The sleeping giant: Canelo finishes Khan in six
It was the first flush right hand on the chin of Amir Khan that put him to sleep in the sixth round and, by landing the one-punch knockout, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez successfully defended his WBC middleweight title for the first time on Saturday night. The fight was the main event of an HBO Pay-Per-View telecast under the Golden Boy Promotions banner.
Alvarez, Jalisco, Mexico, knelt on the canvas where Khan laid dormant, conscious of the brutality he just imposed and forgoing any over-the-top celebration before knowing Khan would be OK. The aftermath came by way of a counter right hand from Alvarez, who put every ounce of his weight into the power shot and timed Khan perfectly as he was in the act of punching. The connection immediately rendered Khan asleep and with no one behind the wheel of the left hand he threw, his arms flailed before he rapidly fell backward. Making matters worse, the back of his head bounced off the canvas hard and not even that could wake him up.
Khan, Bolton, Lancashire, United Kingdom, was thankfully alright but paid a tough price for the fits he gave Canelo early in the fight. The 29-year old’s hand speed was apparent in the opening round and, 30 seconds into the fight, snapped Canelo’s head back with a quick, one-two combination. Khan’s movement prolonged Alvarez’s ability to find his distance and shed light on his inability to cut off the ring. It wasn’t until the third round when Canelo began to gauge his jab and get himself into the fight and, by the fourth, the whipping hooks to Khan’s body began to slow him down.
There was a smirk on Khan’s face whenever he was hit with a clean shot to the ribs but he was still wary enough to get out of the way before Alvarez could follow it up with more punches. Perhaps it was a sign of confidence by Khan that he could handle the pressure to the midsection and, barring any mishaps, he may have had a chance to keep things close into the later rounds. Canelo’s body shots came around more often in the fifth round, however, and they slowly drew Khan’s head within range of Canelo’s fists. In that round, a left hook opened a cut below Khan’s right eye serving as such an indication. Still, Khan was sticking to his game plan but the savvy feints and head movement from Canelo in the middle rounds had Amir’s quick combinations coming up with nothing but air. Having stayed composed through Khan’s early storm, Canelo stuck to his game plan in the sixth and his patience paid off with a masterful one-punch knockout with 23 seconds left in the round.
Referee Kenny Bayless didn’t even bother with a 10-count as Khan laid there lifelessly, staring at the rafters of the brand new T-Mobile Arena, and serving as the christening to Las Vegas’ new home for big fights. The reaction from the 16,540 in attendance made the moment all that more intense but there was more left to absorb in the end credits.
“I invited him to the ring and, like we say in Mexico, we don’t fuck around. I fear no one in this sport,” was the translation given from Alvarez after the fight. He was referring to the unified IBF and WBA middleweight titleholder, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, who took Canelo up on his invite during the post-fight interview with HBO’s Max Kellerman. When asked if he will fight Golovkin later this year, Canelo replied, “As I said in the last fight, right now, I’ll put on the gloves again.” These were the closing statements from Alvarez, 47-1-1 (33), before a final “Viva Mexico!” that spurred the crowd but even Khan stayed on the subject in his interview.
“I’m one of them fighters. I’ll step in the ring with whoever and I think it’s time now, where Canelo needs to step in with GGG because everyone has been waiting for that fight,” said Khan in response to the first question asked. He continued, “I showed my balls by getting in the ring and getting in the ring with a big guy. But look, this is boxing. I wanted to go out there as a champion and unfortunately I didn’t make it to the end.” Khan, 31-4 (19), later conceded to the suggestion from Kellerman of moving back down to the welterweight class after trying to win a middleweight title.
