On Saturday Amir Khan heads to Las Vegas for a crack at WBC middleweight champ Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in probably the most daunting task a British boxer has undertaken in some time.
Big credit to Tyson Fury and prior to that David Haye for travelling to Germany for a tear-up with Wladimir Klitschko, but Khan’s upped the difficulty stakes by jumping two weight classes. The best comparison is probably Martin Murray’s jet setting, he’s had a trip to Argentina for a meeting with master technician Sergio Martinez and a jaunt to Monte Carlo for Gennady Golovkin before losing on points to Arthur Abraham in Germany. He’s due a win in fairness, but already I’ve sidetracked myself so back to Khan.
That’s the kind of task ahead of Khan, he’s considered the underdog against a very powerful fighter and the crowd will largely be behind the Mexican. Alvarez has 32 KOs in his 46 wins and was unbeaten until he came across Floyd Mayweather, but more on that later.
It is a huge ask for Khan but he’s got more than just a chance of upsetting the odds (Canelo is a massive odds-on favourite), despite that it has been largely overlooked by the British media. Overlooked perhaps isn’t right, it has been mentioned, but he isn’t getting the same kind of fanfare as Anthony Joshua, and a lot of the Matchroom stable – but that is the power of Sky and Eddie Hearn at the moment I suppose. What Khan is attempting is much bigger than Joshua’s world title success, both in terms of prestige and the task ahead of him, but for whatever reason he isn’t quite the headline act in Britain at the moment. I don’t mean this as an insult to Joshua incidentally – you can only beat what’s in front of you and good luck to him, I just find it disappointing Khan isn’t getting the same kind of attention.
If it was on Sky it would be a much bigger deal in the UK as they grab the vast majority of casual fans, sadly, and Khan is on niche service Boxnation. There are other factors that have conspired against him but hopefully the buzz will pick up a bit as the week goes on. And considering the monthly subscription to Boxnation is less than a single pay-per-view on Sky this is going to be well worth a watch.
One of the reasons he’s gone off the radar a bit is the fact he’s been inactive for nearly a year, having failed to land a ‘mega fight’. He had every right to chase either Manny Pacquiao or Mayweather, in hindsight you could argue he wasted his time but if you’re an ambitious fighter why not go for the guys who rank amongst the greatest to have ever graced the sport? There would have been other regrets if he’d never pursued those fights. There were also rumblings he was dodging Kell Brook but now he’s heading for Canelo that tenuous argument has collapsed, no disrespect to Brook but that’s a bit like saying someone is running scared of a grilling from Jeremy Vine by instead taking an interview with Jeremy Paxman.
Another reason why British fans have possibly grown a little cold on Khan is a lack of home fights, with only one UK outing since 2011. That could change soon… The US might not be an option if Donald Trump becomes president and bans all Muslims from entering the country. Meanwhile, Canelo will be stuck on the other side of a wall wondering why no one else has ginger hair.
Can Khan cause an upset?
Why not? I actually think Khan has a great chance, despite being a big outsider at 7/2 with some bookies, around 3/1 seems to be the average. In his favour, he’s definitely the more mobile of the two and his speed is a huge advantage. Khan’s also a fairly big puncher for a guy his size regardless of the fact his KO stats have dropped in recent years (he hasn’t stopped anyone since 2012) and he will be able to hurt Canelo.
This is being billed as a classic ‘style makes fights’ match-up and maybe that will be the case. There is the possibility Khan will simply be a bit too quick, or Alvarez will land a big shot and end it early but those issues exist in any match-up.
Khan has to stay out of trouble and if he does get caught he’s got to make sure he doesn’t get drawn into a battle. If we look back to the Mayweather fight – he outclassed Canelo, using his superior speed and defensive skills to win just about every round in a one-sided affair that failed to live up to the hype. Khan could theoretically do the same, but there is a bit more aggression to Khan’s style and he has been tempted into brawls in the past – this would be a huge mistake if he goes down that route on Saturday.
My thinking is Khan on points but that doesn’t pay out much more than just a straightforward win for the Briton so I’ll just be sticking to the standard win market myself. He is however, the underdog for a reason and there are plenty of arguments as to why Canelo can win this. He is bigger (not necessarily taller) and more powerful, and his relentlessness in his win over Miguel Cotto was hugely impressive. Against Cotto, he stalked the Puerto Rican and never allowed him any rest, he searched for a KO and was happy to be the aggressor. He didn’t get the stoppage but he won a wide decision, these are the tactics he’ll probably adopt with Khan too. The former light-welterweight world champion will be happy to land a few punches, move out of danger and repeat if allowed, Canelo can’t let that happen and has to take the fight to him.
There are other factors that make me cautious as to Khan’s chances. Golden Boy supremo Oscar De La Hoya set this up and Canelo is his fighter, so you’d assume he has the Mexican down as the favourite. If it goes to points there is always a fear the judges will call the fight wrong, the regularity of such occurrences means it is no longer cynical to think in these terms when it comes to boxing.
Putting all worst case scenarios to one side, this could end up being a contender for fight of the year if it goes into the later rounds. Khan’s fights are usually entertaining and he’s a man with a point to prove, and for Canelo he’s got to demonstrate he can mix it with all kinds of fighters after his Mayweather schooling – despite the Cotto win.
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