Amir Khan has never looked better: Weekend Review
Amir Khan: I was a big proponent of Khan’s years ago but I admit thinking after he was knocked out by Danny Garcia in 2012 and struggled against Julio Diaz that he would never live up to his potential. I appear to have been wrong. Khan has never been a better fighter than he is now under trainer Virgil Hunter, as he demonstrated in a dominating unanimous-decision victory over Devon Alexander on Saturday in Las Vegas. Khan (30-3, 19 knockouts) was too fast and too good for Alexander, using his long jab and quick, hard combinations to dominate a very good opponent in the Showtime main event. Alexander landed good shots here and there but grew more and more frustrated as the fight went on because he couldn’t figure out how to solve the punishing riddle Khan presented. To put it simply, Alexander, a former three-time titleholder, was overwhelmed. It might’ve been the best performance in the career of Khan, who was coming off an impressive decision over cagey Luis Collazo in his previous fight. I agree with the growing sentiment that Khan has the tools – speed, skill, experience – to make life difficult for the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, perhaps more so than anyone else currently fighting at 147 pounds. And his time might yet come. I would suggest he fight Kell Brook in what would be a huge even in the U.K. Then, if he wins, he’ll be in position for something even bigger. Khan has come a long way in two-plus years.
Devon Alexander: This loss was very damaging for Alexander (26-3, 14 KOs). He didn’t just lose to Khan, he was embarrassed on the biggest stage. He looked lost, confused in the second half of a fight that most experts believed would be competitive. It wasn’t. The scores were 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110, meaning Alexander won only three of 36 rounds on official cards. I had it 119-109 for Khan. And the setback comes only two fights after he lost a clear decision – and his IBF 147-pound title – to Shawn Porter last December. Alexander hasn’t beaten a top-tier opponent since back-to-back victories over Lucas Matthysse (a controversial split decision) and Marcos Maidana (a shutout) in 2011 and 2012. The St. Louis product clearly is a very good boxer and athlete, as his impressive victory over solid Jesus Soto Karass between the Porter and Khan fights indicated. However, after Saturday night, it has never seemed more clear that he is a step behind the very best, fighters like Mayweather, Pacquiao, Khan and possibly Brook and Keith Thurman. And that’s not where he wants to be. One thing Alexander has going for him is his youth; he’s only 27. And he hasn’t taken a significant beating in his career. I expect Alexander to remain near the top of the welterweight division ÔÇª but never quite reach the pinnacle.
Disputed decisions on HBO: The official decisions following the Tim Bradley-Diego Chaves and Mauricio Herrera-Jose Benavidez fights Saturday rankled a lot of people. The hard-fought Bradley-Chaves fight ended in a split draw even though most of those who watched seemed to favor Bradley. I scored it 116-112 (eight rounds to four) for Bradley but could see a 115-113 score for him, nothing closer. He landed more and harder punches, as CompuBox numbers suggest: Bradley outlanded Chaves 225-152. That’s why the score of normally excellent judge Julie Lederman – 116-112 for Chaves – is so baffling. Burt Clements had it 115-113 for Bradley while Craig Metcalfe had it a 114-114 draw. I’m not sure what Lederman saw but I’m not prepared to dismiss her as incompetent. Everyone has an off night. And I doubt the undeserved draw will hurt Bradley much. He remains a formidable and marketable welterweight. As for Herrera-Benavidez, I don’t have a problem with the result: a unanimous decision for Benavidez. I watched the fight carefully and scored it 114-114. I thought Herrera did more work but Benavidez clearly landed the harder, more-damaging blows, which evened things out. Plus, I thought four very close rounds could’ve gone either way. I didn’t think Benavidez’s performance was strong – the periods against the ropes and his lulls in activity were inexplicable – but one could argue he won the fight. That said, the official scores of 117-111 (Dave Moretti), 116-112 and 116-112 were too one-sided. It was a close fight. Overall, it wasn’t a great day for judges in Las Vegas.
