As we drive down a private lane in Bolton, a small wooden sign decorated with a boxing glove tells us we’ve arrived at The Khans’. The gates open to invite us in, and we’re greeted at the door of the main house by Faryal Makhdoom. Her husband, boxing legend Amir Khan, soon joins us and offers the whole team a cuppa. The four-bedroom house was bought by Amir soon after his Olympic win in 2004 and the pair can’t imagine ever selling it. With enough room for a walk-in wardrobe for Faryal and a whole room for Amir’s trophies, we can see why! But the couple insist the best part of their place is the separate two-bedroom house that Amir refers to as his “lad pad”.
“I do think having a separate house has also made our relationship stronger, because you’re not in each other’s face all the time,” Amir explains. The couple welcomed their first son, Muhammad Zaviyar Khan, known as Zaviyar, at Manchester’s St Mary’s Hospital on 22 February, with the tot weighing 7lbs 12oz. Faryal, 28, tells us, “The third birth was definitely the easiest.”
The pair tied the knot back in 2013 and are also parents to adorable daughters Lamaisah, five, and Alayna, who turns two in June. When we sit down with the pair, it’s clear they are happier than ever, but they are the first to admit they’ve had their ups and downs. In 2017, Amir announced on Twitter that the pair were splitting and then appeared to accuse Faryal of “moving on” with fellow boxer Anthony Joshua. The couple later insisted it was a misunderstanding and soon after, Faryal – who hails from New York – announced she was pregnant with their second child. On reflection, Faryal explains, “We were still children when we got married… I think after Amir hit 30, he did grow up. Our second child was a miracle child.”
“We’ve learned if there are any problems, we just talk to each other,” agrees Amir. Amir and Faryal have also suffered a strained relationship at times with Amir’s family. In 2019, Amir’s father called Faryal “controlling” and claimed she turned the boxer against him. As they introduce their newborn son for the first time, the pair talk to OK! about completing their family, why they don’t want their son to follow Amir into the ring and we catch up with the star, post-lockdown over the phone, after he generously pledged to donate his four-storey wedding venue to the NHS to help with shortages amid the pandemic…
Congratulations on welcoming your son. What does it mean to you to have a son now as well as your daughters?
Amir: I love my girls to bits, but I wanted to experience what it would be like to have a boy. I was very outnumbered before.
Faryal: We found out we were having a son at 12 weeks, because I did a harmony test, which tells you the sex of the child. We were in the car and I started to cry because it was such a special feeling. And with Amir being a boxer, he always wanted a boy as well.
How did your third pregnancy compare to the first two?
Amir: This time was chilled, really.
Faryal: Yeah, I think my first was the hardest. You don’t know what’s going on. Your body is changing and you have never given birth before. Amir was with me, so it was good having him there for support. It made him appreciate me afterwards, because he saw the pain I went through. The second time was much easier than the first, and I think the third was the easiest pregnancy.
Have you been there for all of Faryal’s labours, Amir?
Amir: I’ve been at her side every time, just saying, “Keep pushing!”
Faryal: I never thought he would cut the cord. I thought he would faint, but he did it all three times.
What was it like seeing your son for the first time?
Amir: It was emotional. I saw him first.
Faryal: Amir was holding him and I could see his lips were just like Amir’s but I felt like he looked a lot like me, whereas the girls look a lot like Amir.
Amir: He was a big child and you could see the muscles on him. He came out solid!
Faryal: My mum was saying, “He’ll be a champion one day.” My mum really wants him to carry on Amir’s legacy.
Would you both want him to follow in Amir’s footsteps?
Amir: Getting punched in the face is tough and I couldn’t watch my son taking it. There are so many other options out there than taking punches to the head. I’ve done it the hard way and I wouldn’t want my child to do that. But it’s up to him. If he wants to then I’ll support him as a father. My girls, when I take them to the boxing gym, they love it. They want to box and punch.
Faryal: There’s so much else out there. I don’t watch my husband box, even after the fight. I don’t think I would ever want my son going into boxing. It would be too tough but if it is something he enjoys, I would of course support him.
You say it’s a tough path, Amir. If you went back, would you still choose that career for yourself?
