Amir’s knockout news sent boxing reeling this week.
They say it’s the punch you don’t see coming that knocks you out. Well, the same can be said for news!
When Amir Khan’s fight with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez was announced, you could have counted me out there and then. I was floored, shocked, stunned – and pleased! Genuine surprises don’t happen enough in life – let alone in the boxing world – but Khan’s blockbuster news left me reeling – and smiling.
The Bolton fighter has been heavily criticised for chasing fights with Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, but his ambition and self-belief has finally paid off.
In Canelo, Khan is facing the biggest box office star in boxing after Mayweather and Pacman in what will be a legitimate super-fight in Las Vegas for the WBC middleweight championship.
It is fascinating news on multiple levels. The announcement was initially so shocking because it came out of nowhere.
There had been no rumours or speculation about the fight being made whatsoever – not least because of the contractual issues between Al Haymon and Golden Boy Promotions, but also because Canelo is a belt-holder two weight divisions above Khan – one of the main reasons the fight was such a surprise.
A welterweight challenging the middleweight champion of the world would be big news in itself, but when it’s Amir Khan and Canelo Alvarez then it rightly makes global headlines.
Khan of course was recently made the mandatory challenger for Danny Garcia’s newly won WBC welterweight title and was also rumoured to be moving forward with negotiations to fight long-time domestic rival Kell Brook. Instead, Khan threw both Garcia and Brook one hell of a curveball.
For years, Khan has maintained that the fight with Brook would always be there because of their history while potential super-fights against the likes of Mayweather and Pacquiao, were time-sensitive. Certainly they are not opportunities that come along every day and need to be grabbed with both hands when they do.
Khan has done exactly that and more importantly, by doing so, he has taken control of his own destiny.
Win or lose, he has chosen this path for himself. He has not allowed himself to be bullied by Eddie Hearn and Kell Brook into taking a fight he didn’t want. Nor has he allowed his business arrangements with Al Haymon to dictate his options. No one can doubt Khan’s bravery or ambition.
Canelo is a much tougher fight than Brook or Garcia no matter how you look at it. After rehydrating, the Mexican will likely come into the ring on fight night as a light-heavyweight and after what he did to James Kirkland there is no doubt he could end the fight against Khan with a single punch.
(Brook’s reaction to Khan-Canelo this week on Sky Sports News):
He also showed considerable boxing skill to defeat the great Miguel Cotto – showing how much he has improved since his loss to Mayweather. And yet, the prize is great.
A victory against Canelo, one of the sport’s biggest stars, would be one of the best ever wins by a UK boxer, especially given that it’s for the prestigious WBC middleweight title.
From a slightly cynical point of view, it’s also a very smart move by Khan. If he loses, he’s lost to a man who is naturally much bigger and heavier than him while mounting an audacious challenge to win the middleweight crown.
There would be none of the stigma attached to a potential defeat against hated rival Brook. Hearn and Brook have spent months trying to shame Khan into a showdown and while I would have loved to have seen the fight, I admire the way the Bolton man has outmanoeuvred both promoter and rival.
That fight can still happen in the future of course, although I have a feeling that Khan dislikes Brook so much he doesn’t even want to give the Sheffield man the opportunity or the payday. He may be IBF champion, but Brook needs Khan more than Khan needs Brook and the Bolton fighter has always held this Ace card.
Brook must now look at other options for later in the year and must surely face a legitimate test for the first time since winning his title away from home against Shawn Porter. Khan’s recent fights may not have been against stellar names, but Brook has arguably reached new lows with the likes of Jo Jo Dan, Frankie Gavin and Kevin Bizier.
On paper, the Sheffield man is capable of taking on (and beating) any of the division’s stars, but unless he and Eddie Hearn stop playing it safe with mismatch after mismatch he’ll never be the star that he could be. Hopefully, Khan’s decision to go in a different direction will lead Brook into showdowns with the likes of Danny Garcia or the respective winners of Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter and Tim Bradley-Manny Pacquiao.
You never know, Khan’s decision could be the best thing that ever happened to Brook if it led the Sheffield fighter into his own super-fight!
It’s clear already that Canelo-Khan is bigger than just two men – it has had a ripple effect up and down the weights that will continue to be felt for weeks and months to come.
And what of the fight itself? How will it go? Khan will start as a sizeable underdog, but defeating Canelo is not ‘Mission: Impossible’ – just ‘Mission: Very Difficult!’ Mayweather made the Mexican look predictable and ordinary, Erislandy Lara bamboozled him (even though he lost) and Matthew Hatton took him the full 12-round distance.
If Khan can box and move at high-speed, for 12-rounds, then he could outpoint Alvarez. The Mexican star is not known for a high punch-output and likes to fight at his own pace to conserve his stamina.
If Khan can use his advantages in speed to dart in and out, behind his excellent jab, then it could become an increasingly frustrating night for Canelo.
However, Alvarez has improved considerably in recent fights, particularly since his humbling defeat to Money Mayweather. He has very good timing, cuts the ring off well, throws a nice variety of punches, and is hitting harder at the heavier weight.
His worst performances have come against defensive wizards Mayweather and Lara and with the best will in the world, Khan is not known for his ability to avoid punches!
His defensive lapses in his defeats against Prescott, Garcia and Peterson were there for all to see and while he has himself improved under trainer Virgil Hunter, Khan would need to show concentration on a level he has never before displayed in order to avoid Alvarez’s punches for 12 rounds. It can be done, but it would take the performance of a lifetime from Amir.
Sensationally, if this were to happen, then Khan would be obligated to fight Gennady Golovkin next – an even unlikelier and tougher assignment! Canelo-Khan was shocking; Golovkin-Khan would be unbelievable (in more ways than one!).
When Amir stepped into the ring with feared puncher Marcos Maidana in 2010 – a man his critics said he would never face in a million years – Khan proved his heart, ambition and courage to those who questioned all three. He produced, for me, his most thrilling performance to date that night in a sensational display.
Sadly, it didn’t take long before Khan’s critics re-emerged. In deciding to take on Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez this May, Khan has once again demonstrated his ambition, heart and, frankly, his cojones – and this time, you would hope, he has proved it beyond anyone’s doubt.
Win or lose, love him or hate him, Amir Khan is certainly never dull and while there are many intangibles about his long-awaited super-fight, one thing is guaranteed – excitement!
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