The Big Five: Who will Amir Khan take on next?

Sport360 staff 10/05/2016

When facing middleweight championship opponent Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, contender Amir Khan vowed to teach the 25-year-old a lesson in the ring.

What transpired was the Briton received a pummeling from the Mexican pugilist with only seconds to go in the sixth round. Knock-out.

Khan’s performance was not at all disappointing. Promoter and boxing legend Oscar de La Hoya even said the former unified WBA and IBF light-welterweight champion was “one of the bravest fighters on the planet” for stepping into the cauldron two classes above his usual weight.

While Alvarez’s victory gives him the possibility of going toe-to-toe with Gennady Golovkin – what’s next in store for the former Olympic silver medalist?

1. Kell Brook

Although Amir has made it absolutely clear he has no intention of facing his fellow compatriot in his final three or four bouts, Kell has been quick to highlight Khan’s recent demise, slyly agreeing with Khan’s decision to stay “safe” after his defeat to Alvarez rather than risk more injury.

There is obvious bad blood between the two boxers and for future promoters, this makes it an intriguing prospect and one that can reel in the cash.

After all, Khan wants a fight in the UK,  something that hasn’t taken place in three years since defeating Julio Diaz in Sheffield. While this fight is unlikely to come to fruition again, Khan would be silly to waste the opportunity of filling up any football stadium of his choosing.

2. Danny Garcia

Props to Khan for trying his luck with the middleweights. Now that he is back in his normal category, it might be high-time he got his revenge on Garcia, the man who once defeated the Briton back in 2012. Although the American undefeated WBC champion would welcome a potential Khan challenge, he would likely pull out should Mayweather decide to come out of retirement in the not-too-distant future.

3. Miguel Cotto

Even if Khan prefers his fights on home soil, he wouldn’t pass up the chance of facing the multifaceted Puerto Rican. Hall of Fame fighter trainer Freddie Roach revealed the Cotto gig was nearing a reality but subsequently ended because the team didn’t “want to fight a guy that’s going to run and try to make [them] look bad”. Unlike other probable match-ups, Cotto doesn’t have a flawless record, meaning the odds of Khan coming out on top in his comfortable weight category are in his favour. A win may prolong his career, but a loss could end it.

4. Manny Pacquiao

It’s no secret the boxer would love to fancy his chances against the formidable Filipino, who preferred to fight with Timothy Bradley for a third time in April. But at the age of 37, it seems unlikely as the eight-division champion’s days are numbered, especially with the shoulder injury he sustained in the highly anticipated fight with Mayweather in May last year. Yet, Pacquiao maintains he chose to fight Bradley because Amir’s “middlemen” cut the negotiations short.

5. Floyd Mayweather Jr.

In recent weeks, the undefeated Michigan star has expressed his interest to come out of retirement, an action he carried out in May 2009 when he took on Jose Manuel Marquez. Prior to the Canelo fixture, Khan has accused Mayweather of “chickening” out of their showdown, even announcing that should he triumph over Alvarez then he’d reject all incoming fight offers from Mayweather. Unfortunately for him, we all know how that turned out.

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Things we learned: Canelo Alvarez v Amir Khan

Andy Lewis 9/05/2016
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Brutal: Saul Alvarez.

After the dust has settled following Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s knockout blow to Amir Khan in Las Vegas on Saturday evening, what did the big fight tell us about the two boxers?

Sport360’s Andy Lewis takes a look at three major takeaways from the event:

Canelo/Golovkin will happen but don’t hold your breath

It’s clear the public demand for Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez to face Gennady Golovkin is reaching a level the Mexican and his promoters Golden Boy can no longer ignore. Nor would they want to given the monumental cash cow this much-anticipated showdown has become.

Canelo couldn’t have been more forthright in his intentions after crushing Amir Khan, inviting the watching Golovkin into the ring and calling for the fight to be made.

Great news, absolutely, but didn’t he say the same thing after beating Miguel Cotto? After that bout he agreed with the WBC, who sanction his middleweight title, that he could have one more fight before facing Golovkin.

Leverage from the WBC doesn’t mean much, Canelo is above belts, and he’d happily vacate rather than make a decision he judges bad for his career. There is no reason to wait, however, as you get the impression the financial incentive is already there.

The only counter is that the optimum time to market a superfight involving a Mexican is Cinco De Mayo weekend so, equally, don’t be surprised if we have to wait another 12 months.

The major obstacle, however, is Canelo’s insistence on fighting at his comfort blanket weight of 155lbs. Make no mistake, he is a middleweight, holds a 160lb title and as Golovkin contends, he should be fighting at that weight.

This conflict is a ready-made excuse for the negotiations to fail. Golovkin shouldn’t have to make this concession but may well have to do so to get the fight he wants.

It’s a Floyd Mayweather like tactic from Canelo who is obviously keen to extract any advantage he can.

There’s no such thing as a no-lose fight for Khan

Amir Khan deserves immense credit for his bravery. That is not in doubt, and if more boxers shared his willingness to take risks then boxing would be far more popular than it is.

Yet unfortunately for Khan, he has become as famous for being savagely knocked out than for his obvious skill. And that’s why his crushing defeat to Alvarez was anything but the no-lose situation some portrayed.

Given his courage it is hard to be critical, but if you put the idealism to one side, what did he gain from Saturday night apart from a huge purse and a trip to the hospital? History may remember Khan’s bravery in accepting the most dangerous assignment available, but it will also remember him unconscious on the canvas – and not for the first time in his career.