While Canelo-Khan was fought at a catchweight of 155 pounds, the WBC middleweight title hasn’t been fought for at the division’s 160 pound limit in over three-and-half years. The belt also holds a lineal championship distinction and it’s been fought at a catchweight since Miguel Cotto dethroned Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez. Alvarez has since carried on the new weight tradition of the WBC title, a belt that has eluded Golovkin since Maravilla’s reign, and Golovkin has been paid to postpone his mandatory status for more than a year. With Golovkin now the mandatory challenger for the belt – again – Alvarez must come up with an agreement to fight or vacate the title in the coming weeks.
Standing next to his trainer Abel Sanchez, Golovkin gleefully smiled in the ring for the post-fight segment’s entirety. In one moment of the HBO PPV telecast, Golovkin could even be seen rubbing his hands together, as he was shown looking up at the big screen during Canelo’s interview. It’s a fight he has been waiting a long time for in his quest to unify all the belts of the division and become an undisputed champion. The hand gesture was one of pure anticipation as Canelo spoke and, given the Mexican’s motive, he opined, the fight Golovkin has been looking for seems to be on the horizon. Not only is it one step closer to his goal but if he must face Alvarez, then “GGG” will have the opportunity to really prove his worth, not to mention take part in the biggest fight the sport can possibly make.
The undercard of the pay-per-view event was conceived to be an entertaining one but fell way short of that mark.
David Lemieux looked impressive against Glen Tapia by forcing the latter’s corner to stop the fight in the fourth round of a middleweight bout. Then again, the way Tapia performed, there were many middleweights who would’ve looked good opposite him. Lemieux, 35-3 (32), was quick to land his power shots against the New Jersey native and looked fast when compared to the lethargic punches thrown by the “Jersey Boy.” It became a beating by the end of the second round, up until a left/right combination that sent Tapia to the canvas in the fourth. He got up in time but while referee Russell Mora was about to let him continue, Tapia’s cornerman stood on the mat and got his attention. After a history of his corner keeping him in too long, Tapia, 23-3 (15), was saved from another beating but has yet to be freed from the subliminal ramifications of a crushing 2013 loss to James Kirkland.
In a 146-pound catchweight crossroads bout, Frankie Gomez shut out Mauricio Herrera with an easy unanimous decision victory (100-90 across the board). While it was perceived that Herrera would be a tricky test for the young Gomez, it was quite the contrary. Gomez, 24, switched to the southpaw stance constantly throughout the 10-round fight and, no matter what stance he was in, his left hand constantly found Herrera’s face. As early as the second round, Herrera, 35, was already cut beneath his right eye from the early onslaught. Gomez, 21-0 (13), controlled every aspect of the fight and had Herrera fighting with his back against the ropes for a majority of it. Herrera, 22-6 (7), looked defeated by the eighth round but fought until the final bell of a frustrating outing. Gomez’s dominance was as unexpected as it was impressive but it ultimately fell short of the competitive delight many thought it promised.
The opening fight of the HBO telecast featured a quick knockout of Patrick Teixeira by middleweight contender Curtis Stevens. It too was another one thought to be close but the new face melted under the bright lights. Teixeira, 26-1 (22), nervously tried to establish a jab against his shorter opponent and looked as premature in the ring as his peach fuzz mustache. Within the first three minutes, Stevens was punishing the soft body of the 25-year-old and had him running for cover. In the second round, Teixeira landed a left hand that hit Stevens in the face but, in the same instant, the Brooklyn, New York, native landed a right hand of his own. It took Teixeira’s legs away and he fell to the canvas. After getting up during the count, he was wobbly and referee Tony Weeks decided to end it then and there. Stevens, 28-5 (21), looked good in his first fight with John David Jackson in his corner but, just like Lemieux, had a punching bag in front of him. Maybe that’s a sign they should face each other.
Irony was the undertone after Canelo-Khan finished. The main event was considered by many to be a complete mismatch of fighters in different weight classes and, while it ended up being that way, Khan was the only loser to win a round in arguably the most competitive fight of the night. His ghastly knockout was certainly the highlight of the event but it was the topic at the end of the night that resonated in boxing fan’s minds as they try and forecast what’s in store for them next.