May 7, 2016
Canelo Alvarez unleashed the punch most who packed the arena expected to see Saturday, then delivered an unexpected bonus by making his boldest stance yet toward middleweight champion rival Gennady Golovkin.
In his first World Boxing Council middleweight title defense, Alvarez found himself struggling to deal with faster Amir Khan’s boxing through most of five rounds.
“He’s a fast fighter and I knew things would be competitive in the beginning, but I knew they would come to my favor as the fight went on,” Alvarez said in the ring afterward as a Cinco de Mayo weekend crowd of 16,540 at T-Mobile Arena roared. “I like to surprise everyone.”
That stunner was Alvarez’s hellacious punch in the sixth round that crushed Khan on the left side of the jaw, knocking the British fighter briefly unconscious and crashing to the canvas, landing first on the back of his head, his arms prone to each side in a knockout loss recorded 2 minutes 37 seconds into the sixth.
Khan was taken to a hospital after being counted out by referee Kenny Bayless and texted Alvarez’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya, “I’m OK. That’s boxing for you. Congratulations, Canelo.”
Alvarez (47-1-1, 33 knockouts) quickly spotted Golovkin in a ringside seat after the knockout, directing him up to the ring, speaking and posturing as if he’s willing to participate in a fight between the two this year.
An angry-looking Alvarez said, “Like we say in Mexico, we don’t [mess] around. I don’t fear anyone. We don’t come to play in this sport. Right now, I will put on the gloves again. Viva Mexico.”
Golovkin (35-0, 32 KOs) has a WBC mandate in place as the mandatory challenger for Alvarez to negotiate for a fight this month or have his belt stripped and given to Golovkin, who already holds the division’s World Boxing Assn. and International Boxing Federation belts.
“It wasn’t emotions. It was Canelo believing in himself,” De La Hoya said of his fighter’s comments after the bout. “Golovkin, make sure you answer your phone tomorrow.”
De La Hoya indicated he’d like to make Golovkin fight Alvarez in a unification bout at somewhere like the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Dallas at a weight lower than 160 pounds.
“I hope we can make an agreement,” De La Hoya said. “That’s the fight you guys want, correct?”
Before he took note of Golovkin, Alvarez had his hands full with Khan. Khan smacked a quick right to Alvarez’s face in the first round and was giving Alvarez a fit, seeming to outbox the slugger through most of the first four rounds.
“Someone that comes in to box gives you more trouble,” Alvarez said.
But Alvarez started finding Khan to the body and head with his patented power punches in the fifth, and then he set up for the kill in the sixth, leaving Khan (31-4) out for a few seconds before revival.
“Someone that comes right in is a little easier to fight,” Alvarez said. De La Hoya predicted Alvarez’s punch could stand as knockout of the year.
Judges Glenn Feldman (48-47) and Glenn Trowbridge (49-46) surprisingly each had Alvarez ahead on their scorecards when the bout ended, but judge Adalaide Byrd had it 48-47 for Khan.
“I’m not afraid to step in the ring with whoever,” said Khan, a former 140-pound champion who fought Alvarez at a 155-pound catchweight. “Getting in the ring with a big guy, unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the end.”
Khan said he’ll probably return to welterweight, where he’s the top WBC contender to unbeaten champion Danny Garcia, but he and trainer Virgil Hunter parted with a shot at Alvarez for previously hesitating about accepting a Golovkin fight.
“It’s time for him to stop hiding,” Hunter said of Alvarez. “Amir set the tone. [Alvarez has] got to stop hiding behind the flag and fight the fight that we all want to see.”
Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter: @latimespugmire