Matt Bevan (@MBevs68)
British boxing is on a high, but this week is a trip back to what we have seen in previous years, where the Brits will enter all the fights, rightly or otherwise, as the underdogs for two world title clashes and a European title challenge.
In the biggest fight of 2016 so far, well in terms of name recognition, Amir Khan is in Las Vegas and stepping up in weight to face Saul “Canelo” Alvarez for the WBC middleweight title, albeit at a catchweight of 155lbs, and is the most unlikely to win of the lot in the bookies’ eyes.
Meanwhile in Manchester, Anthony Crolla makes the first defence of his WBA lightweight strap against the dangerous puncher Ismael Barroso, whilst Dereck Chisora is in Germany to face the Sauerland’s favourite heavyweight Kubrat Pulev for the vacant European heavyweight championship.
Crolla holds plenty of advantages in tomorrow’s meeting with Barroso and it seems that many are buying into the Venezuelan’s last performance, when he sent Kevin Mitchell packing into retirement in December, as evidence that “Million Dollar” will suffer a similar fate.
As for Chisora, who has already reverted back to some of his old antics at a heated press conference, he won’t care whether he is the underdog or not.
So what chance do these three have this week?
Well for me, Crolla and Chisora have every chance, with Crolla perhaps the more likely to win, but as for Khan, who always provides plenty of excitement, I’m genuinely struggling to build a case and see him come out of the ring on Saturday victorious.
But, it would be just like Khan to flip the script and win the middleweight title, stopping the Canelo train in it’s tracks and ruining a potentially mouthwatering clash between the Mexican idol and consensus “King of the Middleweights” Gennady Golovkin.
Khan’s speed and precision are never in doubt and there is nobody out there, regardless of what other promoters claim that can question his heart. By all means question his durability and chin, but never his heart because you know the Bolton man will always give it everything and go out on his shield if he has too.
Canelo is a quality boxer, but so is Khan, so the main factor will be the size difference. Yes, it has been made at 155lbs, but we all know that Canelo will be nowhere near that size when he gets in the ring. It will be intriguing to see what Khan weighs later today.
The blueprint to beat Canelo is there, courtesy of a chastening experience by Floyd Mayweather, but Alvarez has improved since. His propensity to gas late out in fights is becoming less of a factor and he will press forward to force Khan into action.
Khan has a history of being unable to resist a tear-up, so he has to do what he can to stay away early on, unleashing his trademark flashing combinations. I still don’t think it will be enough and Canelo could well wear him down for a late stoppage.
Instead of mocking him for this fight, Khan should be praised. Forget the Kell Brook fight, because Amir doesn’t need it, this is the biggest fight and the best value for money for him, fans and broadcasters everywhere. I can see Khan going down, following a supremely gutsy performance and enhancing his reputation in defeat.
As for Crolla, his story and rise to the top is remarkable. I was there when he was stopped by Derry Mathews and I admit to thinking that the Manchester lad had found his level. How wrong was I?
A subsequent with Mathews, before outstanding wins over Gavin Rees and John Murray proved his credentials, whilst the two fights with Darleys Perez, in particular the second to win the world title showed how good he is. So why are we doubting him again?
You’d struggle to meet a more genuine guy in boxing. Speaking from personal experience whenever I’ve met him or interviewed him, he’s always happy to give a small slice of his precious time and nothing is too difficult. He’s even managed to steer clear of social media trolls and avoid any real criticism, which in this day and age is a feat on its own.
So when Barroso was announced, unsurprisingly considering he was mandatory, people immediately jumped on the bandwagon and declared that “Million Dollar” doesn’t stand a chance with the mean Venezuelan challenger.
But, we all know you have to take South American records with a pinch of salt, and whilst the Mitchell stoppage was excellent, to say Mitchell’s value has dropped over the years would be an understatement. Mitchell nearly always fell short when it really mattered, despite his phenomenal talent, and will go down as a “what could have been story” in the footnote of British boxing history.
I think Crolla will win tomorrow and am waiting to see all the “critics” claim they never doubted him in the first place and get back behind Crolla. Then we may get that Manchester derby with Terry Flanagan after all.
As for Chisora, going to Germany to face Pulev wouldn’t be high on most heavyweight’s agenda, but when has the “Del Boy” ever shirked a challenge or taken the most difficult fight out there. A path some others should take if they want to gain the respect of genuine boxing fans, not just the fair weather ones.
The Bulgarian built up a good record over the years, with wins over names such as Alexander Dimitrenko, Tony Thompson and Alexander Ustinov. As expected he faced Wladimir Klitschko, who flattened him, but he has rebounded with two victories since.
He is heavily backed by the Sauerlands, who know that Chisora presents a difficult test for their man. People forget that they promoted Helenius, when he squeaked through against the Finchley man back in 2011.
If Chisora can get into Pulev’s head he may well come out the winner and return as the European champion once more. But, I can see the judges stepping up to help Pulev out and handing out another controversial decision.
If Pulev can withstand Chisora’s power, as I’m positive Dereck soaks up his, it could be a war and a rare, standout and entertaining heavyweight clash. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.