Star middleweight boxer Saul "Canelo" Alvarez will fight Amir Khan next, promoter Oscar De La Hoya announced Tuesday.
Per Khan, the fight will take place on May 7th in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Alvarez's WBC world middleweight title belt will be on the line:
The news comes as a major surprise, as Khan is a natural welterweight who has never fought at 155 pounds. He spent most of 2015 looking for big bouts and ended up fighting just once, beating Chris Algieri in September, per BoxRec.
ESPN's Dan Rafael was shocked when he learned the Brit will now face Alvarez, one of the top punchers in the middleweight division:
Speculation regarding Alvarez's next opponent has been raging for months, and Khan's name hardly ever came up in discussions. Golden Boy Promotions Vice President Eric Gomez spoke to USA Today's Mike Coppinger about Alvarez's potential adversaries in January, and it seemed he would face either Willie Monroe Jr. or Gabriel Rosado.
The former is a 29-year-old southpaw who owns a 19-2 record but only has six wins by knockout. He lost a middleweight title fight in his last appearance this past May to Gennady Golovkin by way of a sixth-round TKO.
Golovkin actually called out Alvarez on New Year's Eve and lobbied to fight him at some point in 2016:
Rosado (22-9, 13 KOs) had gone winless in five previous fights before defeating Joshua Clottey by unanimous decision in December.
There's little doubt Khan presents a higher caliber of opponent, although the decision to go with the 29-year-old as Alvarez's next opponent will be a divisive one. Khan will be fighting well above his normal weight, and his chin is somewhat suspect, evidenced by two of his three losses coming before the final bell.
Marcos Maidana nearly knocked him out in 2012, and while the Argentinian is a big puncher, his power is limited compared to Alvarez. Sheldan Keay of the Manchester Evening News thinks critics claiming Khan has been avoiding a fight with IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook may want to take a look at this upcoming fight:
Khan is an excellent technician with superb hand speed, however, and he will present Alvarez with the type of challenge he hasn't faced since 2013, when he fought Floyd Mayweather Jr. as a welterweight, per BoxRec.
The Brit isn't Mayweather, but he poses similar problems for the 25-year-old, who has gotten used to fighting bigger, less-mobile fighters in the middleweight division. Khan may not match the likes of Miguel Cotto for power, but his superb head movement and excellent hand speed will be a factor.
Laceup Boxing thinks catchweights were invented for these type of fights:
The ONLY situation that I endorse catchweights are fights like #CaneloKhan hats off to Khan for taking this fight.— Laceup Boxing (@Laceupboxing) February 2, 2016
Following Mayweather's retirement, Alvarez is the most high-profile and accomplished boxer who's still in his prime. The only defeat in the 25-year-old's 46-1-1 record was the split-decision loss to Mayweather in September 2013.
The Mexican is boxing's biggest star globally, but Khan remains wildly popular in Great Britain, and this fight has massive potential at the box office. With a bout against Golovkin likely on the horizon, Alvarez could have picked a far worse opponent to pass the time.
Note: Fight history courtesy of BoxRec.com.