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Amir Khan was decimated by Saul Alvarez but may still have enhanced reputation

Amir Kham

Amir Khan suffered a horrible knockout defeat at the hands of Saul Alvarez but the decision to take on the Mexican still looks a shrewd one, writes Isaac Robinson.

In the short-term, the colossal gamble won't pay off. Khan will have woken - perhaps in a Las Vegas hospital - without the WBC world middleweight title he was chasing. His sea of critics have more ammunition for their vitriol because at the top level, he was caught flush and stopped once again.

This was no ordinary trip to the top level, though, and anyone keen to jump on the Khan-just-doesn't-have-a-chin bandwagon needs to think twice. Anyone who was on it already needs to accept that the manner in which he was defeated had nothing to do with the strength of his chin.

Canelo Alvarez v Amir Khan
Image: Khan enjoyed several successes in the opening rounds

Taking a fully-loaded overhand right hand from a puncher two weight divisions above cleanly would be enough to end most fights. Throw in the facts that Khan had just made one of his first mistakes of the fight by being indecisive while in range, did not see the shot coming whatsoever and he had no chance of recovering from the swift punishment, he really was up against it.

In conclusion, doubts over the strength of his chin remain but the question marks became no bigger. Khan will have known that he had leeway to play with in facing Canelo, and that's what makes the decision seem so clever even through the lens of defeat.

Of course there was a chance he would be on the wrong end of a brutal knockout but, as IBF world welterweight champion Kell Brook admitted (through gritted teeth) when the fight was announced, Khan could always blame his shortcomings on the over-ambition of stepping up two divisions.

Amir Khan v Saul Alvarez
Image: Canelo had no answer early on but waited patiently

Furthermore, he had dealt with the disparity in size as well as anyone could've imagined for the opening four rounds. Perversely, Khan might be half an inch taller than Mexico's hero, but it's the thickness of the latter's neck and trunk that told the tale of a difference in strength.

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The hunted won the opening few sessions. Clear as day. Setting his stall out immediately, it looked like the addition of nearly 10lbs of flesh (and at the weigh-in it did look primarily flesh rather than muscle) was not going to hamper Khan's speed of movement. He duly reeled off the first meaningful punches of the fight with trademark fluency.

It's hard to assess whether by the fifth and sixth rounds Khan's sharpness was dipping or whether Canelo's judgment of range had improved but either way, the key to the champion's victory surely lay in accepting that his natural boxing skills were inferior to his challenger's. That humble recognition afforded him the patience he needed to lull and then dispatch his man.

Amir Khan v Saul Alvarez
Image: Alvarez closed the show in the sixth with a huge right hand

When the punch landed, you could almost hear an eruption of the I-told-you-so merchants celebrating Khan falling short in his bid to stun the sport. But in the cold light of day, what has he actually lost besides the chance to win a world title at a weight his body wasn't designed for?

'Very little' is the answer.

Prior to agreeing to face their middleweight champion, Khan asked for an assurance from the WBC that he would retain mandatory challenger status as a welterweight. That means he has the option of killing two birds with one stone in his very next bout: regaining a world title and avenging the 2012 defeat to current champion Danny Garcia.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MAY 07:  Amir Khan stays down after a knockout from Canelo Alvarez during the WBC middleweight title fight at T-Mobile Arena on May 7,
Image: Amir Khan is unable to get up after the heavy knockdown

Other - and even more lucrative - avenues remain open. If Floyd Mayweather returns to the sport, as many expect him to, some will want 'Money' to face Khan to prove that he can deal with speed as well as with strength (the American overcame Alvarez via majority in 2013).

But let's focus on what we should be focusing on: the prospective Brook v Khan bout. So long in the making. Surely it's just around this next corner.

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Floyd Mayweather Jr said he's a big fan of Kell Brook and wants Khan to face him

Khan has always seemed to consider himself 'above' his Sheffield rival and even in defeat to Alvarez, he strengthened that claim if the quality of opposition is used to measure. Garcia, Marcos Maidana and Marco Antonio Barrera (albeit ageing) are just three more of the 12 Khan opponents to have held world titles. Brook's undoubted career highlight was outpointing Shawn Porter.

That is not to say that Khan is right in claiming Brook hasn't earned the right to face him. In fact, he is almost certainly wrong; unlike Khan, 'The Special One' is a world champion, undefeated and arguably lacking comparable experience of big-time boxing only by virtue of the fact he's too good for the big-timers to risk their status against.

If and when he finally takes on Khan, Brook will have an overdue chance to make a statement under brighter lights.

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Kell Brook's reaction when the Alvarez v Khan fight was announced

In the meantime, let's credit Khan for his bravery in taking on Alvarez. Yes, it went as most predicted. Yes, he looked brilliantly sharp at the start. Yes, Canelo was at times made to look sluggish and flat-footed. Yes, Khan earned the right to criticise boxers for swerving each other. Yes, he's great for the sport and UK fans should give him more respect. Khan has not 'swerved' Brook but now seems the time to face him and try to force that respect.

When the adrenaline wears off, the wounds heal, the head clears and Khan begins to assess the opportunities available to him, his position should please him. If it doesn't, the $6m he earned for facing Alvarez might but regardless, let's hope he'll finally turn his attention to Brook.

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