By Cliff Rold

The cynics were (mostly) right. While the pace and styles of the fighters made for some fan friendly fire, ultimately this fight was exactly what it looked like. Put a heavy-handed middleweight champion (even at a catchweight) in with a chinny former Jr. welterweight titlist who has auspiciously avoided punchers for four years, and the outcome shouldn’t be in doubt.

As noted at the end of the pre-fight report card, everyone knew how this was going to end before the first punch landed.

This wasn’t going to be one of those miracle performances. Saul Alvarez is in the prime of his career and he always shows up in tip-top shape. This fight was made because both sides could get paid and because Alvarez couldn’t lose.

And he didn’t.

Let’s go the report card.


Pre-Fight: Speed – Alvarez B; Khan A/Post: B+; A

Pre-Fight: Power – Alvarez B+; Khan B/Post: A; B

Pre-Fight: Defense – Alvarez B-; Khan B/Post: B-; C+

Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Alvarez A-; Khan B+/Post: A; C

As expected, Khan had a speed edge. It was no surprise as its an advantage he’d have over all but a few fighters in the game. Khan used that speed to have some moments in the first three rounds, but those moments ebbed quickly. Khan never lost his speed but as Alvarez started to land to the body, and sneak in counter left hooks, there was less mustard on his shots.

Speed is great. Timing and attack variance is better. Alvarez showed patience. He knew the knockout was going to come and he let it develop organically. That he had to solve Khan’s rapid-fire attack and movement made it a little more interesting.

Khan received credit from many, before and after, for being willing to take the challenge. He deserves it. This is not a safe enterprise he’s engaged in. Unlike many who take similar risks all the time, at least he was handsomely compensated. His stated purse in Nevada was only part of the revenue he’ll collect.

In physicals terms though, what Khan did isn’t that much different than what fighters Rod Salka did for Danny Garcia or innumerable journeyman do for blue chip prospects on cards regularly. Khan was better than the defeated in those scenarios. It still played out mostly the same. Khan went up two classes (give or take a catch) to face a fighter worth more money with an almost certain loss waiting.

And he got a shot, however slim, at history’s middleweight title after a very careful four years since the days when he took risks regularly at Jr. welterweight.

If we’re going to praise Khan, let’s start doing more praising of the fighters who do this without millions waiting on the other side. How many times have we seen a guy who mostly campaigns at middleweight fighting a young tiger at light heavyweight? A former flyweight lending his name to a rising featherweight? They get their brains scrambled and take shots to build the bona fides and market for larger men with more upside.

Khan will go back to making big purses at welterweight and make a few more thrillers before he’s done. Against the right sized foe, Khan is still in most fights and will remain fun to watch and easy to admire for his guts. So are the fighters who take similar health risks and have to worry where their next payday will come from.

The goal Saturday was a highlight reel knockout on the road to bigger events for Alvarez. Mission accomplished. In this case, bigger will probably be Gennady Golovkin. It might not happen next though with Alvarez it would be no shock if it was.

Alvarez and Golovkin worked out a deal last year for each to take a bout before entering serious negotiations. Alvarez even paid Golovkin a little extra for his patience. This is the same Alvarez who many assumed would never risk a Floyd fight against Trout (he did) or face a Lara seemingly no one wanted (he did). So far, everything has gone the way both sides said it was going to go.

If we get a showdown in September, all this talk about Alvarez ducking Golovkin will sound even more silly than it already does. Alvarez has been middleweight champion for less than a year. Fans impatient with Golovkin’s long wait for a shot at the crown are understandable.

Their complaints about Alvarez aren’t necessarily rational…yet. Let’s see where this goes.

Report Card and Staff Picks 2016: 17-7

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at