There’s no shame in losing the way he did. No shame at all, it was entirely logical, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t damaging – potentially to both his physical and mental wellbeing and certainly to his career and his legacy.

The days when he was the darling of the British public as an impossibly-talented teenaged Olympian, or a two-time world title winner as a light-welterweight seem a long time ago.

Devastating knockout losses tend to stick in the memory and you simply cannot think of Khan without thinking of Breidis Prescott, Danny Garcia and now Canelo.

Since being upset by Garcia in 2012, Khan has worked commendably to re-establish himself, ironing out the flaws inherent in his hybrid amateur/pro style while climbing the welterweight rankings in the process.

But by effectively jumping two divisions to snatch at a carrot dangled in front of him by Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy, he has taken a big risk.

We heard that Khan was ‘daring to be great’ – judging by his payday he was certainly daring to be rich. The safety net all along has been that a showdown with IBF welterweight champion and domestic rival Kell Brook would always be there, but even the appeal of that is diminished by this loss of momentum.

The long-running stand-off between the two was all well and good while they were both winning. There’s also Khan’s dwindling appeal in the UK – he’s not fought at home since 2013 – and the fact negotiations will no doubt be problematic given his weaker bargaining position.

Previous talks were torpedoed by his ‘A-side’ demands. He’d need at least one solid win – preferably in the UK – to convince the British public to shell out en masse for a pay-per-view.

Khan may have earned life-changing money on Saturday, but it is churlish to suggest his brand hasn’t been damaged by another brutal KO on his resume. Time to rebuild. Again.

Respect the weight classes

If the sickening knockout at the end of this fight proved anything then it is that weight classes exist for a very good reason, but right now they seem to matter less than ever.

Alvarez is the middleweight (160lb) champion but has never fought as a middleweight. Instead he campaigns at a catchweight of 155lbs, or ‘Canelo-weight’ as some now call it. It’s a system he works well to his advantage and his leverage as a box office draw ensures it goes unchallenged.

The sight of a gaunt Alvarez, boiled down for Friday’s weigh-in, was a far cry from the 175lb beast who iced Khan in such chilling fashion some 36 hours later. The Briton was still probably somewhere near the weight at which he had hit the scales.

Khan’s height might have made it less conspicuous but this was a gross physical mismatch and he could have been seriously hurt. It’s futile to expect any sort of governance to prevent situations like this in a business scarcely disguised as a sport, but it leaves a bad taste.

Should we expect to see lightweight champion Anthony Crolla now fight Brook? Or, indeed, Canelo face light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev? Of course not.

Cash may rule, but somewhere along the line people need to look after the health of boxers. What they do is dangerous enough as it is.

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Fight Club: Canelo shows that size matters in boxing

Andy Lewis 9/05/2016
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Ruthless: Canelo Alvarez.

Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez insists he is ready to bow to public demand and fight Gennady Golovkin after defending his WBC middleweight title with a chilling sixth round knockout of Amir Khan.

The 25-year-old Mexican dropped Khan with a massive right – fired clinically over the top of a passive left jab – to send the British fighter to the canvas with 23 seconds remaining in the round at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

Already unconscious, the back of Khan’s head thudded sickeningly off the deck, prompting an anxious Canelo to kneel by his side and his corner to rush to his aid as he lay motionless for a couple of minutes before being helped to his feet.

Khan’s speed and movement had made the early going tough for Alvarez but the outcome was predictable given the disparity in size and punching power.

The 29-year-old Khan was effectively jumping up two weight divisions and, as expected, Canelo’s obvious physical advantages proved insurmountable.

Alvarez is now mandated to defend his WBC title against the dangerous and often avoided Golovkin, who holds both the WBA and IBF versions of the 160lb championship. The Kazakh was watching from close quarters and was gestured into the ring by the victorious Canelo who, in contrast to his pre-fight remarks, willingly talked up a potential showdown.

“I’m not in this sport because I’m afraid. I’m not afraid of anyone, I’m willing to fight any time,” he said. “I invited (Golovkin) in (to the ring) to prove I’m not afraid. We can fight for no belts, we can fight for honour and pride. We talked a little bit before (fighting Khan) and are willing to make (Golovkin) an offer.”

Of his victory, Alvarez, who chalked up his 47th win, with one loss and a draw, said: “It was a little difficult at first, but I knew that I just had to keep to my game plan, and keep feinting, and that’s what opened up that (knockout) punch.”

Khan had begun brightly, even landing a clean overhand right in the opening session to signal his intentions. Alvarez didn’t move but it was indicative of a fearless start by the Brit, who claimed the opening two rounds.

Canelo, however, warmed to his task, finding both his range and timing as he got a read on Khan. The warning signs were there in the fifth as a series of right hands to the body slowed down his movement before a left hook stopped him in his tracks.

By the time he headed back to his corner, Khan was cut and beginning to wilt under some heavy attacks.

He knew he had to fight a perfect fight and that any mistakes would be ruthlessly punished, and so it proved in the sixth. A weak left lead briefly left his chin exposed and Canelo countered viciously and decisively. It was a big ask for Khan, way too big as it happened.

“I’m a natural 147 (pounds) fighter,” he told American broadcasters HBO after he had recovered, having spent a worryingly long time on his back before returning to his feet. “But this challenge came and it was very hard to turn down.

“I want to be the best, I want to fight the best and that’s why I took this fight. I showed my bravery by getting in the ring with Canelo, but this is boxing. I wanted to go out there as a champion. I was unfortunate that I didn’t make it to the end, but I tried my best and I want to say thank you for the support. I will probably go down to 147 now.”

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