Amir Khan was almost alone in his belief he could jump two weight divisions and beat one of the most fearsome fighters on the planet in Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.Even his trainer didn’t sound convinced. Most people thought it would play out like it did: Khan would frustrate Alvarez for a few rounds.Virgil Hunter, the man charged with hatching a plan to keep Alvarez at bay for 12 rounds,away the moment it was announced. What madness is this? If you really must. It was your idea, in case anyone asks…
Hunter knew what most people knew, namely that Khan would be able to run but he wouldn’t be able to hide.Alvarez’s promoter, Oscar de la Hoya, crudely characterised the fight as “speed versus power”. But Alvarez is a little bit more than a club-wielding caveman. The Mexican made adjustments, cut down the ring, found his range, executed his feints and eventually went KABOOM!
But just because you told Khan so, there is no need for triumphalism. What Khan did in Las Vegas on Saturday was brave beyond belief and should not be sneered at. If only there were more like him, boxing would be all the brighter.
“Amir Khan is one of the bravest fighters in the world,” said De la Hoya. “Maybe he’s too brave for his own good but he’s willing to be great.”
What fight two of the three judges were watching is anyone’s guess. One, Glenn Feldman, had the champion 3-2 ahead and another, Glenn Trowbridge, 4-1 ahead when the hammer of Thor brought proceedings to a sudden conclusion. Just about everyone in press row had Khan at least three rounds up.
Maybe the knockout was for the best: had Khan boxed Alvarez’s head off for 12 rounds and lost the decision, the pain would have been even worse.
There will be plenty of pain for Khan, and not just physical. Having spent the past two years being teased into thinking he was going to fight first Floyd Mayweather, then Manny Pacquiao, and consequently wishing some of the best years of his career away, this was maybe Khan’s last pitch for greatness.
The good news for Khan, and British fight fans, is he can walk straight into a match with Kell Brook, the IBF welterweight champion and his bitter cross-Pennine rival.
For several years, Khan has claimed Brook is not at his level. But that argument becomes more difficult to sustain when there are pictures flying around the world of him flat on his back having been knocked cold for a third time.
Khan might have lost against Alvarez, but he showed enough in defeat to make a fight against Brook compelling. The suspicion is the outcome would be similar.
As for Alvarez, the Mexican boxing royalty sitting ringside – Julio Cesar Chavez, Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez – would surely have approved.
But Alvarez has improved and with more knockouts like that on his show reel, the critics won’t – just like Khan on Saturday – have any legs to stand on.
What a way to christen the magnificent new T-Mobile Arena and what a relief for De la Hoya. A couple of years ago his Golden Boy Promotions outfit was in choppy waters and looked like sinking.
It’s a face De la Hoya knows well, because for many years it was his own. But now De la Hoya faces a dilemma: risk his golden goose against this autumn or let their beef marinate a little longer?
Kazakhstan’s Golovkin, who has a frightening record of 32 knockouts from 35 contests and is the WBA and IBF middleweight champion, was ringside for Alvarez’s demolition of Khan and would appear to be up for the fight.
De la Hoya and Alvarez appear to be keen as well. But De la Hoya’s assertion that “we have four aces and they have a pair of twos” in the negotiation stakes does not quite ring true.
After beating Khan, Alvarez, a natural light-middleweight, said he was happy to fight Golovkin at the proper middleweight limit of 160lbs, instead of a catch-weight 155lbs.