Amir Khan says fighting the formidable linear middleweight champion Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez in Las Vegas this summer instead of a less dangerous, domestic challenge for Kell Brook’s welterweight belt in front of 80,000 people at Wembley was a calculated gamble he could not refuse.
Khan figures it this way: he has nothing to lose and everything to gain against Álvarez, who will be bigger and stronger, the clear favourite, and fighting in front of his fanatical Mexican fans at the opening of the 20,000-seater T-Mobile Arena on 7 May, Cinco de Mayo weekend.
As Khan points out, the 35th bout of his nine-year professional career will be the first time he goes in as underdog – and Brook will always be there; Álvarez will not. It is a reasonable strategy, although Khan’s contention that he will make more against “Canelo” than against Brook was later contradicted by his father, Shah, who admitted they are taking a pay cut.
Also, Oscar De La Hoya, negotiating on Álvarez’s side, has insisted on a rematch clause, because they also have their sights on a much bigger contest, against the unbeaten knockout king, Gennady Golovkin. So, if Khan is to pull off the most unlikely coup in boxing this year, he will have to beat Álvarez twice. It is the longest of long shots, but the fighter was unfazed when he and the champion began a promotional tour in London on Monday.
“It’s a massive fight,” Khan said, “the first time Canelo has come to London, and with the WBC chairman, Mauricio Sulaiman, too. It’s a bigger fight financially [than Brook]. It’s not only a big fight in England, it’s a big fight worldwide, and that’s one of the reasons I took it, because it’s global. It will be massive for my profile in America, as well as England. No one ever expected this, and the shock just makes the fight bigger.
“I’m very big at my weight [147lb], he’s not a big middleweight [160lb], but nobody will know when I get into the ring with him how I will do. I’ve seen his fights and guys who move well give him big problems. If I was a flat‑footed fighter and just standing there, that would be the worst style for me [to employ]. Because I’m a mover, I think it’s one of the best fights out there for me.”
De La Hoya, who has worked with Khan many times, has him back in the fold after the Bolton boxer flirted with the Al Haymon promotional machine, only to be let down by Floyd Mayweather, and then get the cold shoulder from Manny Pacquiao. “When I presented this fight to Amir Khan, I did not once think he would decline, because of who he is,” the Golden Boy said. “He is willing to take on everybody. He deserves the big fights. There is a reason Mayweather and Pacquiao didn’t want to fight him. Whether he’s come out on top or on the losing end, he’s been in great fights.
“If Amir Khan beats Canelo, we’ll obviously do the rematch. But I’m looking forward to working with him once again. We built him, we drove his career to new heights, we got him the big fights and now we’re getting him the megafight, which he deserves.”
De La Hoya, though, is unequivocally in the Canelo business. A Khan victory would only make life complicated. The promoter is adamant his fighter will fight Golovkin, perhaps after beating Khan. “I’m very confident,” De La Hoya said. “I like Golovkin, he has a great style, he’s a real fighter and he has created a mystique that I love. It’s just a matter of time. Believe me it will happen very soon.”
Álvarez said he would enter the ring at 165lb, fully 10lb above the agreed weigh-in limit of the day before. Khan says he has gone to the ring as heavy as 162lb, so there ought not be as large a disparity in size as some fear. Nevertheless, the Mexican, speaking through an interpreter, said: “It was a little bit surprising for me that he accepted the fight. He said, ‘I’m willing to fight anybody’. He’s definitely one of the top fighters in the world, a great fighter. He’s very fast, his boxing ability is unmatched.
“It’s going to be a great event, a challenge for me. But I’ve faced pretty much every style there is. I’m capable against someone like Amir.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010