In the end, middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (47-1-1, 33 knockouts) needed just one punch to stop challenger Amir Khan (31-4, 19 knockouts) on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
After surrendering most of the first five rounds, Alvarez smashed Khan with a counter-right hand in the sixth round that rendered Khan senseless before his body collapsed into a heap. It was a sensational conclusion to an otherwise lackluster performance by the 25-year-old champion.
Khan looked seriously hurt at first as he lie flat on the canvas, but he recovered in time to credit his conqueror in the post-fight interview.
“I didn’t make it to the end, but I tried my best,” Khan said. “I want to be the best, and I want to fight the best. That is why I took this fight.
The champion from Guadalajara, Mexico started slowly against Khan, despite being a prohibitive favorite. The challenger from Bolton, England troubled his foe early with blinding hand-speed while using his feet to stay well away from the larger-but-plodding champion.
Khan was always the faster and more skilled fighter of the two, as evidenced by his Olympic silver medal and his deft use of one-two combinations for the first four rounds. But he was also the smaller man, and known for having a weak chin. Khan caught Alvarez repeatedly in the face with clean combinations, but Alvarez seemed unfazed by the blows.
Alvarez finally responded in the fifth round, punishing Khan to the body with the right hand. Alvarez spent most of the early rounds swinging wildly with his left hook, a punch that has leveled Khan before. But in the fifth round the champion finally settled down and forced Khan to stay put with his jab and right hand.
Khan’s bad habits returned in the sixth round, as he dropped his hands and lingered too long in range of his opponent. Alvarez made him pay, finding home with a frightening right hand to the face that immediately put the outcome beyond doubt.
All talk leading up to this fight was whether Alvarez’s next title defense would be against top-rated contender Gennady Golovkin of Kazakhstan. Alvarez invited Golovkin into the ring after the fight, and made it clear through a translator that he is more than game for the fight, now the most anticipated in the sport.
But this is boxing, so it would be naive to expect that fight to happen this year. Alvarez has already proven himself to be the most bankable young star in boxing, and he isn’t lacking for opponents. So Golovkin must wait, while Alvarez keeps making the routine look sublime.