On Saturday night a lot of things will have to go right for Amir Khan, and a lot wrong for Canelo Alvarez, for this upset to be sprung. But this is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility.
When this fight was announced it raised a lot of eyebrows in the boxing community, and none more so than my own. And I’m the kind of person that is forever thinking of future glamour fights that could be made in the coming months and years.
Admittedly, Canelo versus Khan was one that never entered my imagination.
The reasons being I never envisioned Amir fighting above 147lbs or Canelo under 155lbs in the near future. So the fight was made at the only weight Team Alvarez would have agreed to, 155.
To say it’s a brave and impulsive move by the Bolton man to move up two weight divisions and face this Mexican superstar would originally have looked an understatement, but on further inspection this is a fight that Amir and trainer Virgil Hunter might have quietly had an eye on longer than we expect.
Since leaving Freddie Roach and moving to Oakland Khan has gone 5-0 under the guidance of Hunter, and has arguably looked better and better every time.
Amir openly speaks of how he needed to work with a trainer who would improve his defensive game, and that’s exactly what Virgil has done.
In them five fights Khan has twice been in with bigger more physical fighters in Luis Collazo and Chris Algieri, and on both occasions came out with plaudits of distinction. Both men were picked apart with a newly found patience, an air of confidence and impeccable timing.
It’s true that neither of these men is on the level of Saul Alvarez, or even close. But there is a time and a place for everything, and I believe this level of opponent was crucial in Amir’s growth to one day challenge someone on Canelo’s level.
Alvarez has looked ferocious throughout his career with only two hiccups along the way. But both these hiccups came when paired against defensive experts in Erislandy Lara and Floyd Mayweather Jnr.
The Mexican was schooled by the amazing Mayweather when they met three years ago, and was visibly psychologically shaken by his inability to implement his game plan against the pound for pound number one fighter in the world.
The following summer Canelo was faced with a similar task when he encountered the wizardry of another defensive craftsman in Lara. Despite coming away with the majority decision, many people including myself felt that the Cuban was unfortunate not to be awarded at least a draw.
(An excellent promo video by the folks at GP Boxing):
You don’t need to be a boxing genius to know what the game plans will be coming from both camps. Canelo will be on the hunt from the opening bell like a hungry predator, targeting the body with hooks before looking to go upstairs and test that questionable chin of Khan’s.
Khan will look to stay on the outside, use his hand and foot speed to get in and out quick, landing three and four punch combinations. He will be prepared for a long night, and one positive to take from the jump up in weight should be the cardio advantage, given the Brit doesn’t have the same strenuous weight cut to endure as the Mexican.
Another factor the Bolton man has in his favour is that although there is obviously some pressure when having to perform in such a high profile event, the vast majority of the pressure is on Alvarez.
It will suit Amir to be the underdog as I believe it will allow him to ease into the contest, possibly nick the first couple of rounds and in doing so frustrate his stalking opponent.
This is an everything to gain and very little to lose fight for Amir Khan.
Should he get caught and knocked out by Alvarez, it’s nothing the he hasn’t come back from before. And he’s guaranteed more big fights in the stacked welterweight division should he choose to return there.
A victory for Khan in Saturday night could open the door to the ultimate challenge, and ultimate pay day, a date with the returning Floyd Mayweather Jnr. All signals seem to be pointing towards the greatest fighter of his generation returning to try to complete that record breaking 50-0 record.
That’s a long way away for Khan and he would be foolish to look past Saturdays task at hand, but to be aware of the rewards at the back of his mind could also serve as a nice extra bit of motivation should he need it.
Canelo is viciously dangerous, there is no doubt about that. His knockout threat will be live from the first bell to the last, and I’m in complete agreement that he should be considered the favorite to win. But I see potential in Khan, I see vast improvement, and I see a method to victory.
Has Virgil Hunter taken the raw speed and talent of Khan and injected it with a little ring savvy and defensive artistry, to create a fighter that is not only improved from the Freddie Roach version, but on a completely different level altogether?
I think he has, and I think the world could potentially witness the ultimate realization of this on Saturday night.
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