Talk about a surprise, right?
From straight out of left field, Canelo Alvarez will defend his middleweight championship against welterweight Amir Khan on May 7 in Las Vegas (HBO pay-per-view) at a catchweight of 155 pounds.
In this day of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, rare is the big fight that literally arrives without a whisper of rumor to precede it. This one, in particular, simply wasn’t on the radar -- not just because of the obvious weight difference, but more importantly the perceived business hurdles.
But social media has been swirling with excitement ever since the announcement parachuted onto the timelines of fans and experts alike. And with good reason because, let’s face it, the fight is fun.
Khan, who has stubbornly put his career on hold for more than two years while chasing elusive showdowns against Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, finally found his dance partner for the grand stage.
For a fighter who has never lacked confidence in both his ability and his market value -- despite the harsh reality of his own in-ring vulnerabilities -- Khan’s decision to match himself against a puncher as dangerous as Alvarez trends closer to reckless than it does bold. Yet it’s that dare-to-be-great mentality, in the face of present danger, that fans clamor for.
This fight also fills a high-profile void over the first half of 2016 that has, up to this point, failed to create much buzz. With a pair of marquee names featuring two distinct fighting styles -- with Khan as the quick boxer and Canelo the heavy counterpuncher -- it also has enough bells and whistles to offset the very possible outcome of Alvarez winning by devastating knockout.
Boxing will always be a sport, first and foremost, but it’s a sport that survives on entertainment value. And sometimes fun (yes, even predictable fun) isn’t a bad thing.
It’s a sport that constantly under-delivers to its most loyal consumers, with greed and disorganization commonly preventing the best fights from being made. So within that vacuum, Canelo-Khan is an oasis in the desert.
Yes, should it play out to its lowest possible expectations, this fight will reveal itself as a glossy tuneup for Canelo on the road toward a possible fall superfight with fellow middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin. But ask yourself this: Would you have preferred he instead defend his title in decent but far from PPV-worthy bouts against Willie Monroe Jr. or Gabriel Rosado?
Alvarez has the luxury of being able to stand on a platform of goodwill built up from routinely taking on difficult challenges he didn’t have to, not dissimilar to what Khan is doing against him. Not only is Alvarez on a collision course with Golovkin, he has yet to publicly show any serious signs he might avoid him.
Yes, in a perfect world, Alvarez would be fighting Golovkin on May 7, or at the very least taking similar unification bouts against titlists Billy Joe Saunders or Daniel Jacobs. But boxing doesn’t operate in a planet anywhere near a perfect world, and sadly true contentment as a fan can be judged only in comparison with expectations.
Sometimes you just have to sit back and enjoy what is available to you. With its unexpected arrival due to Khan’s affiliation with advisor Al Haymon, Canelo-Khan tastes a little bit like a forbidden fruit.
And in boxing, where sins are aplenty, taking a bite might not be the worst thing.