Alan Hubbard

Anyone wishing Amir Khan a Happy New Year is risking a right-hander from the normally amiable boxer from Bolton who won a nation’s heart in Athens back in 2004 when, as a 17-year-old, he fought a solo battle for Britain in the Olympics, losing only to the Cuban Mario Kindelan, then the world's finest amateur, in the final.

Khan’s silver medal set the pattern for the golden glories to come.

Since then he has won, defended and subsequently lost the professional light-welter world titles and established himself as the leading light in Britain’s Muslim sporting community.

Khan's chin may have been questioned but never his courage in the ring or commitment to noble causes outside it.

So it seems grossly unfair that he has received a double snub at the start of 2016, his 21st year in boxing since he first pulled on a pair of gloves as a wayward eight-year-old.

First he learned he had missed out on a blockbuster showdown with Manny Pacquiao, as he did with Floyd Mayweather Jr last year, after being led to believe that both fights were in the bag.

The Filipino has instead opted to fight Timothy Bradley for a third time on April 9 in Las Vegas, leaving Khan in the cold, just as Mayweather did when after defeating Pacquiao last May, he went on to overlook Khan’s more credible credentials and instead hand-picked the less troublesome Andre Berto for his valedictory appearance.

But surely more wounding is that Khan, 29 last month, has once again been shamefully ignored in Britain’s New Year’s Honours list, leaving him as one of the few modern fistic luminaries without letters after his name.

Boxing itself, which got relatively short shrift on the BBC Sports Personality Awards show despite Britain having more current world champions (12) than any other nation, fared little better in a New Year Honours list which becomes more farcical every year, this time featuring not only a sex shops entrepreneur but fistfuls of political cronies and civil service time-servers.

Athens 2004 silver medallist Amir Khan was again omitted from this year's honours list
Athens 2004 silver medallist Amir Khan was again omitted from this year's honours list ©Getty Images

From sport, Belfast’s world super-bantamweight champion Carl Frampton is the only fight figure honoured, with an MBE. But why just him and not any of ten other world champions? (James DeGale received an MBE after winning Olympic gold in Beijing).

Certainly Tyson Fury was not anticipating the postman’s knock on the door of his Morecambe home with a letter inviting him to Buckingham Palace and a lapel-pinning date with Her Maj.

Yet two of his three most recent predecessors as world heavyweight champions, Lennox Lewis and Frank Bruno, received MBEs (presumably David Haye’s is still in the post).

Those in the know will tell you that Fury has blotted his copybook irrevocably with some of his more offensive comments and won’t ever get a gong, despite providing one of Britain’s finest-ever sporting achievements.

That may be understandable. But I feel sorry for Amir. Once again he has missed out on a boxing biggie as well as being by-passed in the Honours List despite being such a fabulous ambassador for sport.

Unlike some personalities of varying religious persuasions, Khan doesn’t wear his on his sleeve, or his T-shirts. He attends a mosque on Fridays and prays briefly in his corner before the bell; but he does not preach or proselytise.

He is also rare among Muslim sports personalities who are prepared to do as Muhammad Ali did and publicly condemn acts of terrorism committed by those who defile Islam.

I have never understood why Khan is not better loved or appreciated in Britain where he has been a much undervalued conduit for community relations and racial harmony.

The Khan commitment to Britishness has always been evident from the days his Pakistan-born dad Shah supported him in those Athens Olympics 11 years ago, wearing a Union Jack waistcoat.

Few British sports personalities have immersed themselves in so many social projects: Khan has been involved in anti-bullying campaigns and keeping youngsters off railway lines, and also went to Pakistan to help rebuild after the flood disaster.

And he was among the first on the scene in waterlogged Cumbria recently with practical help.

He toured the worst hit areas house-by-house offering food packs to families left without power, and handing toys to children whose Christmas presents were washed away after the River Eden burst its banks.

Grateful flood victims took to social media to thank him.

Carl Frampton has been recognised with an MBE
Carl Frampton has been recognised with an MBE ©Getty Images

One, Nicole Fox, 25, posted a message from her aunt which read: “Took some of our kids who have been made homeless by the flood to meet Amir Khan today.

"He has to be one of the nicest people I have ever met."

This was by no means the boxer’s first charitable gesture. He spent a previous New Year in Pakistan, land of his heritage, to "send a statement" to the Taliban about his revulsion at their massacre of 132 school-kids and several of their teachers in the North Western Province of Peshawar.

Khan donated the 24-carat gold thread shorts, worth around £30,000 ($44,000/€40,000), which he wore when producing perhaps the most scintillating performance of his 34-fight career in defeating American welterweight Devon Alexander in Las Vegas, to help rebuild the army school so mercilessly desecrated by the Taliban. He was personally hands-on in the rebuilding process.

Last month he formally opened the Amir Khan Boxing Academy in Islamabad, personally funding coaches and equipment to develop the sport in Pakistan.

Khan has worked with the charity Horn of Africa to ease suffering in Somalia and on behalf of the NSPCC and Save the Children Fund.

Last summer he returned from his training base in California to help to pack up an assortment of clothes, food and vital supplies which he then ferried across Europe to help deliver to Syrian refuges on the Greek island of Lesbos.

What more does he need to do to gain similar recognition to the woman who introduced the Rampant Rabbit to spice up Britain’s sex life?

Okay, so in the past he has been involved in a couple of Jack-the-lad peccadilloes which have made the public prints but there are sporting figures laden with gongs whose behaviour has been far more reprehensible, including at least one knight of the realm.

It would seem that an Olympic gold medal is valued more highly than a professional world title by the powers-that-be.

Amir Khan on a visit to Pakistan in August
Amir Khan on a visit to Pakistan in August ©Getty Images

True, the late Terry Spinks had to wait half a century for his MBE though Dick McTaggart, his co-gold medallist at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, received his almost immediately.

Terry Downes, Britain’s oldest surviving world champion at 79, belatedly received just a token BEM 52 years after winning the world middleweight title yet Carl Froch was promptly given a more prestigious MBE on his retirement a couple of months back.

There seems to be no rhyme nor reason in how these decisions are made.

After 2012 they were spraying gongs around like confetti, from peerages downwards, yet oddly enough after last year’s rugby World Cup, zilch. Okay, so England fluffed it but the organisation was deemed to be on a par with that of 2012.

Good luck to Frampton, described as a "beacon for peace" in Northern Ireland, but has he actually done more than Khan, who has worked so assiduously to foster race relations in this country, to merit an award?

It just doesn’t make sense.

Khan now finds himself at the crossroads of his career, his only hope of a mega pay-day being a pay-per-view clash with British rival Kell Brook, the IBF welterweight champion, this summer, a fight I would take him to win.

But he desperately needs a tune-up contest before then as he has not fought since an uninspiring points victory over Chris Algieri last May.

Meantime, an overdue honour for Khan is a gesture boxing, and the Muslim community would appreciate.

I am not sure if Lord Sebastian Coe, a known fight fan, is still in charge of the Sports Committee of the Honours List alongside everything else currently on his plate. But he is still a man of influence and it would be good if he could find a few minutes to blow into someone’s ear in Downing Street to rectify this glaring omission.