At the age of 21, Amir Khan is facing up to some of the most important decisions of his fledgling career.
Nothing other than an early knockout against Michael Gomez on Saturday will satisfy the more cynical members of the British public and writers still unsure of Khan’s credentials as the bright young hope of British boxing.
Gomez talks a good game and his life has certainly had more twists and turns than an Alton Towers rollercoaster. But he’s past his best and should have neither the hand-speed nor the ring-craft to trouble Khan unduly. But while the result seems a formality, it promises to be a cracking fight for the few rounds it lasts.
But it is the questions Khan will have to answer after the bout at Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena that will define the next stage of his career.
The most pertinent being, is he ready for a world title fight? Khan has spoken at length of wanting to become a world champion at the age of 21. And with time running out before his 22nd birthday (8 December) Khan must decide whether he is ready to make that step up.
His promoter, Frank Warren, was cautious about Khan’s world title aspirations following his seventh-round stoppage of Martin Kristjansen in April, no doubt spooked by the fact that the light-punching Dane had little problem locating Khan’s chin.
Warren recently held talks with Don King, promoter of WBA, IBF and WBO lightweight title-holder Nate Campbell, but a clash with the 36-year-old would be extremely risky at this stage of Khan’s career.
However, Khan’s current deal with Warren comes to an end after the Gomez fight and the former Olympic silver medallist will have to decide whether his ambitions are being thwarted or whether Warren’s caution is well-placed.
Having split with previous trainer Oliver Harrison following the Kristjansen fight, Khan has been linked with American trainers Buddy McGirt and Roger Mayweather and you would assume any permanent union would necessitate a move across the Atlantic.
Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, now the biggest players Stateside, would also welcome Khan with open arms, although Warren appears confident their current three-year deal will be extended.
Perhaps to placate the hungry Khan, Warren has promised him a fight in America later this year, probably on the same card as Joe Calzaghe in Las Vegas, which would also introduce him to American fans.
And with ITV pulling out of boxing, Warren will also need to find Khan a new home on television, with Setanta the most likely hosts, although Warren has spoken of “terrestrial exposure”.
The most interesting aspect of Khan’s final fling on ITV will be how much of an impact stand-in trainer Dean Powell has had in his short time in charge.
Indeed, whether or not he has taught Khan to keep his chin out of harm’s way could have big implications for his immediate future: stay out of trouble and Khan may feel he’s ready for the likes of Campbell. Get tagged and he may decide he’s still got plenty of years to make that step up.
How do you think the next year of Khan’s career should pan out?
1332 BST: Just a quick update to my original article above Amir Khan has said he wants to fight the winner of next week's world title clash between Manny Pacquiao and David Diaz if he disposes of Michael Gomez on Saturday.
Is this the type of opponent Khan should be eyeing up, or are the likes of Pacquiao and Diaz in a different league to Khan?