Amir Khan: It is far from certain just how much of the fighter will be left after Canelo defeat, writes Steve Bunce

WBC middleweight title bout ended in brutal fashion for Khan

Steve Bunce
Boxing Correspondent
Sunday 08 May 2016 16:52
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Referee Kenny Bayless waves off the fight as Khan is knocked out
Referee Kenny Bayless waves off the fight as Khan is knocked out

In the hours before Amir Khan's public slaughter in Las Vegas on Saturday night the testimony of boxing's finest warriors warned that his heart had been ruling his head for too long.

Boxing icons like Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield and Bernard Hopkins had formed an orderly queue at the T-Mobile Arena in the heartbreak capital of the world to praise Khan for moving up two weight divisions to fight the ferocious Mexican, Saul Canelo Alvarez. He can be foolish and reckless, we all know that.

When Khan went down, unconscious and sleeping, in round six from an Alvarez right cross it rattled the memories of the men at ringside and every fighter watching on television; it was a reminder to each and every one of that moment when the black lights replace the ring lights.

In the end it was not the bold move in weight, a jump from 147 pounds to 155 pounds, that ruined Khan because Alvarez would have knocked out Khan with the final punch at any weight and at any time; Alvarez would have sent most 10.7’ mules to dreamland with the same punch.

Khan took a risk that worked in rounds one, two, three and four before Alvarez, adjusting his feet and punches a centimetre at a time, closed the gap between Khan's ambitions and his power. Khan knew how to win and unfortunately Alvarez also had a copy of his blueprint. It is interesting that the only time in the three months of conferences and filming days that the unflappable Alvarez has bristled, has been whenever he was accused of being all about power: "I can box, I will surprise Khan with my speed and movement." He did, and as Khan stood dazzled in the sixth round, his grand plan unravelling, he started to turn his head, body and neck into the air where Alvarez had been and was, in that exact moment of movement, put to sleep. Alvarez retained his WBC middleweight belt, but never celebrated.

Khan tweeted this image from hospital after the fight 

The veteran referee, Kenny Bayless, crossed his arms in a deathless motion, dispensed with the ten-count and stood wide-eyed waving his arms above Khan's body like a man tasked with blessing a pit of the damned.

Khan was out cold in the ring and Alvarez, a genuine nice guy, was on his knee at Khan's side just seconds after the punch to make sure he was fine. He was and after a routine series of necessary concussion questions the boxer from Bolton was on his feet. He looked sickened, broken, but his physical recovery is likely to be far easier than the mental climb now necessary to get him up and over the lip of the black hole he fell heavily into in the Las Vegas ring. There was a required medical stop at a hospital for Khan and a scan and exam before a late arrival back at his apartment behind the Mandalay Bay. It is easy to imagine the tears and the pleas for him to quit the sport as his family gathered at his side.

He is 29 now, has been in the public spotlight since he was 17 at the Olympics in Athens and the business of boxing, the hurt game, has taken a slow toll on more than just the physical tools he needs in the ring. The type of fights that will motivate him are the fights that come with the highest risk and right now, in the silent aftermath of his latest loss, he needs some confidence, some loving and some protection from his own bravery. The terrible defeat, a clean knock out, was not a factor in any of the recovery plans put in place to soften a calamity, and that can make a difference the morning after any fight. In 2009 Manny Pacquiao brutally knocked out Ricky Hatton a few hundred feet away from Khan's ending; it broke Hatton's spirit because it was not a finish anybody considered.

Alvarez floors Khan in devastating fashion to win 

It will be a horrible time now for Khan as he tries to recover and analyse the fight, which will prove fruitless because he never made a single mistake, and at the same time endure the insensitive gloating from his harshest critics. Khan and his trainer Virgil Hunter will talk, Khan and his devoted father Shah will talk and at some point when the summer fades a few decisions will be made. Khan will fight again at a safer weight, but it is far from certain just how much of the fighter will be left. It is odd that getting knocked out clean is something that boxers have no memory of and at the same time it is something that they never, never forget.

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