Saul Alvarez spent most of the fight as the second-best man in the ring. But he needed only one punch to send Amir Khan to the canvas and pick up a knockout victory in the sixth round Saturday night in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
With the result, Canelo improves his record to 47-1-1, with 33 of his wins coming by way of knockout. Khan, meanwhile, falls to 31-4. It's his first loss in nearly four years after losing to Danny Garcia on July 14, 2012.
Khan was the stronger of the two to start the fight. He used his jabs well to keep Alvarez at a safe distance, and Canelo was having a hard time dealing with Khan's speed and movement around the ring. Yahoo Sports' Chris Mannix thought the latter has been a problem for Canelo in the past:
To his credit, Alvarez didn't panic and appeared content to let his opponent dictate the pace. He also landed a nice left hook to Khan's jaw that was a warning sign of what could happen when he successfully closed the distance.
Canelo started making incremental improvements in the third round. He had a clear game plan to target Khan's body in order to slow down the British star. The strategy didn't deliver immediate success, with Khan continuing to dance around the ring while peppering in the occasional combination.
The fifth round was Alvarez's best to that point in the night, as he opened up a small cut above Khan's right eye. More importantly, Canelo was beginning to move further and further in on Khan, unlike the first three rounds, when he struggled to bridge the gap.
Momentum was swinging in Alvarez's favor, but few would've expected the fight to end as abruptly as it did. Canelo faked a left jab, which gave him the opening necessary to launch an overhand right that caught Khan flush on the jaw. The 29-year-old was out immediately, and referee Kenny Bayless called it.
Now, the focus will immediately shift to Canelo's potential clash with Gennady Golovkin. Deadspin's Timothy Burke doesn't see the matchup playing out well for Canelo:
The Ringer's Bill Simmons thought Canelo's knockout at least made the bout more enticing:
The result flatters Alvarez to a certain extent since he had so much trouble with Khan's movement early on. By no means was this a dominant performance. Still, there's no question Canelo's blows to Khan's body had the desired effect, and the champion never found himself in major trouble.
According to ESPN.com's Dan Rafael, Alvarez will collect a slightly higher base purse from Saturday night's fight, earning $3.5 million compared to $2 million for Khan. Of course, neither amount factors in what the fighters will make from the pay-per-view revenue and live attendance attendance.
Alvarez stands to gain much more should he meet Golovkin. Barring a Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao return, Canelo vs. Golovkin is the biggest fight boxing has at the moment. They're two of the best boxers in the world, and their offensive styles would ideally combine to create an exciting in-ring spectacle.
For Alvarez, fighting Golovkin would be a shot at redemption after Mayweather so thoroughly outclassed him in September 2013. Golovkin, meanwhile, would look to earn the biggest victory of his career.
"This is boxing. I wanted to go out there as a champion," Khan said, per BBC Sport's Mike Henson. "I unfortunately didn't make it to the end but I tried my best. This challenge came and it was hard to turn down. I want to be the best."
Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya said after the fight that Khan went to a local hospital for precautionary reasons, per Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole. Shortly thereafter, Khan tweeted out that he's fine, all things considered:
Canelo praised his opponent but added that Khan's more offensive style played right into his hands, per the Independent's Jack de Menezes:
He's a fast fighter, he's very fast and I knew that things would be complicated at the beginning, but I knew that things would come to me. Many people focus on my power and talk about my power but I've got many qualities in the ring and that's what people saw. I like to surprise everyone. Someone who comes in to box gives you problems obviously, but someone who comes in to attack offers a great fight.
Having said his piece about Khan, Canelo then zeroed in on Golovkin, per ESPN.com's Arash Markazi:
"Golovkin, make sure you answer your phone tomorrow morning," said De La Hoya, per Rafael. "We will call you. Make sure you answer your phone."