Amir: Yeah, definitely. It’s what drove me. I wanted to be the best and I love being challenged. I was very physical, I loved using my hands and I was always getting into trouble. Boxing taught me discipline. Without boxing, I don’t know where I would be. I used a sport to make me behave and keep me on the straight and narrow.
Faryal: The schools that suspended him now call him to come and speak to the children about his journey.
Amir: When I was young I was very hyperactive, and I can see our daughter Lamaisah is a bit, too. She has so much energy. Alayna is a little bit calmer. I hope Zaviyar will be calmer too because we’ll be overrun…
Faryal: I think the middle one is the craziest [Laughs].
So it’s a lot of fun in the Khan household, then?
Faryal: It’s crazy, especially with Alayna. She thinks she’s the baby of the family, and now there’s a new baby. So sometimes when we’re not looking she goes and hits him! Lamaisah loves her baby brother.
Amir: But Alayna is still a baby herself, she’s only one and a half. We forget sometimes that she’s so young. So I try and give her a lot more time.
Faryal: Amir gives her a lot of time. I think she’s his favourite because he feels sorry for her.
Amir: I do feel sorry for her. The two girls are my favourites, I think they’ll always be my favourites.
Do you think you will have any more children?
Faryal: We’re done!
Amir: I think our family is complete now. It’s not easy because we’ve had three kids quite quickly. It’s hard on Faryal, on her body and on me with all the training and travelling I have to do for work.
How have the first few weeks been as a family of five?
Faryal: It’s been a bit difficult with a toddler and a newborn. But we’re settling in. It’s been a bit tricky at night time with night feeds. My girls used to sleep through the night, and were really good, but the new baby keeps me awake now. But when I do need a break, like last night, Amir did the feed.
Have you had any post-baby blues, Faryal?
Faryal: I did with my first one. I think I suffered with a bit of postnatal depression, because I had a new child and I wasn’t used to being a mum. But not at all with my second and this time I’ve been perfectly fine. I have actually been going out, getting ready, looking good and feeling good. With my first one, it was just a shock. So I think I’m a pro now [Laughs]! When I go out, Amir stays home with the children, and when he goes, I do.
Social media trolls criticised you on Instagram when you posted a shot of yourself looking glam in the supermarket shortly after giving birth to Zaviyar. How did that make you feel?
Faryal: It’s actually crazy how you get criticised, because everyone is different. There are some people who after birth, they want to sit home and be comfortable and relaxed. I felt good about myself.
Amir: People can be so negative, and it’s crazy that people are still doing it in this day and age.
What kind of dad will you be to your son, Amir?
Amir: I think I’ll be like a big brother to him. I want to be his father but a friend to him as well. Respect will always be there between us. I’m not one to spoil my kids in any way, with a silver spoon, I want them to work hard in life.
Do you think becoming parents has helped you grow up?
Faryal: [To Amir] I think after you hit 30, you did grow up. Our second child was a miracle child. I think for me, after the first, I definitely had my hands full.
Amir: You do change, you think about your children first. Even though I’m only 33, I have already enjoyed everything that I wanted to do in life, so now I want to be there for my kids. Everything that I’m doing is for them.
How has being parents changed your relationship?
Amir: It’s made it stronger. You think about each other.
Faryal: Definitely. When you don’t have kids, you think young and act young. But with kids, you do grow up and I think it does definitely make you stronger. Sometimes when you can’t stand each other, you have to think that you have children… [Laughs].
Amir: That’s why I’ve got the other house, so I can take a walk there. I swear it’s the best thing ever. I do think having a separate house has also made our relationship stronger, because you’re not in each other’s face all the time. I still need my own space sometimes, to have my friends over and have a little chill. And Faryal can do the same.
Faryal: I love it, too.
You have faced ups and downs as a couple. Where is your relationship at now?
Faryal: Well, we did have loads of ups and downs. We got married at a really young age. I was a child, Amir was definitely a child. [Laughs.] When we look back, it actually makes me laugh how silly it all was. You just grow up every year, but it did make us stronger. You mould each other.
Amir: To come through all that we went through, it made us stronger and made us understand what it’s all about. I would never be home. I was one of those kids that always wanted to be out, at the gym, with my friends, or travelling with training camp. But now I like my family to be with me when I travel. When they are with me I feel safe and secure. It’s come to a stage where she wants to kick me out the house!
