Five Great Britain v Mexico boxing classics

Ready to rumble: Khan and Alvarez.

Ahead of Amir Khan’s bout with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in Las Vegas on Saturday night, Sport360 takes a look at some of the most memorable bouts between British and Mexican boxers over the years:

Amir Khan v Marco Antonio Barrera, March 2009

Khan was in the process of rebuilding his career following his first-round knockout defeat by Breidis Prescott just two fights earlier, but despite the name of a true great in Barrera being on his record, the reality is he caught the Mexican when he had declined and was fighting well beyond his natural weight division, at lightweight.

Barrera, who excelled at super-bantamweight, dropped a fifth-round technical decision because of a significant cut that had opened over his eye in the second.

Ricky Hatton v Juan Lazcano, May 2008

Fighting for the first time since the first defeat of his professional career, six months earlier by Floyd Mayweather, Hatton appeared a fighter in decline when labouring to a unanimous decision victory over an opponent he was expected to impress against.

Scores of 120-110, 118-110 and 120-108 did little to mask an unconvincing performance in which Hatton occasionally looked in trouble and rarely looked like stopping a fighter he would have excelled against in his prime. The fight proved his last with long-term trainer Billy Graham.

Naseem Hamed v Marco Antonio Barrera, April 2001

The first and only defeat of Hamed’s professional career came in his penultimate fight, when he had been widely expected to win. He had lacked focus throughout the fight’s build-up, and naively pursued a knockout throughout the 12-round boxing lesson he received against the more polished Barrera.

The Mexican, though having a point deducted in the final round for turning Hamed and ramming his head into the ring post in the knowledge he had already done enough to win, was awarded scores of 116-111, 115-112 and 115-112 from the three judges.

Julio Cesar Chavez v Andy Holligan, December 1993

Liverpool’s Holligan challenged the then WBC lightwelterweight champion, and perhaps Mexico’s most popular ever fighter, in cold temperatures at the Cuauhtemoc Stadium on a Don King promotion but quickly looked out of his depth.

With his nose bleeding heavily from the second round, Holligan did well to survive several brutal attacks until his corner withdrew him at the end of the fifth. It was Chavez’s 89th win from his 90th fight; the other was a draw. El Gran Campeon Mexicano had another 25 fights before retiring in 2005.

Lupe Pintor v Johnny Owen, September 1980

This was the tragic night that cost Wales’ Owen his life. Challenging Pintor for the WBC bantamweight title, he impressed in the opening rounds before gradually being worn down, first hitting the canvas in the ninth round, and then twice more in the 12th of a scheduled 15. He remained unconscious following the second knockdown, was removed from the ring on a stretcher, and later underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain. He died from the head injuries suffered almost two months later.

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Trainer urges Saul Alvarez to gain revenge for Barrera

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Battle-hardened: Alvarez.

Saul Alvarez’s trainer Eddy Reynoso has spoken of the sense of revenge Mexicans would feel if their compatriot defeats Amir Khan.

Khan in 2009 effectively ended the career of the great Marco Antonio Barrera in a victory the Mexican felt was unfair and which ruined his dream of becoming the proud fighting country’s first four-weight world champion.

A clash of heads in the first round opened a significant cut on Barrera’s forehead in their lightweight match-up, and contributed to Khan building a comfortable lead by the time heavy bleeding caused the fight to be waved off in the fifth.

The angry Barrera felt the fight should have been stopped inside the first four, when had it done so it would have been ruled a no decision.

He fought only twice more in unremarkable affairs considered unceremonious for the conclusion of such a fine career that brought world titles at super-featherweight, featherweight and super-bantamweight, and Khan’s contribution to that has not been forgotten.

Asked if victory for Alvarez would represent a form of revenge, Reynoso responded: “Definitely, it did hurt, it did hurt.

“Because Marco is one of the top names in Mexican boxing, and at the moment he was still at one of the top levels.

“That’s when we realised who Amir Khan was after that victory. I think after Saturday night it would give that ingredient to the fans, that satisfaction back.”

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Holyfield and De la Hoya: Khan must box clever

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Ready to rumble: Alvarez and Khan.

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.”

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