Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez knocked out Britain’s Amir Khan in the sixth round in Las Vegas to retain his WBC middleweight title.
Until the brutal ending, Khan had used his superior speed and movement to frustrate the champion and appeared to be well ahead on points.
However, when Khan lost concentration for a split second the champion knocked him cold with a huge right hand.
Afterwards, Alvarez said he wanted a unification bout with Gennady Golovkin.
Khan, 29, jumped two weight divisions to challenge Alvarez and was attempting to become only the third former light-welterweight world champion to win a middleweight world title.
The match was made at a catchweight of 155lb, five pounds under the normal middleweight limit. However, Alvarez came into the ring at approximately 175lb and was noticeably bigger than his opponent. The fight was the first at the 20,000-capacity T-Mobile Arena, which was vociferously pro-Alvarez on the Mexican festival of Cinco de Mayo.
But the booing and jeering that rained down upon Khan did nothing to cloud his focus.
Khan probably edged a cagey first round courtesy of a couple of flurries and one well-aimed right cross, although Alvarez did land with a flashing left hook.
Khan repeatedly made the champion look clumsy in round two, landing with rapier-like combinations before darting out of range. And when Alvarez landed with a juddering left hook, Khan stood up to it and returned fire.
It was more of the same in the third, with Alvarez, 25, stalking his prey and finding himself confounded by Khan’s blinding hand-speed and volume of punches.
At this stage Khan’s prediction that speed and movement would trump power looked like it might come true, while he was certainly confounding those critics who said a year of inactivity would blunt his edge.
Khan unleashed more flashy combinations in the fourth and while none of his punches appeared to be hurting Alvarez, the Englishman appeared to be well ahead on points a third of the way through the contest.
There were signs in the fifth Alvarez was beginning to find his range and at the start of the sixth he connected with a hurtful left-right combination.
And when Khan left his left hand dangling soon after, Alvarez exploded an overhand right on his chin, rendering him unconscious before he hit the canvas. Khan was counted out with 23 seconds remaining in the round.
Khan took a while to come round but finally clambered to his feet minutes later.
“I wanted to go out there as a champion, but unfortunately I didn’t make it to the end,” he said. “This challenge came and it was hard to turn down.”
Alvarez improved to 47 wins (33 knockouts), one draw and a sole defeat – by the great American Floyd Mayweather in 2013. Khan now has four defeats from 35 fights, including three by way of knockout. —