Now that seismic tsunami waves created by the Thunderclap announcement of Saul Alvarez vs Amir Khan have finally died out, here they’ll be on this Cinco de Mayo weekend to inaugurate the spanking brand new T-Mobile in Las Vegas @ 155lb catchweight, the new Caneloweight class. What comes next?
Back to 2015 for context: Fans of both Miguel Cotto and Canelo were highly disappointed over that light sparring match for the legendary WBC/Ring/Lineal middleweight title after expecting a well waged WAR for the ages given their usually fan friendly styles. Fans of Khan have been long disappointed over his lack of top ten opponents since being knocked out by Danny Garcia in 2012. Upon announcement of this fight, based upon expectations on paper, ie their records, Canelo knocks Khan out all day every day and twice on Sundays, and true, that may well come to pass, but Khan does have some upside on Canelo starting with nominally better handspeed and the kind of fleet running footspeed that could dampen Canelo’s offense. If Khan manages to survive the distance, then according to unwritten boxing code, that means he exceeded expectations, meaning he may cop the decision regardless how many might think Canelo won it in a landslide. Decisions, sometimes even knockouts these days, are too often a crapshoot in boxing. Who could ever really win or lose when boxing’s officiating/scoring rules are so backward, corrupt, and unenforceable that they literally create negative feedback from fans every other fight week? Especially grievous are when Al Haymon fighters are on the cards, and guess what, Khan is currently one of 200 fighters “advised” by Haymon.
The Money Fighter: This fight was designed for the 25 year old Canelo, 46-1-1, 32 KO, to secure a big payday before the Gennady Golovkin fight that we all hope we’ll see later this year. Although Canelo was brought up hard in the traditional Mexican way, he now occupies a rare high niche as the future of high level boxing along with the newly minted Brit Anthony Joshua. His critics have long moaned over his supposed favored status, but critics are always moaning about everyone and everything anyway, especially Canelo even when he fights top contenders. Now he enters into the main of his prime still huge in Mexico, yet still developing internationally, so enter Khan and the potential harvest of new British fans who may like what they see in their first viewing if Canelo seals the deal.
The Wannabe Money Fighter: The now 29 year old Khan, 31-3, 19 KO, was the sorta money fighter for a while, but Golden Boy could only keep him propped up so long. After his setbacks, he disappeared from the mainstream, only surfacing during petty twitter nonsense. As a former Olympic Silver medalist, he had turned pro with a lucrative contract and guaranteed popularity until he started opening his mouth to repeatedly insert his foot. Then came the humiliating 54 second first round knockout at the explosive hands of Breidis Prescott. Devastated personally by such a brutal loss and subsequent derision by Brits who loved his cocky comeuppance, he soon fled the British Isles for a productive maturing phase to be trained by Freddie Roach, but seemed to be off mentally in the ring the few times he was matched up hard as if he never actually learned to actually fight and strategize other than going through basic boxing mechanics that put him further back of the pack with a couple more losses. Recently completing a succession of interim and vacant WBC silver titles, he now goes for one of the most prestigious titles ever, the Lineal/Ring/WBC middleweight title held by Canelo, a humongous step from where he’s ever been before, but as legendary English Poet Robert Browning once asked three centuries back, “if a man’s reach can’t extend beyond his grasp, then what’s a heaven for?”
Khan has the sort of flashy hand and foot speed with eye popping combinations to dazzle judges, yet the individual talents never added up for the expected whole package down to the mental letdowns and somewhat fragile chin. In contrast, Canelo turned pro as a 15 year old kid Julio Cesar Chavez style and worked his way up a very competitive Mexicano food chain to the point where his startling looks in an otherwise mostly mono physiotypical culture combined with his youth and fighting ability to make him a huge star. He’s not blessed with flashy physical attributes that wow the casual fan, but every physical and mental attribute that he needs in boxing he has in plenty enough abundance, sorta like an all around B+/A- student beating out all the honor students on college entrance examines and in the workforce. The sum of his individual talents have thus far proven greater than the expected whole.
It helps in the English speaking culture Canelo primarily operates out of these days that he doesn’t yet speak English very well, perhaps mitigating any potential “gotcha” stupid comments. The press takes great joy in baiting those unfamiliar with the dirty machinations of the media. Poor Khan in contrast, continues to step in one public mess after another because he does speak English and is not shy about expressing himself.
The Officiating: This being Las Vegas, you can bet your last dollar on it, the officiating is generally atrocious. Kenny Bayless is the assigned referee who most notably as far as Canelo is concerned, allowed TUE 49-0 to headbutt Canelo with impunity in the early stages of that fight as well as warning Canelo for a low tap he delivered to let TUE know he needed to release his simultaneous choke hold while lacing his face with the tape on his gloves, all while Bayless stood by pretending to be a statue until Canelo roused him from his stupor by issuing his love tap. So no love for Canelo by Bayless who would also appear to favor Haymon fighters. Judges are: Adalaide Byrd, Glenn Trowbridge and Glenn Feldman who is the only non Nevada resident of the bunch to make the officiating appear at least somewhat fair, yeah, right. Byrd is an horrific judge who favors light hitting/hard running American boxer types, an unholy alliance that has literally eliminated boxing as a traditional sport of combat and popularity. She seemingly would favor Khan, especially since he’s become an American trained, American based fighter. Trowbridge seems to be a low profile type on the right side of the scoring scale in the few big fights I used to establish context for him. Feldman operates normally in the northeast US, most recently in the Adrien Broner vs Ashley Theophane joke this April Fool’s 1st in Washington, DC, a place rife with specious officiating as one might expect from the seat of US government these days.
Bayless nets $4,150 as the judges net $2,950 for the gig, but of course these are chump change figures released for the rubes. There is no telling what’s going on under the table behind the scenes.
So, stylistically, Khan has to implement an effective hit and run style to have any chance of surviving to win a decision. In contrast, Canelo is basically a well balanced fighter both on offense and defense who can pretty much do it all when needed. His style perhaps best described as counterpuncher/slugger against powerful fighters or a cautious boxer/counterpuncher in some of his less compelling fights against boxers where he concentrates on not making any mistakes, so in his fashion he boxes with boxers, and punches with punchers.
That would seem to indicate Canelo would box with Khan to put steady but careful pressure on him, making sure the public gets to see Khan running the extra mile in the ring to avoid contact. He surely knows he’s expected to knockout Khan and generally abhors disappointing his fans. Can he deliver this go round?