Amir Khan says he fancies his chances against Canelo Alvarez in Las Vegas showdown
Englishman Khan (31-3, 19 knockouts) accepted a big jump in weight to fight middleweight champion Alvarez but he says his superior skill will win through at the weekend
Is it the chin or the heart that defines a fighter?
Amir Khan (31-3, 19 knockouts) accepted a big jump in weight to fight middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez – and he may answer that question in their HBO pay-per-view bout Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.
The Englishman has been knocked out twice and sent to the canvas four other times during a career that has included a 140-pound junior-welterweight world title and his current standing as the World Boxing Council’s No 1 welterweight contender.
Khan is best known for his fast hands and boxing skills.
His unanimous-decision victory against heavy-hitting Marcos Maidana in 2010 was voted fight of the year. Going into that bout, many doubted Khan’s resilience and wondered if he could withstand blows from a power puncher.
That match was so compelling, it looked at ringside as if Khan was fighting off tears while absorbing Maidana’s best punches to the head late in the fight, but Khan stayed on his feet.
When Alvarez (46-1-1, 32 KOs) was asked what makes Khan a threat, he said, “His speed, his elusiveness, and let’s not forget his courage.”
Since his knockout loss in 2012 to current unbeaten welterweight champion Danny Garcia, Khan has won five consecutive bouts. After his December 2014 boxing masterpiece against former 140-pound champion Devon Alexander, Khan was positioned for a shot at Floyd Mayweather Jnr.
Mayweather instead fought Manny Pacquiao, and when Khan sassed Mayweather too much, Mayweather again passed over the Brit to fight Andre Berto last September.
Khan then turned his attention to getting a bout against Pacquiao, but those talks crumbled too and Khan has not fought since May 2015, when he scored a welterweight victory over former 140-pound champion Chris Algieri.
Then, surprisingly, Alvarez’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, called to offer Khan a 155-pound catchweight title shot at Alvarez, instead of at the 160-pound middleweight limit. Khan took heart. Before his 30th birthday in December, Khan would indeed bring his fans the big fight he has longed for by gambling on himself.
“When I sat down with my team, I thought, ‘You know what? This guy (Alvarez) is beatable,’” Khan said. “The last guy to beat him was Floyd Mayweather, but (after Alvarez’s) fights against (Erislandy) Lara and (Austin) Trout, I thought, ‘A good boxer would give him problems.’ I’m a good boxer, I can give him those problems.
“So at the same time, it’s a big fight, a fight I can win, and it’s for a world title.
“It’s a great jump for me to take, and it’s a great message to send to young boxers: You should take these fights, this is what boxing’s about. If you want to be honoured as a great champion, you have to take these risks sometimes.”
Khan explained this week that his knockout losses to Garcia and Breidis Prescott – and the flash knockdowns he has suffered – were a result of “lost focus, because … I never respected the power of the guys who hurt me.”
That won’t happen with the 25-year-old Alvarez, who rejected a re-hydration weight-limit request from the Khan camp and is expected to weigh at least 10 pounds more than Khan when they step into the ring.
“I’m going against a guy who’s big, fast, strong – the superstar of boxing,” Khan said. “I know it’s going to be tough, but this is what I signed up for.
“Who’s the favourite to win? I’m not. I’m the underdog … for the first time. This is what lifts me up.”
Khan says he must rely on the lessons of his Bay Area-based trainer, Virgil Hunter, who in their training sessions since November has impressed upon him the importance of maintaining balance on his feet.
“He doesn’t have to fight a perfect fight. He just has to make Canelo fight a bad fight,” Hunter said. “He’s absolutely fearless.”
A 2004 Olympic silver medalist, Khan previously trained at Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood under seven-time trainer of the year Freddie Roach. Pacquiao was a sparring partner.
“I’ve trained with such top-class fighters,” Khan said. “That’s great experience. And I’m going to take all of that experience into this fight. I’m going to make sure I do everything right, and do what I do best. I know what I have on (Alvarez) is skill, speed and movement.”
CompuBox founder Bob Canobbio reports that Khan’s average of 7.9 jabs landed per round ranks third among all active championship-calibre fighters and that his average of 20.4 punches landed per round is better than Alvarez’s 15.4. Noted Canobbio: “Canelo possesses the big eraser, however – size and power, coupled with Khan’s oft-dented chin.”
“People are going to say,” I’ll go down with a big hit, “but we’ve (covered) that,” Khan said. “We don’t want to be in exchanges, giving him free shots.
“I’m going to hit Canelo and he’s not going to feel it. … And I’m expecting every shot he throws to be painful, to hurt me. I have to keep on my toes, be smart … using my defence the right way, not standing there … making moves at the right time. What’s going to win this fight is skill.”
The heart and chin will be factors too.