After years of speculation about a scrap with Floyd Mayweather Jr or Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan ultimately picking Saul Alvarez as the pound-for-pound sensation that he would go toe-to-toe with in his first true megafight caught everyone off guard.
However, while the Mexican might not quite be the global box-office draw of the two men who contested the “Fight of the Century” a year ago, claiming the career-defining victory that he requires will be every bit as difficult for the Brit, hence his odds of 333/100 to his opponent’s 1/4.
The deck could scarcely be stacked more against the Boltonian if he was forced to compete in handcuffs: he is jumping two weight classes to face someone who has fought 48 times by the age of 25 and lost just once, a defeat carrying the caveat that it came against the mighty Mayweather.
Oh, and Alvarez can count on an even more partisan Las Vegas crowd than he usually enjoys the support of having pencilled the showdown in for Cinco de Mayo weekend.
Most boxing pundits and fans think that Khan is crazy to have taken this bout. Indeed, the 29-year-old admitted that his own coach Virgil Hunter initially warned him to “stay away from this guy”, while his adversary also expressed shock: “It was a little bit surprising for me that he accepted the fight.”
With the odds, statistics, weight class and environment all against the man known as King, you would assume that he has to secure some kind of psychological edge before fists are thrown on May 7 to have a hope, but our exhaustive graphical tale of the tape indicates this won’t be forthcoming:
As the graphic shows, Canelo is vastly superior when it comes to holding a gaze during the traditional staredown at the weigh-in, and he is more skilled at dragging out an entrance too, potentially removing two of the tools with which Khan could have attempted to level the playing field.
What are the positives for the outsider then? As the figures above detail, he has a slight reach advantage and has won his latest three skirmishes with boxers from Latin American nations, throwing over 600 punches in the two this decade against Marcos Maidana and Julio Cruz.
Additionally, Khan is on the longest stateside winning streak of his career with four successes in a row against Carlos Molina, Luis Collazo, Devon Alexander and Chris Algieri. He only got as far as three prior to the twin losses at the gloves of Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia.
The 2004 Olympic silver medallist has also recovered from being punked out at the weigh-in to triumph on countless occasions in the past, prevailing in seven of his last nine fights which followed staredowns in which he looked away first, including five in succession most recently.
- Amir Khan "lost" his previous staredown but won the fight against Chris Algieri
In terms of actual strategy, the reason he opted to sign up for this opportunity – besides the obvious one that Alvarez was the most high-profile boxer on the planet willing to trade punches with him – was that he found a weakness in the Mexican when studying tape that he is confident of exploiting.
Khan pointed not just to the 2013 defeat against Mayweather but his least convincing win since against the largely unfancied Cuban Erislandy Lara by split decision in July 2014 as evidence that Alvarez has a problem against pace: “I think Canelo has a lot of problems against guys that move well, and who got decent speed.”
It would be easy to dismiss his comments as the sort of optimistic rhetoric that any underdog spews to talk up their chances and sell tickets before a big fight. What renders this more compelling though is that he has made a believer of a former critic in Carl Froch, while even Canelo’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya has suggested that there is legitimacy to the Brit’s theory.
The Golden Boy said: This is a classic clash of styles: Canelo’s power versus Khan’s speed. And Amir remembers that little Manny Pacquiao beat big ol’ me and Sugar Ray Leonard moved up to beat Marvin Hagler. In truth, speed usually does beat power.”
- Highlights of Manny Pacquiao beating big ol' Oscar De La Hoya
Again, you could interpret this as De La Hoya doing his best to hype the competitiveness of the bout to maximise the payday, yet his insistence on writing a rematch clause into the contract implies that he genuinely does judge Khan to be a serious threat to the WBC world middleweight champion.
The 333/100 shot is insistent that the weight climb isn’t the hurdle that many perceive either. How’s this for a rallying cry? “I felt really strong, too big for my weight class, and I’ve been killing myself trying to come down in weight. Maybe it turns out that Amir Khan is meant to be a middleweight.”
Do you agree that this is his destiny? The odds are pretty tasty if so.