SAN DIEGO, May 6, 2016 – Saul “Canelo” Alvarez of Mexico (46-1-1, 32 KOs) makes his first defense of the lineal middleweight championship Saturday against an opponent that seemed utterly unlikely before its announcement three months ago: former welterweight champion Amir “King” Khan of Great Britain (31-3-0, 19 KOs).
The fight will be televised by HBO PPV, starting with televised undercard bouts at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
Never mind that the bout will take place at Canelo’s preferred weight limit of 155 pounds for the WBC World middleweight title, the same as hia fight in November against then-lineal middleweight champion Miguel Cotto. Khan has fought all but the three of his 34 professional fights at the super lightweight limit of 140 pounds. The last three bouts were at the welterweight limit of 147 pounds. Khan is current ranked among the top ten welterweights in the division. He is not ranked in the middleweight division.
Is Khan crazy or crazy like a fox? Over the years Khan has called out plenty of potential opponents from Floyd Mayweather to Manny Pacquiao. The fight marks Khan’s return to Golden Boy Promotions, and its Chairman and CEO Oscar De La Hoya couldn’t be more thrilled.
“There’s a reason Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao didn’t want to fight Amir Khan because he possesses skills like no other. He may come in as the underdog, but he also comes in as huge favorite to those who know the sport and to many of those who have seen him fight,” said De La Hoya at this week’s final pre-fight news conference.
It is a classic speed versus power matchup. Khan has always been known for his lightning fast hands and footwork to match. His nemesis is his glass chin, the seeming inability to stand up to power punches. Canelo delivers precisely this type of punching power, mixed with solid body work. But Canelo has struggled against opponents who won’t stand in front of him, like Erislandy Lara and Floyd Mayweather.
This is what makes the matchup intriguing. Forget the fact Canelo is an overwhelming favorite among fans, experts and oddsmakers to win. Speed kills, and Khan has plenty of it. At least, Khan had plenty of it when he fought at 140 and 147 pounds. How much speed will he have when he walks into the ring Saturday rehydrated to 160 pounds or more?
When boxers add weight, they sacrifice speed for power. Khan has never been known as a power puncher. It’s doubtful he’s developed into one in a few months. He’s got to rely on the skill set that’s brought him this far.
For Amir Khan to have a chance to win, he and trainer Virgil Hunter will need to construct the perfect fight plan, and execute it perfectly. He cannot make a single mistake, or he might pay for it by dropping to the canvas. Canelo can make a mistake but he won’t pay as big a price. He can take a punch; he’s never been knocked down or even seriously hurt as a professional.
This fight has parallels to the “Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974 between then heavyweight champion George Foreman and former champion Muhammad Ali. Foreman was favored to win, but the faster Ali knocked out the bigger, stronger man in the eighth round. It was Foreman’s first loss and the worst loss of his career, a shock to the boxing world. Foreman himself believes Amir Khan can win. He told USA Today if Khan relies on body work and doesn’t try to get into a slugfest, he can win a 12 round decision.
“Whoever thought that Muhammad Ali could knock out George Foreman? I just talked to Foreman and people were praying he didn’t hurt Ali and look what happened there,” said De La Hoya. But he also points out that Alvarez has improved his speed as he’s gotten more experienced.
“Khan is a very fast, very elusive, and very tricky fighter, but I am happy with the work I have done and I am ready to go in the ring and break him down,” said Alvarez. “Come Saturday, I’m excited to yell, ¡Viva Mexico!”
Khan said at the final pre-fight news conference on Wednesday, “On Saturday you will see the best of Amir Khan. Canelo is a great champion who is dedicated to the sport of boxing, but it is my time and I’m going to grab it with both hands. It’s been my dream to hold a great fight like this in Las Vegas. And, you never know, this could be the last fight between Canelo and I here in Vegas if Donald Trump is elected president.”
It’s hard to bet against Canelo Alvarez, whose skills and accomplishments after a decade of boxing are undeniable. At only 25 years old, he will only get even better. Khan can seize the opportunity, but he cannot throw caution to the wind. Discipline and relying on what he does best gives him the best chance. Khan will look good early in the fight. If Canelo can cut off the ring and bear down on him, Khan won’t survive to the end of the fight. If Khan can stay elusive and score points, he’ll have to rely on the judges to be sharp and credit his technical skills to win on the cards for a decision. This is not a given.
It takes plenty of nerve on Khan’s part to step up to this fight, and no matter the outcome he deserves credit for being willing to step into the ring at a higher weight to test himself at the highest level. Let it be an example to his opponent, who has been unwilling so far to fight true middleweight opponents at the weight class limit of 160 pounds. If Canelo wins, the pressure will grow for him to defend his title against the true 160 pound champion, Gennady Golovkin.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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