Do you regret how public your ups and downs were?
Amir: Yeah, sometimes we don’t realise how big social media is. I’m like, “No more posting!” I keep away from it as much as I can. Going through what we’ve been through, it nearly ruined my life. We’ve just learned that if there are any problems, we just talk to each other. I think before, because we were so young, we just weren’t doing that.
Faryal: Yeah, I think you do things out of anger and then later on, you realise the consequences. Now, any time we post anything, we think about the consequences. It’s just not worth it.
Amir, you met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge earlier this year. Are you planning to work with them at all?
Amir: Yes, when I met Prince William and Kate, we talked mostly about mental health. I think within our Asian community particularly we keep a lot of things to ourselves, and there’s nothing wrong with getting help or telling people what you are going through. So I want to be there for people, not just in the Asian community, but anyone in Britain who needs it. William said he’d love to do something with us. I hope we can work on somewhere people can go to talk.
Faryal, you’ve had fall outs in the past but how is the relationship with Amir’s family now?
Faryal: We did have loads of trouble in our relationship, but now we couldn’t be happier. We have a big family now and we’ve had another two children since then.
Amir: Everything is fine now. Time’s a healer. These little bumps will happen in life but it’s about getting through them.
You’ve recently announced that you’ll be trekking the Himalayas just seven months after giving birth, Faryal…
Faryal: Yes, it’s for three days in September to raise awareness for women being trafficked across the Nepal/Indian border. I think it’s so important because these families don’t know where their daughters are going. Prostitution and slavery go on daily in many places. I’ll have to train but I’m quite fit, so I’m hoping it’ll be fine.
Amir: Having daughters makes it hit home. I’m really proud of Faryal for doing this.
Would you do a reality show like Tyson and Paris Fury’s?
Faryal: I watched their show. His wife Paris talked about his mood swings, and Amir’s are similar. I said to Amir, “All you boxers are the same!”
Amir: I think as fighters, we are a little bit wild so you need a good woman to put you in your place.
Do you admire Tyson after he opened up about living with bipolar disorder?
Amir: Yes. I would love to have him involved in the mental health campaign we’re planning. And since he opened up about his bipolar, he has come back and become world champion.
Have you ever suffered with mental health issues?
Faryal: [To Amir] I think you did. Amir did have a low point when he had his hand surgery and he was inactive for about a year and a half. And that’s when we had the fall out. It was tough.
Amir: That was just before I went into the [I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!] jungle. It was tough. I was going through a bit of a mad patch in my life where I didn’t know if I was going to fight again. Luckily I got over that time.
Did you speak to anyone about it?
Amir: No and I probably should have.
Faryal: Well, because he didn’t, that’s why he went on that Twitter rant. I think that it’s really important to talk.
Amir: It shows you who your friends are because at that time, when I needed help, I had no one.
Faryal: Everyone’s around for the good days, the fight days and when you’re winning.
Amir: As soon as the partying stopped and I became a family man, a lot of people around me drifted away. I could count on one hand my close friends now.
You bought this house after the Olympics in 2004, Amir. Does it mean a lot to you because of that?
Faryal: That’s why he never wants to sell it! We’ve had all our children here. We’ll always have a base in Bolton. But we’ll move on at some point to where the kids’ education is best. We do see a future in London.
Amir: Achieving the Olympic medal is such a good memory for me. I’ve always wanted to leave something behind in Bolton. It will always be my home.
You said you’re going to donate the 60,000 sqft, four storey building you own to the NHS to help with shortages amid the coronavirus pandemic…
Amir: Seeing so many people affected by this situation and seeing that there aren’t enough hospital beds motivated me to help. I thought of giving my wedding hall up if the NHS needed it. As of now, they haven’t said they need it but if they do it’s there for them to use for as long as they do.
INTERVIEW: KATIE LANGFORD-FOSTER/OK! MAGAZINE
PHOTOS: LORNA ROACH/OK! MAGAZINE
STYLING LORRAINE MCCULLOCH
HAIR & MAKE-UP: MIKEY PHILLIPS