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Sat May 7, 2016, 02:40 PM

Boxing: Canelo vs Khan

May 7 (HBO PPV)

Las Vegas: Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. Amir Khan; 12 rounds; for Canelo’s WBC middleweight title.

When I first read that Khan was moving up two weight classes to challenge Alvarez, I immediately thought it would be a low-risk title defense for Canelo. Not only is the young Mexican warrior among the most talented fighters in the sport today, but Khan’s career has stalled since he lost the junior welterweight crown to Danny Garcia in 2014. Like Khan, Alvarez has generally fought significantly smaller opposition -- he frequently enters the ring at 180 pounds, twenty above the middleweight “limit.” Tonight, he will likely outweigh Khan by up to twenty-five pounds.

Twice in his career, Amir Khan has lost by devastating knockout. He has what is known as a “glass jaw” in boxing. It’s not that he has shown the tendency to quit; rather, his legs turn to rubber when he gets clipped on the chin. Khan did dig deep, to pull out a decision over the tough, hard-hitting Marcos Maidana in 2010; however, he has only had one significant win since that fight, when he won a lopsided decision over Devon Alexander in 2014.

Despite his failure to earn a fight against boxing’s elite champions, Amir has believed that both Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao were obligated to give him a shot at their titles. This, of course, would have provided him with his biggest pay day -- in fact, more money than he has earned thus far in his career. But those fights could not have made for a good pay check for either Floyd or Manny. It’s hard to convince the public that a guy who has been flattened twice by moderate opposition, and who had not earned a title shot, would give them their money’s worth in a pay per view fight.

Just as he had not earned a title fight in either the welterweight or junior middleweight divisions, he really hasn’t made a case in the middleweight division. Yet, from name recognition alone, he “earned” the shot at Canelo. The middleweight champion was looking for a tune-up, in anticipation of a potential showdown with Gennady Golovkin in the fall.

Should Canelo win tonight, a fight against “GGG” would be the biggest in the sport. Golovkin, who owns the other middleweight “titles,” is eager for the bout to be made. The boxing community wants the fight to happen. But Canelo has yet to commit to it. And that is a good thing, at this time, because he needs to be focused on Khan for now.

As good as Canelo is -- and he is a potentially great champion -- he has flaws that Khan is hoping to exploit. He is an efficient counter-puncher, who throws powerful, accurate punches. He is considered a hard puncher, although he has actually only had one intense knockout victory in recent years -- when he destroyed an over-matched James Kirkland last May. Still, he has enough punching power to hurt Khan with either hand ….and, if he hurts Khan, he definitely has the ability to end the fight early.

This, of course, raises the question: why did Amir Khan challenge Canelo? Is it for one last pay-day, the biggest he can earn now? Or does he really believe that he has a better than 50-50 chance of pulling off a huge upset? Let’s look at it in the context of Khan’s best -- perhaps only -- chance.

Some “experts” are saying that Khan will attempt to use the blueprint from Floyd Mayweather’s one-sided victory over Canelo. This disqualifies them from being taken seriously. The very last thing Amir Khan will try to do is copy Floyd’s absolute dominance of ring geography. Amir lacks those gifts that made Floyd unique -- his reflexes, his uncanny grasp of distance, and also his rock-solid jaw.

Rather, Khan is looking at two of Canelo’s decision wins over tall, rangy boxers -- Austin Trout in 2013, and Erislandy Lara in 2014. The Trout bout was close, with Canelo earning the nod by way of a knockdown; the Lara bout was a disputed split-decision. Both Trout and Lara showed that Canelo has difficulty with good boxers who have foot movement.

Canelo is by nature a counter-puncher. He depends on catching his opponent moving into his power. He is not a particularly “fast” fighter in the ring -- with the exception of his hand-speed. But, although he is extraordinarily difficult to hit with hard punches to the head -- he has perfected the Mexican art of the “head-roll” -- and because he has shown that he can take a hard punch those few times he has been clipped, Canelo is not a great offensive fighter. Against Trout and Lara, he lacked the foot-speed and mobility required to “cut the ring off” against moving targets.

Khan will attempt to pile up points by keeping his jab in Canelo’s face. It might not land cleanly to score points in otherwise slow rounds. Thus, Khan wants a boring fight, in which he wins seven rounds. And, in theory, he has that ability.

The two problems he’ll face are that he needs to be able to sting Canelo, and get his respect with the occasional punches he puts together behind the jab, and closely related, his ability to remain disciplined. Khan is not “mentally tough” in the manner of a Mayweather or Pacquiao. Unlike those two, Amir has rarely shown the ability to be relaxed in a fight.

In fact, Khan is one of the most emotional fighters I’ve seen at the top levels of boxing. Just as being relaxed conserves energy, being anxious burns up enormous amounts of energy. This includes being anxious to inflict pain on the opponent, as well as fear of being on the receiving end of that same pain. Those who have followed Khan’s career know that he wears his anxiety on his face in the ring: his eyes are widely opened, and he appears uncoordinated while taking exaggerated strides around the ring. This results in poor balance, which greatly reduces both punching power, and the ability to take a punch.

Unlike both Trout and Lara, Khan is limited in what he can throw while moving. Even when he displays self-control, the only meaningful punch he can throw while on the move is his jab. Make no mistake, he has a very good jab, and can double or triple it up. And the jab is hugely important, for everything should come off the jab -- regardless of if that jab lands cleanly or not.