The battle for May 2: Mayweather’s announcement that he wants to fight Pacquiao in what would be the biggest pay-per-view event ever on May 2 created a fascinating situation. Canelo Alvarez and Miguel Cotto also are negotiating to fight on pay-per-view on that date, meaning there is a potential conflict. Mayweather, the biggest draw in the sport, made it clear that he isn’t willing to give up the Mexican holiday weekends of Cinco de Mayo in May and Independence Day in September, dates on which he has fought regularly and which the Mexican Alvarez wants to claim. Alvarez, with the backing of his promoter Oscar De La Hoya and Bob Aurm (who is working with Cotto), said explicitly after Mayweather made his comments that he plans to stick to his guns and fight on May 2. It’s anyone’s guess how this will play out. That said, I think one thing is clear: Only a fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao can compete with Alvarez-Cotto. And, given the never-ending efforts (or lack thereof) to put together Mayweather-Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya spoke for millions when he said: “I’ll believe it when I see it.” If the impossible happens, then May 2 will belong to Mayweather and Co. If it doesn’t – and, again, it probably won’t, there’s a good chance we’ll be watching Alvarez fight Cotto in a compelling Mexico vs. Puerto Rico matchup. Stay tuned, though. This battle for May 2 – or whatever it is – is just getting started.
I thought Keith Thurman (24-0, 21 knockouts) looked terrific in his shutout of 40-year-old Leonard Bundu (31-1-2, 11 KOs) on the Khan-Alexander card. The welterweight contender wasn’t able to stop the Italian, which was a surprise given Thurman’s track record, but he thoroughly dominated the fight from the outside. He played the sharpshooter, patiently and carefully picking apart a solid, experienced opponent with an awkward style. Afterward, Thurman said that not even the biggest puncher can knock everyone out. However, he also seemed almost embarrassed that he couldn’t stop Bundu. He should heed his words, not his feelings. He fought well in a fight from which he’ll glean valuable experience. He remains on track. ÔÇª Abner Mares (28-1-1, 15 KOs) was willing and able against tough Jose Ramirez (25-5, 15 KOs) on the Khan-Alexander card. The former three-division titleholder and his fellow Mexican engaged in some hairy exchanges, with Mares almost invariably getting the better of things. I would advise Mares to avoid stepping into the cauldron as much as he did on Saturday, which evidently was a conscious effort to please fans. He can do damage, win fights and still please fans in a somewhat more judicious manner, one that will preserve his mind and body. Mares has now won two in a row after his first-round knockout loss against Jhonny Gonzalez in August 2013. ÔÇª
Jermall Charlo (20-0, 16 KOs) stopped an Italian named Lenny Bottai (22-3, 9 KOs) 38 seconds into Round 3 on the Khan-Alexander card to become the mandatory challenger for Cornelius Bundrage’s IBF junior middleweight title. Charlo looks like the real deal. He should give Bundrage serious problems. How Bottai got this fight I’ll never know. It was a horrible mismatch. ÔÇª Andy Lee (34-2, 24 KOs) isn’t the best boxer in the world but he knows all about drama. The Irishman was losing to Matt Korobov (24-1, 14 KOs) on the Bradley-Chaves card when he hurt Korobov with a big right and followed with a flurry of unanswered blows that ended the fight at 1:10 of the sixth round and gave Lee the vacant WBO middleweight title. Lee did the same in his previous fight, a fifth-round KO against John Jackson in June. He probably won’t have a long reign but it’ll be fun to watch as long as it lasts. ÔÇª Victor Ortiz (30-5-2, 23 KOs) won his first fight since 2011 on the Khan-Alexander card, stopping Manuel Perez (22-11-1, 4 KOs) 51 seconds into Round 3 of a scheduled 10-round welterweight fight. Ortiz will be in the mix for some big fights in near future. ÔÇª Antonio Tarver (31-6, 22 KOs) made himself a marketable heavyweight by stopping Johnathon Banks (29-3-1, 19 KOs) in the seventh round Thursday in Temecula, California. That said, the fight was awful and Banks was worse. He’d be wise to stick to training Wladimir Klitschko going forward. ÔÇª Erislandy Lara (20-2-2, 12 KOs) dominated Ishe Smith (26-7, 12 KOs) in a 12-round junior middleweight fight Friday in San Antonio, which was no surprise. Smith is a decent fighter who made the very most of his limited ability.
Photo by Naoki Fukuda