[PHOTO AT LEFT - Boxing hero Manny Pacquiao is in deep prayer during the Mass at Quiapo Church yesterday morning. Edd Gumban MANILA, Philippines]

MANILA, MAY 9, 2009 (STAR) By Joaquin Henson - Freddie Roach is working on another jewel and he’s sure Amir Khan won’t disappoint when the 2004 Olympic silver medalist takes on WBA lightwelterweight champion Andriy Kotelnik in London on June 27.

Khan, 22, hooked up with Roach after firing Cuban trainer Jorge Rubio last year. It was in the wake of his shock first round knockout loss to Breidis Prescott in Manchester. Since joining Roach’s camp, Khan has won two in a row over Oisin Fagan and Marco Antonio Barrera.

For sure, the 5-10 Khan will draw inspiration from stablemate Manny Pacquiao’s second round knockout win over Ricky Hatton in Las Vegas last weekend. Khan was at ringside when Pacquiao ended the carnage with a vicious left hook to the jaw.

Khan sparred with Pacquiao for the Oscar de la Hoya fight last year and learned a lot from the Filipino icon, lessons that he parlayed into victory over the legendary Barrera.

The win over Barrera paved the way for Khan’s crack at the WBA crown. He led on the three judges scorecards, 50-44, 50-45, 50-45, when the Mexican was ruled unfit to continue by referee Dave Parris because of a cut inflicted by an accidental headbutt.

As Khan is from England like Hatton and trains with Pacquiao, he declined to choose one over the other. “I’m in the middle of this,” he smiled. “Both are special to me. I’ve trained with Manny. I’ve also been around Ricky. They’re both great champions. They’re so alike. They’re both funny, joke a lot, play around. Yet in the ring, they’re explosive.”

Roach will be in Khan’s corner when he faces Kotelnik, a 2000 Olympic silver medalist who is making the third defense of the WBA crown he won on a knockout over Gavin Rees last year. He has since repulsed challengers Norio Kimura and Marcos Rene Maidana, both on points.

“He’s ready for a title shot,” said Roach. And Khan vowed to snatch the title before what he expects to be a crowd of about 23,000 at the O2 Arena.

Khan told The Star in Las Vegas he won’t make the same mistake in the Prescott setback.

“Yeah, I learned my lesson the hard way,” said Khan. “I can’t believe I’m getting a title shot at 22. I’m out to win. Sure, there’s pressure fighting in my home country but I’m used to pressure. In the Olympics, I was the only English fighter who qualified and I brought back a silver against all odds.”

Khan, born in England of Pakistani parents, said Pacquiao was in the best share of his life against Hatton.

“Manny took Ricky much more seriously than he did Oscar,” said Khan, quoted by writer Jeff Powell. “He knew this was a harder fight so he never missed a training run, the way he has done from time to time. He couldn’t be in better condition. He’s still super fast but he’s also stronger than ever.”

There is talk that if Hatton decides to continue fighting, their paths will inevitably cross.

“I don’t see it,” said Khan. “We’re at the opposite ends of our careers and we’ll each go our own way. I guess you can never say never in boxing but I will be happy just to take advice and encouragement from the great Ricky Hatton.”

Roach, 49, has trained a slew of world champions, including Mike Tyson, De la Hoya, Israel Vazquez, Marlon Starling, Virgil Hill, Wayne McCullough, Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, Brian Viloria and Gerry Peñalosa. As a three-time Trainer of the Year awardee by the Boxing Writers Association of America, he is considered the best in his trade today.

If Roach is able to make a world champion out of Khan, it will be another testament to his teaching ability.

Kotelnik, 31, is a rugged Ukrainian now living in Hamburg with a 31-2-1 record, including 13 KOs. Khan’s record is 20-1, with 15 KOs.

Khan said with Roach and former world heavyweight champion Michael Moorer in his corner, he can’t lose.

“Who’d have thought three fights after a defeat, I’d be fighting for a world title?” said Khan, quoted in Boxing News. “But since then, I’ve changed from a boy to a man. My style has changed, my hands are more up now, I have Freddie and Michael helping me in the gym.

“My last fight (the win over Barrera) gave me so much confidence. I was using my brain, hitting and moving. When I turned pro, people said you have to sit down on your punches more now you’re a pro but I’m a good boxer and now I’m going to stick to what won me an Olympic silver medal. It’s what will win me this fight, too.”

Victorious Pacquiao arrives today By Vernadette Joven Updated May 08, 2009 09:12 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Pound-for-pound king Manny Paquiao arrived this morning at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2, radio reports said. The triumphant boxer pushed through with his homecoming despite calls from Philippine health officials to stay in the US and go on a self-quarantine amid the swine flu scare.

"Sabi ko kung wala kaming nararamdaman uuwi kami at sa awa ng Diyos wala naman kami naramadaman [I said if we don’t feel sick, we will go home and thank God, we all feel well today]," Pacquiao said.

Paquiao believes that he is safer in the country than staying in Los Angeles.

The World Health Organization and the Department of Health earlier urged Paquiao and his entourage to go on self-imposed quarantine for five days in Los Angeles before coming home.

“Mas delikado sa akin kung magtatagal ako dun dahil maraming bumibisita sa akin sa hotel [It will be more risky if I remain in Los Angeles because I get many visitors in the hotel],” said Paquiao.

Upon arriving 6:13 a.m. today, Pacquiao and his entourage underwent thermal scanning. He then graced a mini press conference at the arrival area, where he thanked all Filipinos for their unending support.

Paquiao also reiterated that he has no ill-feelings in the postponement of his homecoming celebration in Manila, and that he is grateful for the accolades given to him by the government.

"Masaya ako sa karangalan na ibinibigay nila sa akin lalong lalo na sa mahal na pangulo [I’m happy for the accolades, especially those from our beloved President]," said Paquiao.

Paquiao, who is staying at the Renaissance Hotel in Makati City, will head to the Quiapo Church in Manila at 10 a.m. for a thanksgiving Mass. He will then grace an event at the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City in the afternoon.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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