Evander Holyfield and Oscar De La Hoya have explained the adversity Amir Khan will have to overcome if he is to succeed in defeating WBC middleweight champion Saul Alvarez in Las Vegas.
Khan remains the major underdog on Saturday night (start: 05:00 approx, UAE time) because of Alvarez’s status as one of the world’s finest fighters and the fact he has stepped up two weight divisions to challenge him at a catchweight of 155lbs.
Holyfield made the successful transition from cruiserweight to win world titles as a heavyweight during the division’s last true glamour era in the 1990s and De La Hoya won world titles from super-featherweight to middleweight, an ultimate weight difference of 30lbs.
They spoke of the difficulty of watching a bigger opponent absorb punches, of the increased tactical emphasis, and of the mental strain of being the smaller fighter.
Alvarez is expected to outweigh Khan by 10lbs, and of being in that position, Holyfield said: “You get them with two or three shots, and they’re still looking at you.
“So you’ve got to make adjustments – you’ve always got to make adjustments – knowing where to be at. It hurts, but you’ve got to act like it didn’t hurt. You’ve got to have desire to go through that.”
De La Hoya, the promoter for the fight, added: “You have to realise that when you hit the guy, he’s still going to be there. You’ve got to hit the guy and move, and you’ve got to frustrate him.
“You have to know how to outsmart him, how to rely on your brain. You can’t rely on punching power anymore: it’s more tactical.”
Bernard Hopkins, a world champion at middleweight and light-heavyweight, has warned Khan may lack the mobility and discipline to elude Alvarez as he will need to.
He said: “He doesn’t use his feet as fast as his hands, he stays in the pocket. Amir Khan is such a warrior, he will forget the plan. I think he will go back to what he’s always been: a guy that wants to fight.”