Amir Khan will return to action against Saul Alvarez in Las Vegas on May 7.
Khan, who has not fought since a points victory over Chris Algieri last May, said last month he had a “few options” for his next fight, but no one expected him to arrange a catchweight contest at 155lbs with WBC middleweight champion Alvarez.
Andre Berto, Brandon Rios and Jo Jo Dan had all been tipped as possible warm-up opponents for Khan ahead of a summer showdown with Danny Garcia or Kell Brook, the respective WBC and IBF welterweight champions.
Khan is Garcia’s mandatory challenger and the WBC had ordered the American – who had a fourth-round knockout victory over the Bolton fighter in July 2012 – to face him by June or lose his belt.
But Khan’s camp were also said to be interested in a lucrative Battle of Britain showdown with Brook and negotiations with Eddie Hearn’s promotions company Matchroom Boxing had reportedly taken place.
However, Khan has stunned the boxing world by agreeing to fight ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, the 25-year-old WBC middleweight champion whose only loss in 48 fights was a majority points defeat to the unbeaten Floyd Mayweather in 2013.
The Mexican’s last fight saw him enjoy a unanimous points victory over Miguel Cotto in November and many regard him as the next superstar of boxing when Mayweather decides to hang up his gloves.
Alvarez carries a big punching reputation and has won 46 of his 48 fights – he had a draw against Jorge Juarez in only his fifth contest – by way of 32 knockouts.
Oscar De La Hoya, of Golden Boy Promotions, posted on his official Twitter account: “Proud to announce on May 7th, 2016 @canelo will return to the ring to face @amirkingkhan.”
The 32-year-old Russian dominated every round, masterfully cutting off the ring and landing left jabs at will before Pascal’s trainer Freddie Roach put a stop to the slaughter before the start of round eight — giving Kovalev a seventh-round technical knockout.
This was the Canadian’s first fight with six-time trainer of the year Roach, but the outcome was virtually the same as his March fight against Kovalev, which ended with an eight-round TKO for the Russian.
Kovalev retained his World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Organization titles as he improved to 29-0-1 with 26 knockouts.
The two became bitter rivals in the build up to the rematch with Pascal, who is black, accusing the Russian of being racist and Kovalev questioning Pascal’s character.
Kovalev told the crowd of 9,866 at the Bell Centre arena, immediately following the fight, that he purposely extended it to make Pascal suffer more.
“He doesn’t respect anybody,” Kovalev said. “I don’t respect him and I never will.”
Pascal, who struggled to win a 10-round decision over Yunieski Gonzalez in his last fight, came in as the heavy underdog. He dropped to 30-4-1 with 17 knockouts.
Kovalev notched his eighth title defense since winning his first belt with a fourth-round knockout of Nathan Cleverly in 2013.
After destroying Pascal, Kovalev now plans to fight either former super middleweight champ Andre Ward or WBC light heavy champ Adonis Stevenson.
Stevenson, who watch the fight from ringside, climbed through the ropes and was jawing at Kovalev but keeping his distance. Kovalev then gave Stevenson the middle finger before being pushed away by several of his handlers.
A victorious Danny Garcia resisted the temptation to call out his welterweight rivals – but only the biggest names in the division should be on his radar after claiming the vacant WBC title against Robert Guerrero on Saturday night.
As expected, Garcia had too much for an opponent who has seen better days, but had to cope with an early onslaught to eventually take a deserved unanimous decision at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
All three judges had the fight 116-112, which was a fair reflection of an aggressive Guerrero’s early successes and the clean, hard shots Garcia frequently landed throughout the middle and later rounds as he got a read on his opponent and found his timing.
The victory saw one of ringside observer Floyd Mayweather’s old 147-pound titles fall into Garcia’s grasp and put the now 32-0 Philadelphian in line for some major fights in the division.
Formerly the recognised champion at 140lbs, and having unified two belts at the lower mark, Garcia’s step up to a more competitive class is long overdue but should belatedly restore some momentum to his career.
“It was what I expected. I knew I would win at least eight or nine rounds,” said the 27-year-old afterwards.
“Guerrero is tough. No one has ever stopped him. He came to fight, he was in shape. I want to fight the best. Whatever my team wants.
“Danny Garcia never ducked anybody. I showed I can stand toe-to-toe with a great veteran and win the fight.”
That much was true, and it was a better performance from Garcia, who after a sensational run of wins through 2012 and 2013 has been poorly matched. He won acclaim for knocking out Amir Khan in four rounds three-and-a-half years ago and 12 months later proved he was the genuine article with a decision over Lucas Matthysse.
Argentine puncher Matthysse was coming off a three-round demolition of Lamont Peterson and was favoured in that fight.
At that point Garcia was figuring in pound-for-pound top-10s and being talked of as a potential opponent for Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao.
But after a career-best win, he took a surprise beating at the hands of Mauricio Herrera in Puerto Rico and only some creative scoring prevented a first loss on his record. Perhaps shaken by that experience he then took a fight so bad it spawned its own term in the boxing lexicon. Second round KO victim Rod Salka was so embarrassingly out of his depth that ‘Salka’ has become a quick and apt method to describe a mismatch.
Garcia scarcely stayed on the right side of the judges when he faced Peterson his next bout before a largely pointless win over Paulie Malignaggi brought him to the ring on Saturday night.
Now Guerrero is no Salka, far from it, but Garcia’s victory was widely predicted and it’s a long time since we saw him in the ring with another prime contender.
And, as is the way with boxing, hollow victories can do more harm to a reputation than performing well in defeat.
One soft touch is one too many for a fighter of Garcia’s calibre.
The WBC are likely to order his first defence to be a rematch with Khan, which is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. The Brit, who was also among the crowd on Saturday, is convinced the tweaks he has made with trainer Virgil Hunter will ensure a different outcome this time around.
Khan’s eternal vulnerability to the type of clean blows Garcia tagged Guerrero with, and the needle that exists between the two, would certainly provide excitement. That fight should be made, while if a deal cannot be made for Khan to face Kell Brook then the Special One must also get involved with the elite across the Atlantic.
With Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter fighting on March 12 , hopefully by the end of 2016 we’ll have a better picture of the true pecking order at 147lbs. There’s no need for a single ‘Salka’ with that much talent around.