Amir Khan brought the world of boxing to a standstill back in early February, stunning fans, reporters and pundits alike by revealing that he would not face Kell Brook next, but instead challenge Saul Alvarez for his WBC middleweight title on 7 May at the new 20,000-capacity T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In addition to the popular Mexican's standing as one of the world's best and most celebrated boxers, the announcement was made all the more surprising by the fact that Khan, a former two-time world champion at light-welterweight whose last four fights have all come at welterweight, will have to rise two divisions to face "Canelo" at a catch weight of 155 lbs – five pounds under the usual limit.
The 2004 Olympic silver medallist has already admitted he does not possess the necessary power to inflict any real damage upon his opponent, whose natural strength advantage and reputation as a far bigger puncher sees him go into the bout as the overwhelming favourite. Instead, he will need to expertly use his trademark speed, getting in and out of any exchanges quickly while staying beyond range of any big shots and hoping that aforementioned weight jump has not critically slowed his rapid movement.
With the fight, which will see Canelo's enormous fanbase descend upon Sin City in their droves on Cinco de Mayo weekend, now closing in, it is increasingly difficult to see this contest as anything other than a win-win situation for Khan. Providing he is not embarrassed within the first couple of rounds, a courageous late stoppage or points defeat for the 29-year-old, who was widely praised for just accepting the fight, will surely only serve to enhance his reputation – particularly in the US.
Boxing's fixation with unblemished records appears to be growing stronger still, yet defeats to Breidis Prescott, Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia mean that Khan has no unbeaten status to protect. There is, of course, the small matter of an all-English showdown with Brook to fall back on.
The IBF welterweight champion has repeatedly called out his rival since returning from stab wounds to successfully defend his 147lb strap by brushing aside vastly inferior challengers in Jo Jo Dan, Frankie Gavin and Kevin Bizier, and is understandably desperate for a far sterner test of his credentials and a bigger payday in what would rank as one of the most noteworthy domestic title clashes in recent years.
The benefits of a shock victory for Khan would be clear for all to see. By claiming the middleweight belt, his stature would be boosted immeasurably and he would also be in a position to demand, should he choose to stay in the division, further lucrative fights against the likes of fearsome knockout artist Gennady Golovkin. The big-hitting WBA, IBF and IBO king remains the mandatory challenger for the WBC crown and has thus far been frustrated in his attempts to coax Canelo into the ring.
A win against the odds would also leave the door open to the possibility of a future meeting with Floyd Mayweather Jr, a prospect Khan has been chasing for a long time. The former five-division champion, who now promotes the likes of WBC super-middleweight title-holder Badou "The Ripper" Jack, officially hung up his gloves in September 2015 following a typically routine points victory over Andre Berto. However, he recently postulated that he might consider returning to eclipse Rocky Marciano's long-standing 50-0 record for a nine-figure sum. He also hinted that any comeback bout would likely be for a world title, with WBC welterweight champion Garcia thought to be the current frontrunner.