The honor of fighting in the main event of the first boxing card at the new T-Mobile Arena didn’t go to Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao.
Instead, Canelo Alvarez will make the first defense of his World Boxing Council middleweight title against former world junior welterweight champ Amir Khan on May 7 in a 12-round bout on HBO Pay Per Vew in what will be the inaugural card at the 20,000-seat venue off the Las Vegas Strip behind New York-New York.
The fight will be contested at a catch-weight of 155 pounds, even though Alvarez’s 160-pound belt will be at stake.
“As the middleweight champion of the world, I will take on the best fighters in the sport,” Alvarez said in a statement. “Amir was a decorated amateur, a two-time world champion, and is in the prime of his career. The fans are in for a great fight on May 7.”
Westgate Las Vegas immediately made Alvarez a 3-1 favorite, with Khan a plus-250 underdog. And with good reason. Khan has never fought heavier than 147 pounds.
But after being snubbed by Mayweather, who is retired, and Pacquiao, who will fight Timothy Bradley Jr. a third time April 9 at the MGM Grand Garden, Khan got into the conversation as a possible opponent for Alvarez. And since both fighters are with Golden Boy Promotions, it wasn’t hard to get the deal done for the Bolton, England, resident to get the high-profile fight he desired.
“My goal is to always fight the biggest names and the best fighters,” Khan said in a statement. “That’s why I’m excited for this fight. I know Canelo fights the best and wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to face me like others have.”
Alvarez (46-1-1, 32 knockouts) is coming off a sensational 2015 that saw him knock out James Kirkland on May 9 in Houston, then handle Miguel Cotto with little problem Nov. 21 in winning a 12-round unanimous decision at Mandalay Bay and capturing the WBC middleweight belt. That fight was fought at a catch-weight of 154 pounds, even though Cotto’s 160-pound belt was on the line.
Most boxing fans were hoping Alvarez, 25, would face World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation champ Gennady Golovkin in a unification title fight while seeing Khan face fellow countryman Kell Brook, the IBF welterweight champ. Instead, Golovkin set aside April 23 for his next fight, and Golden Boy opted to match two of its stars.
In a statement, Golden Boy chairman and CEO Oscar De La Hoya said: “We are committed to putting on the best and biggest fights. Canelo is the biggest star in the sport, and as he demonstrated against James Kirkland and Miguel Cotto last year, he is only getting better.
“Those who predicted that he would take an easy fight for his first defense have been proven wrong once again. As for Amir, he has won his last five fights, and his future is very bright once again.”
Khan, 29, last fought May 29, 2015, when he outpointed Chris Algieri at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., to win a 12-round welterweight fight and improve to 31-3 with 19 knockouts. But in fighting Alvarez, Khan is taking a considerable rise, not only in weight but also in class.
“I know I have the speed and the ability to beat him, and I will give my fans what they deserve on May 7,” Khan said.
De La Hoya promised that when Mayweather retired in September, Golden Boy would seize the Cinco De Mayo date and make sure a Mexican star was in the main event. Mayweather used to own that date, but with the future Hall of Famer out of the picture, De La Hoya was able to deliver on that promise. And his company gets to christen Las Vegas’ new home for megafights.
Interestingly, Golden Boy did not name T-Mobile as the venue in its announcement Tuesday. It may be because the switch from the Grand Garden to T-Mobile still has to be approved by the Nevada Athletic Commission, and Golden Boy didn’t want to presume anything.
But the venue change is on Thursday’s agenda when the commission meets in Las Vegas and is expected to be unanimously approved.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj