Canelo Alvarez vs. Amir Khan: Everything You Need to Know for Upcoming Fight

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistMay 3, 2016

Canelo Alvarez vs. Amir Khan: Everything You Need to Know for Upcoming Fight

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Even Kieran Mulvaney of InsideHBOBoxing.com was shocked when newly crowned middleweight champion Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (lineal and WBC) announced his first defense would come against former junior welterweight titleholder Amir Khan.

    Still don't believe it's really happening? Tune in on Saturday, May 7 at 9 p.m. ET via HBO pay-per-view to see for yourself. 

    Khan, long grandstanding in his pursuit of lucrative bouts against fellow welterweights Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, should certainly be commended for accepting a bout against Alvarez. But this fight just seems odd.

    It's not just that Khan, 29, is jumping up two weight classes to take on Alvarez at middleweight. It's not just that Khan has been knocked senseless by fighters who probably don't hit quite as hard as Alvarez does. It doesn't even have anything to do with the growing absurdity of the lineal middleweight championship being contested well below the 160-pound limit for going on the fourth time in a row.

    Nope. It's that Khan hasn't really done anything inside the ring as a fighter to deserve the shot.

    Ah, but this is boxing. What a fighter does or doesn't deserve has little to do with the fights he gets. Khan, one of boxing's more recognizable stars, did indeed get this chance to shock the world and wrestle away the 160—err—155-pound (or whatever) lineal middleweight championship.

    Alvarez, on the other hand, has much to lose in the fight. Can you imagine HBO's deemed chosen one faltering in the first big event of new HBO Boxing chief Peter Nelson's helm, which was almost explicitly put on to help raise his star power? Make no mistake: Khan is the sacrificial lamb of the powers that be. A win over Khan gives Canelo even more shine than he already has. But this is the fight game, and no one is unbeatable. Alvarez has shown faults here and there that Khan might exploit. 

    Here's everything you need to know about the upcoming megafight.

Saul "Canelo" Alvarez

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Age: 25

    Height: 5'9"

    Weight: 155 lbs (as of most recent fight)

    Reach: 70 ½"

    Stance: Orthodox

    Record: 46-1-1 (32 KOs)

    Rounds Fought: 326

    Trainer: Eddy Reynoso

    Strengths: Power, combination punching and underrated defense. Alvarez is a good counterpuncher with fast hands. 

    Weaknesses: Doesn't always fight intelligently, and his foot speed is lacking.

    Intangibles: Alvarez is coming off his best win and might think Khan will be a walkover since the Brit is so much smaller.

    What to Know: It's hard to blame Alvarez for taking the fight. Khan is a popular, well-known star. He's talented and fast, and the bout itself should be a fun and relatively safe event for Alvarez.

    Canelo is a growing star. A win over Khan, particularly a highlight-reel-worthy knockout, will help him move ever closer to filling the void left by departing superstars Mayweather and Pacquiao.

Amir Khan

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Age: 29

    Height: 5'8 ½"

    Weight: 147 lbs (as of most recent fight)

    Reach: 71"

    Stance: Orthodox

    Record: 31-3 (19 KOs)

    Rounds Fought: 203

    Trainer: Virgil Hunter

    Strengths: Hand speed, reach and agility.

    Weaknesses: Porous defense and focus issues make him susceptible to counterpunchers, particularly hard punchers with good timing.

    Intangibles: Khan absolutely believes he is a great fighter. Perhaps that sincere belief can help him pull the upset. Moreover, since he doesn't have to cut as much weight for Saturday, the fighter we see on fight night could be better than any version of Khan we've ever seen before.

    What to Know: Khan is either really smart or really dumb. He's smart if he knows how much better he is than what most other people think. He's dumb if he ends up getting embarrassed by a larger and at least equally skilled middleweight who he didn't need to fight in the first place.

    Khan has the ability to compete with any welterweight in the world. What will that mean against Canelo? We find out Saturday.

What's at Stake

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    Alvarez will defend his lineal middleweight championship, along with his WBC alphabet belt, against Khan. It's his first defense since snatching both away from future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto in 2015. Like Cotto, Alvarez isn't really a middleweight. Let's call him a super junior middleweight. Most of his fights over the last few years have been fought one pound or so over the 154-pound junior middleweight limit. He's only 25, though, so he will grow into the weight class naturally.

    Khan isn't a middleweight, either. He's a welterweight, and he's won multiple alphabet titles just south of 140 pounds. Beating Alvarez would be Khan's best work to date and a praiseworthy historical achievement. Moreover, Khan has long sought a bout of this magnitude, so a win would also put him at the level of the sport where he's long believed he belongs.

    Alvarez-Khan is a bout that will help determine who can become one of this generation's biggest superstars. Alvarez is already close to grabbing hold of that mantle, if not already there, but Khan could potentially leap him with the upset.

    With Mayweather's recent hints of a comeback fight, this event could also serve as an audition for either man to be the opponent that night.

Televised Undercard

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    Rich Schultz/Associated Press

    It's a solid undercard.

    Former IBF middleweight titlist David Lemieux will hope to rebound from the shellacking he suffered at the hands of Gennady Golovkin. Lemieux's opponent, Glen Tapia, should be just what he needs to get back into the swing of things at 160. Tapia is a rugged and hard-punching fighter, but Lemieux will probably be too skilled for him. The bout is scheduled for 10 rounds, but it won't last that long.

    Junior welterweights Mauricio Herrera and Frankie "Pitbull" Gomez will meet in a potential crossroads fight. Herrera is an underrated boxer who has been on the wrong side of some bad decisions. Gomez was once one of Golden Boy Promotions' favorite young prospects, but he has shown disinterest in being a true professional. The winner of the bout, scheduled for 10, will get a big fight soon. The loser will take a big hit to his fighting career and be headed down the ladder.

    Finally, Patrick Teixeira will face Curtis Stevens in a 10-round middleweight bout. If Teixeira is ever going to be an elite-level fighter, he'll need to show he can beat solid gatekeepers like Stevens. But if he's not the real deal, Stevens will make sure he knows it.

Odds and Where to Watch

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    Where: T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas

    When: Saturday, May 7, at 9 p.m. ET

    TV: HBO PPV and select movie theaters

    Odds

    Alvarez (33-100), Khan (12-5), per Odds Shark, at the open. The odds have titled even more since then toward Alvarez as fight night approaches.

Analysis and Prediction

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    I hated this fight when it was announced. I hated it less as time went on, and here on the precipice of it, I admit I find it at least somewhat compelling. Alvarez looks great when he's the faster, better boxer. But against fighters who have both advantages on him, he hasn't looked quite as strong.

    I'm not so sure Khan is the better boxer. But he might be, and everyone knows Khan will have the edge in speed against Canelo.

    Here's the bad thing for Khan, though. Alvarez has looked better in every single fight he's had since losing to Mayweather in 2013. He's learned to adapt to what is in front of him, and on Saturday, he will have to come to Khan and apply heavy pressure if things don't work for him from a distance.

    Speed is a great asset, but timing usually beats speed, and Alvarez's solid power means he will only have to time Khan a few times before the fight is over.

    Prediction: Alvarez via Round 6 knockout.