AMIR KHAN is days away from the superfight he has always wanted. He will move up two weight classes to fight WBC world middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Here, Khan speaks about the fight, Kell Brook and whether he would face Gennady Golovkin if he beats Canelo.
This fight was a shock to almost everyone. How did it come about?
Canelo’s a tough guy and not many people want to face him, and when the name was offered to me I said ‘yes’ straight away. I spoke to Oscar [De La Hoya] a couple of weeks before it was announced, and he said, ‘Do you want the fight?’ I said, ‘Yeah, why not.’ At that time, the fight with [me and Manny] Pacquiao wasn’t going through, and I had already been let down by Floyd Mayweather, so I needed someone big to fight.
I thought to myself, ‘Take it.’ Oscar said that a lot of people had refused to fight Canelo. I wasn’t going to refuse. I told my team I wanted the fight, and they were negotiating with Eddie Hearn during that time to make the fight with Kell Brook as well. In a way, I called their [Matchroom’s] bluff because they kept using my name to sell tickets for the fights Brook’s having against other guys.
They said I was afraid, scared of Brook. Eddie had offered me a deal in Liverpool of around £10m [to fight Brook]. I said, ‘If I can make that much, I’ll take the fight.’ I went back to him and asked him if it was the same deal but he then said I would get a lot less. I asked what had happened to the original deal, the deal he had promised me. But he said it was no longer there, so we left it. It seemed to me they were looking for a way out by offering me a stupid deal. Brook is fighting guys like Jo Jo Dan and [Kevin] Bizier, but I’m on a different level.
Canelo is a tough, tough fight and I’m going to be working very hard for this. I’m going to make history on May 7. You’ve got Canelo, who’s a great champion, but I really believe I can beat him with my speed and movement. With the skills I have, I can give him big, big problems. I know he’s strong, but it’s the first time I’m going into a fight being the underdog. Normally I’m the guy people expect to win, want to see win, but this time it’s different. And that’s only going to make me train harder and work harder.
Was it hard to keep quiet about the negotiations with Canelo when many fans were accusing you of running scared from Brook?
That’s right, I stayed quiet. I knew I would soon shut everyone up. Kell Brook says I’m scared and everyone accepts that, thinks it’s the truth. Look, how can I be scared of Kell Brook if I’m going into a fight with Alvarez, who’s a lot more dangerous, and he’s at a higher weight?
How much did adviser Al Haymon have to do with the negotiations?
Well, he’s my adviser and he did have a lot to do with this deal. I know a lot of people think otherwise, but Al Haymon was telling me how to negotiate throughout the whole thing. Okay, he may not have spoken to Oscar but he [Haymon] was negotiating everything on my behalf with my team. I have a good relationship with Oscar, I like Oscar, I’ve been working with him for a long, long time, so we get on really well. I know Al Haymon and Oscar may not get on, but behind the scenes, Al Haymon was doing most of the work for us, and telling us how to make the fight. Look, at the end of the day, he’s my adviser, and he was heavily involved.
You must be absolutely delighted. I know how much you wanted those fights with Mayweather and Pacquiao, how much you craved a defining fight. Do you feel that you have already answered a lot of critics just by accepting this fight?
Yes. It takes balls to fight someone like this, someone like Canelo. He’s a big, dangerous guy and yes, a lot of credit is due to me already. But I don’t want the credit. I don’t want it yet. I want that credit when I go in the ring and put a beating on him, and I really believe that’s what is going to happen.
I can beat him. And when that happens, people will admit they were wrong about me, that all the criticism they’ve given me was wrong. Look, I’ve been under pressure before. I was 17 at the Olympics and no one thought I could do it. Look what happened there [Khan took silver in 2004]. I was under pressure against [Marcos] Maidana. People have always doubted me, and now I’ll use that to my advantage, and I will work harder and train harder than ever before. I know that everyone, deep down, thinks I’m going to get beaten or knocked out but look, it’s time for me to show them.
