Fighting

Amir Khan relishes underdog role against champion Canelo Alvarez

Canelo Alvarez, left, and Amir Khan, right, pose for a photo with promoter Oscar De La Hoya, center, in Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. The boxers are scheduled to fight on May 7 in Las Vegas for Alvarez's WBC middleweight title.
Canelo Alvarez, left, and Amir Khan, right, pose for a photo with promoter Oscar De La Hoya, center, in Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. The boxers are scheduled to fight on May 7 in Las Vegas for Alvarez's WBC middleweight title. AP

Through the first 34 fights of his professional career, Amir Khan never has been confused for a middleweight.

In fact, Khan’s fight history only ranges between the lightweight and welterweight classes.

Yet, when Saul “Canelo” Alvarez sought his first opponent as middleweight titleholder, the Mexico native and his promotional team didn’t target a middleweight, let alone a junior-middleweight contender. Instead, Alvarez reached down to the welterweight class and found Khan, whom he will face May 7 in Las Vegas.

The weight disparity between the two fighters has created a narrative of a likely mismatch. Even with the bout fought at a contractually stipulated catch-weight of 155 pounds—five under the middleweight limit—Khan (31-3, 19 KOs) is nonetheless considered a prohibitive underdog to dethrone Alvarez.

However, Khan, who won a silver medal representing his native Great Britain in the 2004 Olympics and later captured a professional 140-pound title, relishes the long odds stacked against him.

“When I was 17 and in the Olympics, I was an underdog, no one gave me a chance of winning a medal,” Khan said last week during a three-city tour both fighters were on to hype the fight. “Everyone thought I was going to lose then. This is what this feels like now.

“Alvarez is a dangerous fighter. People keep asking me why I want to fight this big fighter. I really believe I can win in this fight.”

Khan, 29, said he will dispel the belief that big fighters have advantages over little ones.

“What will win this fight [are] speed, determination and skill,” Khan said. “My dream has always been to fight the best and test myself and in Canelo I’m facing just that.”

AROUND THE RING

▪ Miami resident Luis Ortiz further enhanced his profile as one of the sport’s top heavyweights after his sixth-round knockout victory over former contender Tony Thompson late Saturday in Washington, D.C.

Ortiz (25-0, 22 KOs) set the tone to his convincing performance when he dropped Thompson (40-7) with a left to the head in the first round. The native of Cuba also floored Thompson in the third round, and finished him with a third knockdown in the sixth that resulted in the fight’s stoppage at 2:29.

“He is a strong fighter long on experience, so my corner told me not to get desperate,” Ortiz said of the 44-year-old Thompson. “That is why I am prepared for all types of circumstances and fight distances.”

▪ Late Saturday, former welterweight champion Antonio Margarito returned to the ring after a 4 1/2 year absence and won a unanimous decision against Jorge Paez Jr. in Mexico. Inactive since December 2011, Margarito (39-8) survived a sixth-round knockdown and won the bout on all three judges’ scorecards: 95-94, 95-93 and 97-93.

▪ Miami resident Guillermo Rigondeaux will fight James Dickens in a scheduled 10-round junior-featherweight bout Saturday night in Liverpool, England. The bout will be Rigondeaux’s first since his victory over Drian Francisco on the undercard of the Alvarez-Miguel Cotto middleweight title fight last November.

Although the scorecards indicated Rigondeaux won by lopsided results, the native of Cuba drew wide criticism because he failed to finish an outclassed Francisco within the distance.

Rigondeaux (16-0, 10 KOs) switched trainers after the bout and will have Pedro Luis Diaz in his corner again. Diaz previously worked with Rigondeaux in his 122-pound title-winning performance against Nonito Donaire three years ago.

Coming up

Friday (11:30 p.m., Telemundo-Ch. 51): Carlos Machuca vs. Joel Montes de Oca, 10, junior bantamweights.

Saturday (11 p.m., CBS Sports Network): Zab Judah vs. Josh Torres, 10, junior welterweights.

Saturday (11 p.m., Unimas-Ch. 69): Casey Ramos vs. Jonathan Perez, 10, lightweights.

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