British-Muslim boxer Amir Khan’s dream plan of taking on American superstar Floyd Mayweather Jr may have to be shelved due to ‘anti-Islamic’ feeling in the United States.
Mayweather has long been keen on fighting Bolton-born former two-time world champion Khan in a bout that could earn both men many millions of dollars.
However, the Independent on Sunday quoted several boxing promoters as saying that a Muslim fighter would be a ‘hard sell’ to US audiences due to the killings of western journalists and aid workers by the Islamic State terrorist group.
Those atrocities has sparked an alarming rise in anti-Islamic feeling in the United States.
One well-known commentator last week paid for an incendiary ad campaign on New York buses with posters showing the killing of American journalist James Foley by a British jihadi in Iraq.
One boxing promoter told the Independent: “Any Muslim fighter would be a hard sell to TV audiences in such a high-profile fight, especially should the situation escalate.
“There is so much Islamophobia around here following the hostage killings that it might be considered too great a risk.”
27-year-old Khan, a devout Muslim, has repeatedly condemned IS atrocities in Syria and Iraq.
The boxer is currently said to be in the US, training for a fight against an as-yet-unnamed opponent in December.
He says he has not felt any hostility towards him because of his faith although he has had problems with immigration officials at the US border.
The boxer claims that he has had to endure ‘rude’ treatment and extra checks almost every time he travels to the US.
In May 2010, he had to train in Canada after being refused entry to the US because of delays in issuing a work visa, and even last week he was initially refused clearance at Manchester airport to board a plane to Las Vegas.
It took a call to the US Embassy from Downing Street before clearance was given.
Asif Vali, Khan’s former business manager, told the Independent that the legacy of terrorism is a major factor in causing problems at immigration control.
“His name is Khan; he is a Muslim; between visits to the United States, he visits Pakistan; and goes to another Muslim country, Egypt, on holiday. All these things are taken into account by US Homeland Security.”
Khan – who won a Silver medal for Great Britain at the 2004 Athens Olympics – has also had problems with racist elements in the UK because of his Pakistani heritage.
The boxer was booed when introduced ringside at a match at Wembley in May.