Canelo/Khan is no Leonard/Hagler
By: Matthew Becher
On May 7th the lineal Middleweight champion of the world Canelo Alvarez will defend his title against Amir Khan. It is a much anticipated fight against two of the best fighters in the world today. Canelo, who has fought his career in the Jr. Middleweight division of 154 pounds, currently holds the WBC & Ring Magazine titles and looks to defend them at the minimum catch weight of 155 pounds. Amir Khan, the former Jr. Welterweight champion of the world, has never won a title at welterweight or even fought at Jr. Welterweight and is essentially jumping over two divisions to get his shot at Canelo and the lineal middleweight belts.
There is no real problem with this attempt. It shows great courage by Khan, taking on a much bigger man, relying on his boxing skills and superior speed to lead him to victory, but we were taken back when Khan compared this fight to one of the greatest rivalries and fights in the sports history. Khan compared the fight to that of Marvelous Marvin Hagler defending his Middleweight title against the great Sugar Ray Leonard.
“I know it can happen, because we’ve seen it happen in the past, when Sugar Ray Leonard took on Marvin Hagler. He was in a very similar position to me, where people were saying he was going to get beaten up, get knocked out and get hurt. He was going up two division and he went in there and beat Marvin Hagler.” -Amir Khan
Many problems arise when that statement is made. First it is the comparison that Amir Khan makes between himself and Sugar Ray Leonard. By that time in Leonard’s career he was already a Olympic Gold Medalist, multiple time World Welterweight champion and had beaten the likes of Hall of famers such as Wilfred Benitez (by KO), Roberto Duran (by TKO) and Thomas Hearns (in an epic TKO comeback). Ray Leonard was the best fighter on the planet. Khan has already shown that he has a suspect chin and his most recent win against Chris Algieri proved that he may not be at the elite status that he believes. Ray Leonard and Amir Khan are not the same type of animal. They may have been known for having fast hands, but that’s pretty much where the buck stops.
Also, to be fair, Canelo is no Marvin Hagler. Hagler is one of the greatest Middleweight champions of all-time, some say he is the best. Hagler defended his titles from 1979 until his split decision loss to Leonard in 1987. In between those years he went to war with some of the greatest as well, Duran, Hearns, and John Mugabi. Hagler was 33 when he fought Leonard, with 67 fights under his belt. Canelo will be 25 on May 7th.
Another enormous difference between the two fights is the animosity between the two opponents. Marvin Hagler loathed Ray Leonard. Hagler always felt he was the better fighter of the two and attempted to fight Leonard for years. Leonard had the pizazz and good looks that put him on the television shows, cover of cereal boxes and adored by the masses. Hagler was always bitter, and was easily made angry by Leonard. The greatest mind game that Leonard ever played on Hagler was in 1984, after Leonard beat Kevin Howard, he held a press conference in Baltimore, Maryland, and he insisted that Hagler and his team fly down for the announcement. Hagler was ecstatic, assuming that he would be announcing a fight between the two, only to arrive and have Leonard retire on the stage. Leonard had played the ultimate trick, something that infuriated Hagler, and when they met 3 years later, would help play right into the hands of Leonard. Hagler wanted nothing more than to batter the smaller fighter. Sugar Ray would use that to his advantage and make the bigger man chase him around for 12 rounds.
Canelo and Khan have no bad blood. Neither fighter is at all in the others head. Canelo doesn’t have to think about anything except his game plan. He knows that Khan is fast, but he has been in the ring with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Khan isn’t close to that kind of level. Canelo has flattened many tough fighters, who fight at the 154(5) lb. limit in every fight. What happens when this smaller fighter, Khan, gets hit on the chin by a true, young, middleweight champion? We’ve seen what smaller fighters like Breidis Prescott and Danny Garcia can do. I doubt those guys would have been able to do that to a guy like Sugar Ray Leonard.