Amir Khan has always been something of an enigma. Nobody doubts his skills.
Khan is a former Olympic silver medalist as well as a two-time world champion.
He can punch (23 knockouts in 31 professional fights) and box. Khan is athletic. He can use the ring when needed. His jab can sting. But there are flaws in his game. Khan has lost three fights, two by knockout. He’s kissed the canvas many times.
His chin has been suspect for years. He takes too many chances, standing in the pocket and slugging, all the while holding his chin up. He might as well have a sign on his jaw that says
Life would be easier for Khan if that jaw weren’t so sensitive.
On the other hand, lineal Middleweight kingpin Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, who faces Khan this Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV, appears to have a pretty strong chin. He’s been wobbled a few times in his career, most notably against Jose Cotto six years ago. He recovered and went on to stop Cotto in nine rounds.
Alvarez has been victorious in 46 of his 48 bouts, with 32 knockouts. His single loss was to Floyd Mayweather in 2013. He seems to have improved since then. His defense is better, but there are lingering questions about his stamina.
Khan, 29, is gifted with perhaps the fastest hands and feet in boxing. He can punch on the move and his left hook to the body is a thing of beauty. Working with trainer Virgil Hunter has helped Khan. He takes fewer chances and holds more. Nothing wrong with that. But will it matter against the powerful Alvarez?
It seems that everyone and his brother want the 25-year-old Alvarez to fight undefeated knockout machine, and current middleweight world champion, Gennady Golovkin. Middleweights weigh 160 pounds. Alvarez and Khan will be fighting at a weight limit of 155 pounds. It’s called a catchweight. I’d venture a guess that Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson(,) and Muhammad Ali never heard of the word.
The pressure to fight Golovkin has to be on Alvarez’s mind, but he insists that he’s completely focused on his match with Khan.
"I always prepare one hundred percent for every fight,” said Alvarez at media day last week in San Diego. “The only thing that changes is the strategy. Every fighter is different, every fighter brings different skills and you have to adjust for that. For Amir, we have focused on increasing my hand speed, counter punching and preparing for lots of movement and footwork.”
Khan has been searching for a big fight for years. Mayweather teased him twice, only to pick someone else. Khan wasn’t happy. He likely felt like a bride left at the altar. Khan criticized Mayweather, who dismissed him like yesterday’s news.
When the fight with Alvarez was announced, most boxing pundits were surprised. There were no leaks or rumors.
Khan is set to earn 13 million dollars.
"This is a massive fight, fighting Canelo,” said Khan at his own media day a few weeks ago. “He is a big name around the world. Beating Canelo will definitely take me back to the top where I want to be. I’ve always dreamed of being one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, and I think by beating Canelo that will definitely get me there. That is why I took this fight.”
Alvarez has a pretty good idea what Khan is going to do fight night.
“We believe [Khan) will adopt a similar style to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Erislandy Lara,” Alvarez said. “However, we have made sure that I am prepared for that style of boxing and anything he brings to the table to not be surprised on fight night.”
Lara gave Alvarez fits when they met a few years ago in Las Vegas. Like Khan, Lara can move, thereby staying away from some of Alvarez’s heavy punches. Problem was he didn’t punch enough. Alvarez won the fight by a split decision.
Khan, and his cerebral trainer Hunter, have likely studied the Lara tape. What they saw was an elusive boxer, being pursued by a fighter who doesn’t know how to cut off the ring very well. What Alvarez did do that night was go to the body. His consistency won him the fight.
“I have my game plan and he has his,” Alvarez said. “We are both preparing to the best of our ability to what we know are each other’s strengths. Yet, fight night can be very unpredictable. You have to adjust to what your opponent is doing and also apply pressure at the same time.”
Khan will fire combinations and move away before Alvarez can counter. Can you do that for 12 rounds? Doesn’t seem likely, but he’s confident.
“It’s been very different this time around,” Khan said. “This camp has to be one of the hardest training camps I’ve had. Strength conditioning, the boxing and sparring have been different. I’m being pushed to the limit every time. I’ve trained very hard this time and I’m going to go into the fight very strong.”
Though he won’t admit it, Alvarez likely wants to do to Khan what he did to James Kirkland,-- score an explosive knockout.
"I don’t like to talk trash just to be able to sell fights,” said Alvarez. “What I do is I train hard and do my talking in the ring. I want people to respect me and to follow my fights, not because of what I say but what I do."
I see a competitive match until the stronger Alvarez connects with a heavy blow. Will Khan crumble? Maybe not right away, but over time, he will.