Not even the desert rain gods could protect Amir Khan from the force of nature called Canelo Alvarez.
It is a superstition in these arid parts that whenever it buckets down — as unusually it did for two days this weekend — it changes everyone’s luck for the better.
Perhaps that only applies to the gaming halls. Or maybe it’s just that the Mexican redhead has no need of luck. Not when he was born with a punch like a mule kick.
Then again, this city is not usually kind to gamblers who take the enormous kind of risk which Khan did at the T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night. But not many of the heavy losers wind up prostrate on the floor, barely conscious, in urgent need of medical assistance and then in hospital.
That was Khan’s reward for having the nerve to reach up more than one division to challenge the middleweight champion of the world.
The ambition was laudable. The heart was willing and the chin cannot fairly be called weak. Not when the punch which rendered him inert landed with the velocity and explosive power of an Exocet missile.
Oscar De La Hoya — Golden Boy promoter of Alvarez — said: ‘Khan lost nothing tonight. He boxed brilliantly only to get caught by what is sure to be the knock-out punch of the year. Give him credit for daring to be great. He can still beat anyone in the world at 147 lbs, even 154.’
That, indeed, is the future facing Khan as he returns in reportedly good health from a routine check in hospital.
‘I’m OK,’ he said in a message relayed back to the arena. ‘That’s boxing. Congrats to Canelo. Love to all my fans.’
He remains the mandatory challenger for the WBC welterweight title and that American route via a revenge match with Danny Garcia is more likely for him than a return to England for a domestic dust-up with Kell Brook.
But it is Canelo who goes on to the higher glory Khan was seeking. Gennady Golovkin, the KO king of the middleweights, was sitting ringside as the mandatory WBC challenger.
Alvarez has 30 days in which to step up to that plate or relinquish his title. The stumbling block to that super-fight has always been Canelo’s preference for fighting at his invented catchweight of 155 lbs rather than the official 160 lbs middleweight limit.
‘I’m not frightened of anyone,’ Alvarez told the adoring Mexican majority in the 16,000-plus crowd. ‘Golovkin’s manager keeps saying I don’t have the balls to fight him. Like Triple G he’s in for a surprise. The weight is no problem. I will enjoy fighting him at 160 lbs and enjoy even more beating him.’
Khan, for his part, likes to think he is loved by most of the British public. Understandably so, since he has won an Olympic silver medal and two world titles.
Sadly the Twitter trolls say otherwise. Might he garner more affection in stunning defeat than from victories past? He should. There were storms around the arena but the lightning came from Khan in the first few rounds.
The combinations were rapid, the movement elusive and the champion nonplussed as Khan won the first three on one judge’s card.
This was expected by those of us who predicted he might outbox Canelo for 12 rounds while avoiding catastrophe. But there was also the danger that thunder would trump lightning and so it proved.
Alvarez had begun to work Khan out and was breaking him down with body shots. The tide turned in the fourth and as Khan slowed in the fifth Canelo found his range to the head. He shook the challenger rigid with a clubbing left to the jaw.
Then came the overhead right in the sixth, the impact of which was compounded when Khan’s head bounced on the canvas as he crashed backwards. Referee Kenny Bayless had barely started counting before he waved his arms over the challenger. Alvarez was among the first to reach Khan, kneeling by his side.
He said later: ‘We all try to win and we want to win by knockout. But we don’t want to seriously hurt anyone. Amir caused me problems with his speed and movement at the start and to beat him I had to make adjustments.
‘He is a tremendous boxer and has all my respect.’ – Daily Mail