Sheffield and predicted of the polite, almost reserved young giant: "this kid can  be champion of the world one day".

But once he turned pro Fury changed. He could be funny, but more frequently he was infuriatingly foul-mouthed and we have not rubbed along since I publicly asked him to mind his language and stop spewing obscenities in front of an audience which included women and children.

His even more expletive-laden response brought a fine of £15,000 ($21,000/€17,000) from the Board of Control.

Will Tyson Fury return to the form which saw him crowned world heavyweight champion? ©Getty Images
Will Tyson Fury return to the form which saw him crowned world heavyweight champion? ©Getty Images

However my admiration for his boxing skills has never wavered, even during his recent enforced ring absence following an investigation into the banned substance nandrolone, discovered in his system after he claimed he had ingested uncastrated boar meat.

The situation, which saw his brilliantly-earned world heavyweight title confiscated, was recently resolved with his acceptance of a two-year ban backdated to the time of the offence in 2015.

The Board of Control, who had lifted his licence, say this will now be restored once he passes the required physical and mental health examinations.

That is good news.

Of course the Board will want evidence that Tyson is sound in both mind and body - at times he has blown up to around seven stones over his fighting weight.

While he may claim that shedding that massive extra poundage is easy, anyone who has dieted to lose just a couple of stones will know that it isn't.

Yet if Fury can become his old self again - and I am sure he can - then I believe that the man who tamed and teased the great Wladimir Klitschko on that heady night in Dusseldorf back in 2015 could beat any heavyweight in the world, Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, Joseph Parker et al.

But will we ever see that Fury again? I really hope so.

And I really hope I am wrong about my old friend Amir, and that Khan still can....