They say in sport if you can't be good, then be lucky. In Amir Khan's case, he will probably need to be gargantuan good, ludicrously lucky, and hope Saul "Canelo" Alvarez has an off day if he is to pull off one of boxing's great upsets.
The two boxers are slated to meet in Las Vegas on May 7 in Las Vegas, Cinco de Mayo weekend, which will ensure one hell of an opening party at the 20,000 seater T-Mobile Arena, the venue for a fight between the Mexican gunslinger and the British bazooka that has split punters on whether Khan has been brave in taking what will be a career-defining fight, or has some sort of death wish.
With the retirement of Floyd Mayweather Jr, and save for knockout king Gennady Golovkin, Alvarez either already is boxing’s next big superstar or is well on his way to becoming it.
The two have agreed to meet at a catchweight 155lbs, but few expect either to enter the ring close to it; Alvarez has recently said on a tour of London to promote the fight that he intends to be 165lbs come fight night. The heaviest Khan has fought at is 147lbs.
There are many, Golovkin being one of them, who believe Alvarez is small for a middleweight, which is surely a backhanded compliment to that division’s linear champion. Whether that is the case, Alvarez still has plenty on Khan. The Bolton-born boxer of Pakistani origin always looks like he has been chizzled from granite but will be giving away plenty of physicality to his opponent.
Alvarez boasts knockout power in both hands and an impressive 46 wins from 48 contests, with one draw and a defeat – to Mayweather – with 32 of those victories coming by way of a knockout. He himself is coming off a career-defining win, a unanimous decision over Miguel Cotto.
While Khan misguidedly flirted with Al Haymoun’s organisation, in the belief he would be the chosen one to try and dethrone Mayweather in his final fight, before the undefeated American chose the much more agreeable opponent Andre Berto to dance around, Golden Boy promotions, Oscar de la Hoya’s firm that is propelling Alvarez to superstardom, offered him a fight he quite simply could not refuse.
Khan will go into the fight a heavy underdog, and with many onlookers fearing for his well-being. But, career-wise, his decision to take the fight makes perfect sense: win and he pulls off arguably the greatest upset in a generation; lose, and there are still plenty of lucrative fights farther down the line, most notably an all-English welterweight showdown with Kell Brook.
Khan has plenty of heavy artillery but also plenty of chinks in his armour: Power, speed that defies speed and no small measure of testicular fortitude; the fact he is taking this fight is proof of it.
His greatest attribute is his footwork, but, unfortunately for Khan, it’s also the first thing he abandons when he gets hurt, which is more or less every time he steps into the ring. His chin is not made of the stern stuff either.
Khan hasn’t always made wise career choices – pulling on the gloves against Breidis Prescott and Danny Garcia spring to mind – but you could never say he lacks courage, and his fights are always offer action and good value for money.
If he is to beat Alvarez and spoil millions of Mexicans’ weekend celebrations he will need a massive improvement on his last outing, where despite dominating he failed to put away Chris Algieri, an opponent more feather-fisted than heavy-handed.
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