How much of a factor is the size difference and how heavy do you plan on being?
Naturally I walk around at 160lbs. I want to be strong and ripped so I can put on a bit more muscle, and I can add a lot more strength. I can focus on that a bit more now, and not worry about not making the weight like I did when I was at 147. I was losing a lot of power trying to kill myself making weight. This time, perhaps for the first time, I’m going to be very natural at my own weight. I’ll be healthy, strong, and happy making weight.
There’s no rehydration clause, so Alvarez could be a lot bigger than you on the night of the fight. That must be a concern.
He’s not taller than me, he’s not that much bigger than me, not like people think. If he is bigger, it’s going to be 10 or 12 pounds on the night. Look, I can cope with that. I’m fine with that. I think my movement… Look the heavier he is, the harder it is for him. If he is heavy, he’s going to get caught, he’s going to have to move to catch me, he’ll get tired quicker, but if he’s lighter, it becomes harder for me because he’ll be quick to get to me. But if he thinks being heavy will suit him, that’s wrong.
You could be an absolute nightmare for Alvarez. His fights against Mayweather [inset], Erislandy Lara, Austin Trout and to an extent Miguel Cotto, showed he can struggle against fast hands and elusive styles…
[Interrupting] Yes, yes, yes. Definitely. I’m the worst style for him really. I have speed, I’ll give angles and I have good footwork. Yeah, if I get my rhythm, and the game plan right, then he is in real trouble. I know in a fight like this, I can’t make any mistakes otherwise I will suffer. But because I know that, I’ll be so focused, and so on point, that I’m never going to make a mistake in this fight. I know that I’m definitely going to perform.
Should you win – and I know you won’t want to look past this fight – do you see your future at middleweight, and against someone like Gennady Golovkin?
I’m not going to think out of the box, and yes, I am taking it one fight at a time. But to be honest with you, I’m not thinking about middleweight, I’m not that big to be a middleweight. This opportunity [against Canelo] just came and I wanted to take it, but I don’t think I’ll go on and fight Gennady Golovkin because he’s a very big, tough guy, and he is naturally very big, and a very good boxer. Against Canelo, I have so many advantages, the way I’m built, the speed, movement, the boxing skills. But Golovkin is a totally different fighter and to be honest with you, I think he’s too big and too strong for me. Canelo, I can deal with, I can be smart with.
At the end of the day I’m not going to go in there and get hit with shots off big guys because that can ruin your career, ruin your life. I don’t want boxing to do that. In this fight I’m going to be smart, I’m going to be clever, I’m going to beat him. So in the future, I’ll probably move down a weight, perhaps back to welter to win a world title, and maybe at light-middle [super-welter] as well.
Considering the fight is in Las Vegas on May 7, which for the last few years has been Mayweather weekend over there, there’s a chance he could be there making a bit of a nuisance of himself.
I think he will. At the end of the day he’s doing all these tours and I think he’s missing not being in the ring. But his time is done. People don’t really want to know about him now. When you go to boxing shows, they’re not talking about Mayweather, he’s been done now. If he wants to be there, as a fan, as a spectator, he’s more than welcome, but the time has come for someone to take over. Someone needs to take that date, and at the new [T-Mobile] stadium it’s the perfect setting. It’s a Mexican holiday, so there will be a lot of Canelo fans, but I believe the UK fans will turn out for this fight. I’ve been to a lot of the Ricky Hatton fights, and the British fans took over. I think it’s going to happen again.
You once said you’d retire in your late twenties. How much more is there for you to achieve before you do walk away?
I feel better now than I ever did. I feel better than when I was 26. It’s all about how the body feels and how you are. I still have another couple of fights left in the tank. Every fight, you know what you’ve got left. I’m just going to go fight by fight now, I’m not going to say a certain date. I’m going to let my body tell me. When it’s not responding the way it should be, that’s when I’ll call it a day.
This Q&A was originally published in the February 11 issue of Boxing News. To subscribe to the magazine click here.