Canelo – Khan | Thunder vs. Lightning | Who Wins?
by Courtney Riley
The fighters in this Cinco de Mayo weekend headliner have been licked with the cowardice brush by sections of boxing community. Former 2-weight world champion, Amir Khan (31-3, 19 KOs) was labelled a coward by a large section of the British public (and the general boxing world) when he publicly rebuffed negotiations for a summer showdown in an all-British welterweight world title clash against Kell Brook (36-0, 25 KOs) back in January. I, like most of the boxing community accused Khan of playing spin and dodge’ems as a result of his decision to decline the bout. However, he answered the critics in the best possible manner by taking on the dangerous assignment of leaping up in weight to face the lineal middleweight world champion, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (46-1-1, 32 KOs). Canelo for his part has been accused of being a coward for opting to fight the smaller Khan instead of his unbeaten middleweight rival Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin (35-0, 32 KOs). Let’s just shed all the politics for this one. The fight will be a barn-burner in a classic speed vs power clash for the entertainment of the fans. So how does these two match up and who really has the edge?
The biggest misconception in this fight is the general consensus that Canelo is by far the bigger man – he is not. His height has been listed as 5-foot-9 which is only half-an-inch taller than Khan. However, his reach has been measured to be half-an-inch shorter than his opponent’s. Khan is a natural light-welterweight (140lbs) who has only had 3 fights at welterweight (147lbs) against light-hitting opponents. Even though Canelo is defending his middleweight championship, he has never really fought to the full middleweight limit of 160lbs. He has only ever fought at a 155lbs catch-weight (1lb above the light-middleweight limit) against other opponents who are around the same weight/size, or smaller. Canelo will have to dehydrate himself to make weight while Khan has to gain muscle without hampering his trademark speed and much needed stamina. Recent photos and training videos have shown a much trimmer Canelo than we’ve seen recently, which is an indication that his camp does not view his naturally bigger size as being too much of an advantage.
Edge: Canelo – Khan’s teams did not negotiate a rehydration clause into the contact which means that Canelo could enter the ring at around 165lbs, 10lbs above the agreed catch-weight limit.
Canelo is a bull. He is broad-shouldered and thick set. However, he has not been gifted with true one-punch knockout snap in his punches, but his strength allows his clubbing punches to dent flesh and break bones – take a look at Alfredo Angulo’s face after his TKO loss to Canelo. James Kirkland was also the victim of a one-punch demolition by job by Alvarez. Khan has never been a power puncher per say. He has knocked out a number of his opponents but mainly as a result of punch accumulation rather than power.
Edge: Canelo – Even Khan himself admitted in a recent interview that he has very little chance of knocking out Alvarez.
There is no denying that Khan is one of, if not, the fastest fighters on the planet (operating above the smaller weight classes). He has tremendous hand and foot speed which enables him to quickly change angles before landing fast accurate shots that his opponents fail to see coming. Even though his fists may lack the canon-like power to smash through his opponents, his rapid uzi-like shots enable him to chip away at them until they crumble to pieces. He showcased those attributes in his fights with Zab Judah and Paulie Malignaggi (among others). Canelo has fast hands but he tends to plod with his feet as he looks to corner his opponents or trap them against the ropes. Canelo is a very good counter-puncher and he will look to use his impeccable timing to counter Khan’s speed on the night.
Edge: Khan – They say speed beats power, and timing beats speed. Khan has plenty speed and that attribute is his key to any chance of victory.
Canelo is a very crafty operator. He is not your typical all-action Mexican fighter who comes to seek and destroy. He is a tactician who tends to calculate his moves well while setting traps to land his heavy counters. He is a 46 fight veteran who made his debut as a teenager in Mexico and has been learning his craft through the pro-ranks. On the other hand, Khan is a decorated amateur who won a silver medal as a 17 year old at the 2004 Olympics. Khan does possess a rare talent that no ceiling should have been able limit. He has long accurate jabs that he slings at an incredible speed to keep his opponents off balance and to set up his straight right and his blistering combinations. Khan has great movement and is able to dart quickly in and out of range. He can force Canelo to fall short with his punches then capitalise on the errors.
Edge: Khan – Khan’s movement and ability to change angles will be a vital tool should he choose to stick to his boxing skills.
Khan has added the talents of Virgil Hunter to lead his corner in recent years. The man is accomplished and has polished Andre Ward into, arguably, the number one fighter on the planet. His abilities and experience should do well for Khan. Canelo is much more experienced in the pro-ranks and has fought much better opposition than Khan throughout his career. He fought to a decision loss to retired pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweahther a couple years ago before beating future Hall of Famer, Miguel Cotto, for his middleweight crown. Khan has shown us numerous times in the past that he likes to fight and is all too willing to engage in a tear-up with his opponents. That would be disastrous against a heavy hitting counter-puncher like Alvarez. Khan has a lot of heart but this may be the type of fight where he needs more tactics and technique rather heart and emotions. It is Khan’s history of abandoning tactical discipline which might again be his undoing in this fight. Even his trainer, Virgil Hunter, would be powerless to steer him to victory then. Khan has developed a reputation for being chinny following his two KO losses to Breidis Prescott and Danny Garcia. He has also been dropped by other light-punchers. He did stand for 12 rounds against the Argentinian powerhouse, Marcos Maidana however. He showed a lot of heart in that contest.
Edge: Canelo – We cannot quantify the influence of Khan’s trainer nor can we measure the size of his fighting spirit, though they may well play a part on the outcome. Canelo’s timing and composure should see him weather the barrages from Khan while returning heavy hurtful shots of his own.
Writer’s pick: Canelo by stoppage, probably late on.
NB* Do not be too surprised if Khan frustrates Canelo to a split decision victory.