GOLDEN Boy Promotions head honcho Oscar De La Hoya called it a casting coup of sorts when he announced that WBC (World Boxing Council) middleweight champion Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez of Mexico has come to terms for a title defense against British star Amir Khan on May 7, in Las Vegas.
On paper, it does sound like a match made in heaven, until one takes a microscopic look at the pairing. You see, De La Hoya's announcement came with a lot of strings attached to it. First came the disclosure that the 12-round fight will be held at the contracted weight limit of 155 pounds, despite the fact that the maximum weight limit for the middleweight division is fixed at 160 pounds. Alvarez moved up to the middleweight division last year but has never weighed more than 155 pounds. By putting a weight cap for his fights, Alvarez has been roundly criticized for parading himself as middleweight champion but refusing to take on legitimate 160-pounders.
Shortly after he defeated Miguel Cotto for the WBC middleweight strap, Alvarez proclaimed that he was more than ready to take on WBA (World Boxing Association) and IBF (International Boxing Federation) counterpart Gennady Golovkin. But when Golovkin insisted that the fight can only happen at 160 pounds, Alvarez grew inexplicably silent and before we know it, Khan cropped up in the radar.
Which brings us to the second glaring defect in the upcoming 'mega' match: Khan has never fought as a middleweight and has not even looked good in his new weight class, the welterweight (147 pounds) division. That Khan is getting a shot at the middleweight crown despite not having fought at all in the weight class is an insult to the contenders in the division who have been elbowing each other out to secure the No.1 ranking and position as mandatory challenger. Khan was even a half-pound short of 147 pounds when he was last spotted in the ring (May 2015) hammering out a ho-hum decision win over Chris Algieri. Khan, 31-3, 19 knockouts, fought only once last year and has been relatively inactive because he was trying to pursue a lucrative match with Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. When Mayweather retired and Pacquiao picked Timothy Bradley for his next fight, Khan became available to the highest bidder.
The choice of Khan as Alvarez's next foe is actually a relief to some, considering that Alvarez's handlers reportedly thought of tapping the services of human punching bag Gabriel Rosado. It did not take long, however, for the truth to sink in: that Khan is also being set up as a punching bag for Alvarez. Former middleweight champ Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. did not mince any word in labeling the fight an "embarrassment."
"The Canelo fight, with all due respect, is an embarrassment to the middleweight (division)," mused Chavez Jr. "It dishonors boxing. It should not be permitted."
Of course, considering the huge amount of money the Alvarez-Khan fight will bring, expect the WBC to sanction the fight in a wink of an eye. After all, this was the same boxing organization that allowed Sugar Ray Leonard to fight Donny Lalonde in 1988 for the WBC light heavyweight title (175 pounds) at the contracted weight of around 168 pounds.
Heck, De La Hoya is no stranger when it comes to selling catch weight fights as the real thing. In 2004, De La Hoya challenged then world middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins, albeit at the contracted weight of 158 pounds and not the regular 160 pounds. Hopkins couldn't pass up on the juicy $10 million offer and agreed to trim down to 156 pounds. Just the same, Hopkins proved too strong for the smaller De La Hoya. One wicked body punch in the ninth round was all Hopkins needed to flatten the 'Golden Boy.'
This early, Alvarez is the favorite to annihilate Khan. The Briton Khan offers sizzling handspeed, but the extra weight is likely to take its toll on him. Khan is also vulnerable to pressure fighters (just check out the fight with slugger Marcos Maidana) and his fragile chin is likely to betray him again once the bulky Alvarez crowds him on the inside and bombards him with vicious shots to the head and body.
If Alvarez wants to be taken seriously as middleweight champion, he will have to take on monster-hitter Golovkin (34-0, 31 knockouts) and scale the 160-pound plateau. Golovkin is scheduled to defend his crowns on April 23 against mandatory challenger Dominic Wade and a victory will boost hopes for a unification showdown with Alvarez. Alvarez's days of being choosy are numbered. As the popular adage in boxing goes, 'you can run, but you can't hide.'