Two weekends ago, on May 7, 2016, Canelo Alvarez knocked Amir Khan into another dimension in the main event of what turned out to be a pretty entertaining pay-per-view card. Khan, who jumped up two weight classes—really one and a half given that Canelo operates in his own Canelo-created 155-pound catch weight class somewhere between junior middleweight and middleweight—boxed admirably and, dare I say, intelligently for five plus rounds before a packed house of mostly pro-Canelo fans celebrating the Cinco de Mayo holiday weekend at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Khan utilized his far superior hand speed to throw combinations from distance while keeping the plodding, cement-footed Canelo off-balance. I had Khan winning three rounds to two entering the sixth.
But, as so often is the case with Khan, hubris reared its ugly head and, like Ulysses giving the ancient Greek equivalent of a mooning to the Cyclops as he sailed away from their island in The Odyssey, Khan beat his chest and began swapping bombs with Canelo mid-way through the sixth. Bad idea jeans. Canelo’s chin is unbreakable, whereas Khan’s is slightly less durable than a delicate tea set used by two old British ladies as they sip their afternoon Earl Greys. Khan’s night came to an end courtesy of a brutal overhand right at 2 minutes and 37 seconds of the sixth round. While Khan was swinging with a left hook, Canelo unloaded his right hand, which landed flush on Khan’s chin. Khan was out cold as he fell backwards; his eyes rolled back in their sockets. His head bounced off the canvas with an audible thud as he landed. The knock out was sickening—even by boxing standards. As fight fans, we so often crave violence, carnage, and destruction in the ring, but don’t quite know what to do when it actually comes to pass. It was silent in this writer’s living room.
Referee Kenny Bayless didn’t bother to count, immediately waving the fight off and motioning for the ringside medical personnel who swarmed Khan right away. Canelo, for his part, was a class act and quickly ran over to where Khan was laying motionless, and dropped to his knees to check on his vanquished opponent. After a few minutes, Khan rose to his feet with assistance. There was a palpable exhale from the crowd in attendance. I went back to drinking my Corona.
Immediately, the attention turned from what we had just seen to what we all hope we will get to see in September—a unification bout between once-beaten Canelo and undefeated Gennady Golovkin. In fact, GGG was sitting ringside for the fight and, at Canelo’s insistence, entered the ring to listen to the post-fight interviews. Canelo was interviewed first and, through his interpreter (come on Canelo, it’s been years since you’ve been fighting in the States, learn some English already! At least Golovkin tries), boasted: “Like I said, in Mexico, we don’t fuck around. We don’t come to play in this sport. I fear no one in this sport. I’ll fight him [Golovkin] right now. Let’s put the gloves on and get in there with him.” Khan, channeling the bullied little kid inside him, stated, “I’m one of the fighters to step in the ring with whoever. I was getting in the ring with a big guy, unfortunately, and I didn’t make it to the end. But I tried my best. I want to be the best, and I want to fight the best. That is why I took this fight. I think it’s time that Canelo steps in the ring with Triple G.” Roars erupted from the crowd. Khan’s trainer, Virgil Hunter, stoked the fire: “He’s [Canelo] got to quit hiding behind the flag and fight Triple G. Amir set the tone. He’s got to stop hiding behind the flag and fight the fight that we all want to see.”
Bluster and theatrics aside, will we get the fight we want—Canelo versus Golovkin on September 17 to celebrate Mexican Independence Day? At first, the answer seemed to be yes. The WBC ordered Canelo and Golovkin to begin negotiating that fight immediately and, if terms had not been agreed to within two weeks, the fight would go to a purse bid (an auction in which promotional rights to the fight would go to the highest bidder). It was surreal. Had the WBC—notorious for bending its own rules and rankings for Canelo so as to allow him to keep his belt (and continue to pay the WBC sanctioning fee) and cherry-pick his opponents—actually demanded that the mega fight be made? Indeed it had. All of the years clicking my ruby red slippers together were finally paying off—there’s no fight like this, there’s no fight like this . . . I immediately booked rooms in Vegas and Dallas for September 17th weekend.
But, of course, making this fight would never be easy nor go as smoothly as it should. This is, after all, professional boxing. The first sign of trouble has appeared. Last Wednesday, just a few days before the WBC’s deadline, Canelo relinquished his belt, conjuring up images of Riddick Bowe dropping his heavyweight version of the WBC trinket into the trash in 1992 in order to avoid a mandatory fight with challenger Lennox Lewis. Canelo claims that he gave up his title so that his team could continue negotiating with Golovkin’s without the shadow of the WBC monolith looming over them. I don’t think so. Without the WBC belt or a purse bid, Canelo is not confined to fighting Golovkin at the full middleweight max of 160 pounds nor is he required to split the proceeds from the purse with GGG 55/45. What will happen is that Canelo will demand that Golovkin fight him at 155 pounds and take a much lower split of the purse as the “B side” to the card—probably something closer to twenty or thirty percent. I hope I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t bet on it (nor would I bet on Canelo to be standing by the final bell if the fight does get made). I suspect that Canelo, instead, will wind up making a fight with David Lemieux, who stopped Glen Tapia on the undercard of the May 7th event. Don’t get me wrong, Lemieux is no slouch. But he was knocked out by Golovkin in the eighth round last October in a non-competitive fight. No one wants Canelo versus Lemieux, except maybe Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes both fighters. We shall see.
The Speed Bag
A couple of thoughts and quick hits from around the boxing world . . .
- The StubHub Center in Carson, California continued to cement its legacy as the place to be for all-action cards as it hosted the Victor Ortiz versus Andre Berto rematch of their 2011 Ring Magazine Fight of the Year, which saw each fighter down twice with both splitting knockdowns in Round Six on the way to an Ortiz twelve-round decision. The 2016 version featured both fighters well past their primes but no less entertaining. Near the end of the second round, Ortiz, landed a jab-push type punch that floored Berto. Berto, however, returned the favor at the beginning of Round Four with a right bolo punch of real substance, landing Ortiz on the seat of his trunks with a glassy look across his eyes. (Kid Gavilan surely was smiling down seeing his prime weapon from the 1940s and 1950s deployed with such power and accuracy today.) Berto pounced on a wobbly-legged Ortiz, knocking him down again about 45 seconds later and, while Ortiz barely beat the count, he failed to respond when asked if he could continue and the referee stopped the fight. Both fighters have been in some hellacious fights over the past three or four years. Ortiz should call it a day and salvage his health; Berto should follow closely behind. Sadly, neither will. It’s tough to walk away from the bright lights.
- While the main event was wild, lest we forget about the televised undercard of the Ortiz/Berto II card. Light heavyweight contender, Edwin “La Bomba” Williams, slugged it out with little-known Thomas Williams, Jr. in a fight cut right out of the Rocky franchise cloth—no jabs, just power punches. The fight lasted less than two rounds but featured great back-and-forth action with Williams, seemingly out on his feet early in the second round, rallying to stop Rodriguez with a vicious right-left combo a few seconds before the bell. The opening fight of the telecast saw ancient and long-faded featherweight veteran Fernando Montiel get dropped four times and knocked out in the first round by prospect Jorge Lara.
- Speaking of savage endings, if you didn’t catch the Murat “Iron” Gassiev versus Jordan Shimmel fight last Tuesday night, you missed a leading knockout of the year candidate. Enjoy the carnage.