But to land the cross or hook, Khan has to stop and plant his hind foot. And virtually every time he has been hurt in the ring, including some victories as well as his loses, it is the result of his opponent’s timing him when he plants that foot. (This is why Canelo will be looking at Khan from the shoulders down in the ring, rather than attempting to look at his face.)

It is possible that Khan will fight at a higher, more disciplined fight than he ever has before, and win a close decision. But I do not think he has the mental strength to do so. While both fighters have had problems with endurance in the late rounds, a tired Canelo can destroy a tired Khan. Whereas Khan needs to be perfect for twelve rounds to win, Canelo doesn’t. Being so much bigger should allow him to wear Khan down, even in the rounds Khan wins. I expect that Canelo will win the fight by TKO in the later rounds.

Enjoy the fight!

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Arrow 12 replies Author Time Post
Reply Boxing: Canelo vs Khan (Original post)
H2O Man May 2016 OP
Kingofalldems May 2016 #1
H2O Man May 2016 #2
Kingofalldems May 2016 #3
H2O Man May 2016 #5
argyl May 2016 #4
H2O Man May 2016 #6
argyl May 2016 #7
H2O Man May 2016 #8
Sensitive soul May 2016 #9
H2O Man May 2016 #10
H2O Man May 2016 #11
Kingofalldems May 2016 #12

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sat May 7, 2016, 02:47 PM

1. Who in your opinion is the best middleweight today?

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Response to Kingofalldems (Reply #1)

Sat May 7, 2016, 02:49 PM

2. GGG

I think he is at a different level than the others. I sat ringside at his first bout in the US, and was hugely impressed.

What do you think?

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #2)

Sat May 7, 2016, 03:11 PM

3. I agree. Ingemar Johansen would describe his punch as 'Tunder.'

It looks like the opponent got hit with a sledgehammer.

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Response to Kingofalldems (Reply #3)

Sat May 7, 2016, 04:37 PM

5. Right.

Very good! Johansson's over-hand right was a thunderous punch. But GGG is far more skilled than the playboy-champion known to European gals as "Ingo-Bingo."

In two recent bouts, GGG has allowed his opponents to land some clean head shots, before disposing of them. But he is actually a surprisingly good defensive fighter, as well as an extraordinarily hard hitter. The only person who actually moved him was Curtis Stevens, and Curtis paid a big price for that.

I like Max Kellerman, and respect him as being a good boxing historian -- though he isn't a gifted live, ringside announcer, and often allows his employment to color his opinions. Perhaps the most insightful words that Max has uttered from ringside were when he compared GGG's style to that of the great Joe Louis. There are some real similarities in how their approaches, to get in position to unload extreme power.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #2)

Sat May 7, 2016, 03:46 PM

4. I agree about Golovkin. Does this guy have any chinks in his armor?

My favorite middleweight from years past is Marvelous Marvin Hagler. How do you suppose these two would have matched up?
I greatly respect your opinion in all things you weigh in on. Just curious on your thoughts about this matchup.

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Response to argyl (Reply #4)

Sat May 7, 2016, 04:44 PM

6. Good question.

At this point, I think that we haven't seen enough of GGG against top-level opposition to really say. Obviously, this is largely because the top guys refuse to fight him.

Hagler is, in my opinion, the greatest middleweight champion ever (with Carlos Monzon being a close second). He, too, was avoided by the top guys for a long time. After winning the title, he fought everyone in the division, and was an awesome fighter. He imposed his style on most people, and could adjust to any style that presented problems.

(Note: I am admittedly subjective, as Marvin was a good friend of my best friend, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. Hagler often visited Rubin in Canada, and made Thanksgiving a tradition there!)

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #6)

Sat May 7, 2016, 05:06 PM

7. In total agreement with all your observations.

Hope we won't have to wait three or four years for a Golovkin / Canelo match to take place.

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Response to argyl (Reply #7)

Sat May 7, 2016, 06:20 PM

8. Right.

They sparred once, years ago. Golovkin rattled Canelo with a vicious hook. Luckily, the round was almost over. I'll give Canelo credit, he continued sparring for a couple more rounds ....though from what I've heard, GGG lightened up on him.

The fact that Canelo is insisting on a "catch weight" indicates that he is not in a hurry to fight Golovkin. Heck, he is a naturally much larger man. But, then again, he had 20 pounds on Floyd the night they fought, and it didn't help him at all.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sat May 7, 2016, 07:43 PM

9. I hope

You enjoy the fight tonight my friend.

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Response to Sensitive soul (Reply #9)

Sat May 7, 2016, 10:46 PM

10. I won't be

watching it. It's a PPV. But I hope to read about it in an hour, if I wake up again. If not, tomorrow morning.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Sat May 7, 2016, 11:49 PM

11. Canelo in 6

Khan threw a jab, and brought his hand back low; Canelo crossed his right; Khan was out cold for an extended period. It sounds like a trip to the ER is warranted.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #11)

Sun May 8, 2016, 10:03 PM

12. Khan went out and partied after the fight.

Hard to believe but he did.

Who is next for Canelo and is he part Irish somewhere in his heritage?

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