Saul "Canelo" Alvarez bludgeoned his way to a 47th professional career victory on Saturday (7 May), with one devastating sixth-round swing of his right hand knocking out Amir Khan in brutal fashion and retaining his WBC middleweight world title in Las Vegas. The plucky challenger caused a lot of problems early on, courtesy of Khan's rapid movement and mesmerising hand speed, but ultimately the significant move up in weight class proved too tough a barrier to surmount and, as expected, he succumbed to the sheer power of a naturally heavier man.
It was hardly the most impressive of performances from the overwhelming favourite, who was made to look sluggish and cumbersome during the early rounds. He did eventually gain control of the ring, however, cutting off space and gradually halting Khan's tempo with a succession of body shots before uncorking an overhand punch so hefty that the British fighter was seeing stars before he hit the canvas.
The affable Canelo then demonstrated commendable sportsmanship by immediately sinking to his knees to check that the Briton was OK, before attention quickly shifted to excited talk of his next opponent as formidable knockout specialist Gennady Golovkin entered the ring apparently at the champion's behest.
"I invited him to come to the ring," Canelo confirmed in front of an adoring crowd at the newly-built T-Mobile Arena during his post-fight interview with HBO. "I invited him because in Mexico we don't f**k around, we don't fight for rings and things like that. I don't fear anyone. He can come to Vegas, I don't fear anyone in this sport. Like I said at my last fight, right now I will put my gloves on again and fight him."
It was a confident and strategic display of bravado from the Mexican, who has frequently faced accusations that he is afraid of fighting a man generally revered as the world's very best pound-for-pound boxer. Golovkin is the current WBA Super, IBF and IBO middleweight title-holder and has been the mandatory challenger for the WBC belt since stopping Marco Antonio Rubio inside two rounds back in October 2014.
This is a contest that now quite simply has to happen between two celebrated fighters who have surely become the biggest names in the sport following the respective retirements of Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao. For too long Golovkin has been frustrated in his attempts to secure the headline bout that his considerable talent unquestionably merits, and at the same time the sport of boxing has often been seen as damaged by the reluctance of world-class fighters to go head-to-head at their respective peaks.
The biggest hurdle towards unification has always been a tedious dispute over weight. Golovkin and trainer Abel Sanchez have remained insistent that he will not drop below the 160lb middleweight limit, while Canelo, a champion at light middleweight before his only career defeat to Mayweather Jr at 152, is now accustomed to catchweights and has fought Alfredo Angulo, Erislandy Lara, James Kirkland, Miguel Cotto and Khan all at 155. However, a significant breakthrough appeared to have been reached in Saturday's press conference, when the 25-year-old claimed he had "no issue" with making the fight at the proper weight.
As well as the prestige on offer and the potential to the unify the division, the financial incentives of agreeing to meet Golovkin are clear for all to see. A wildly popular figure in his homeland, who enjoys a burgeoning reputation in the United States, Canelo is a big pay-per-view draw who would stand to make a hefty sum. The possibility of temporarily deviating away from plans to continue competing in Vegas and stage the bout at the Dallas Cowboys' 101,000-capacity AT&T Stadium or even at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City would only add to the sense of occasion and grandeur.
If Canelo chooses not to do battle with Golovkin, then eventually he will have to relinquish his title or face the ignominy of being stripped of it by the WBC. That would come as a colossal blow to the reputation of a clearly principled man who has said he is oblivious to the mandate and wants the pair to fight for simply pride and honour. All eyes will now fall on respective promoters Golden Boy and Tom Loeffler to see if an amicable agreement can be reached.