Boxing history boasts many examples of good little men fighting good big men, and the little guys have achieved their share of wins. Amir Khan, who three fights ago was campaigning at 140, can take heart in a fight that took place six-and-a-half years ago when Manny Pacquiao, who two fights earlier fought at 129, jumped to a catch-weight of 145 to fight the massively favored Oscar de la Hoya. To the shock of most, the faster and fresher Pacquiao fought the perfect fight and battered the weight-drained "Golden Boy" into retirement. Now, at a catch-weight of 155, Khan faces WBC middleweight king Saul Alvarez, who surely will scale near 170 in the ring. Will Canelo bludgeon Khan or will the Englishman wake up the echoes of "The Pac Man" and pull off a gigantic upset?
Canelo vs. Boxers: Alvarez shined against full-out aggressors Alfredo Angulo (58% overall, 48% jabs, 64% power to Angulo's 14%-7% and 21% respectively, connect gaps of 295-104 overall, 98-26 jabs and 197-78 power) and James Kirkland (58%-21% overall, 44%-5% jabs and 60%-23% power, leads of 87-42 overall, 8-1 jabs and 79-41 power). In the third round alone against Kirkland, Alvarez landed 71% overall and 80% power. But it's a different story when Alvarez faced scientific boxers Erislandy Lara, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Austin Trout. While he averaged 51 punches per round against Angulo and Kirkland, he threw just 38.1 against the troublesome trio while they threw 46.1 against him. They also landed more accurately overall (30%-25%) and in jabs (25%-12%), landed 7.0 jabs per round to Alvarez's 2.3 and out-landed him by more than four punches per round (13.7 vs. 9.4). Conversely, he more than doubled the per-round connection rate of sluggers Angulo and Kirkland (29.4 vs. 11.2). Miguel Cotto also boxed for long stretches against Alvarez and the 25-year-old Mexican, who has below-average foot speed, had trouble cutting the ring off on his 35-year-old opponent. Here, however, Alvarez was better on defense (21% overall, 14% jabs, 30% power) and landed accurately enough (32% overall, 20% jabs, 40% power) to achieve connect leads of 155-129 overall and 118-75 power, offsetting Cotto's 54-37 jab connect lead. Still, he averaged just 40.3 punches per round to Cotto's 52.4, meaning he can be out-hustled. In fact, in his last 7 fights Canelo averaged 42.2 punches per round- 8th fewest among active champ. caliber fighters. He landed 47.5% of his power shots, #6, while opponents landed just 26.5% of their power punches (#5). middlweight avg.: 37.2%.
Khan at 147: Statistically speaking the jump to welterweight has worked well for Khan. In his three 147-pound bouts against Luis Collazo, Devon Alexander and Chris Algieri he was more active (51.8 per round to 46.5), more precise (39%-26% overall, 27%-15% jabs, 50%-33% power), jabbed excellently (25.2 thrown/6.9 connects per round vs. 19/2.9 for the opponents), nearly doubled their connect rate (20.1 vs. 11.9 per round) and managed to stay off the canvas, mostly because none of the foes were light punchers at the weight. In his last 11 fights, Khan landed 7.9 jabs per round-#3 among active champ. caliber fighters. Still, Algieri buzzed Khan in rounds one, two and four and Collazo, through dominated, produced a few threatening moments. If these non-punchers can shake Khan, what will the much larger (and more skillful) Canelo do?
Prediction: To win, Khan needs to execute the perfect fight from first bell to last, which is to exploit Canelo's slow feet with mobility and in-and-out flurries while ignoring the boos. But while Khan has the tools of a superb boxer, his warrior's temperament won't allow him to stick to business. That's when Canelo's massive size, strength and power will surface. He only needs to be perfect once and once he hurts Khan he will finish Khan. Canelo by come-from-behind TKO.