LONDON (Reuters) - Amir Khan will have to produce one of the greatest displays ever seen by a British boxer if he is to beat WBC middleweight champion Saul Alvarez in Las Vegas on Saturday, according to Ricky Hatton.
The 29-year-old, like fellow Briton Hatton a former light-welterweight world champion, has moved up two weight divisions - putting on the best part of 10 kilos - to take on flame-haired Mexican Alvarez, whose only defeat in 48 fights came against Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2013.
Khan is a huge underdog against Alvarez, nicknamed Canelo (the Spanish word for cinnamon) because of his hair, but Hatton believes he could pull off an upset.
“It’s a big ask. He has the tools to do it and I hope he does it, but it’s a massive, massive ask to keep out of trouble for 12 rounds against Alvarez who has improved so much since the Mayweather fight,” Hatton told Reuters.
“If he does pull it off, going from welterweight to middleweight and wining the title, it would be one of the best wins in British boxing history I think.”
Hatton knows first hand the dangers of moving up a weight.
He suffered his first career defeat when Mayweather knocked him out in a WBC welterweight world title bout in Las Vegas in 2007 and was never the same fighter again.
According to the 37-year-old Hatton, who is now a boxing promoter having hung up his gloves in 2012, Khan must not get involved in a slug fest with the more powerful Alvarez and use his superior movement to stay out of trouble.
”It’s a fight that I didn’t think would be made,“ said Hatton, whose stable includes upcoming British heavyweight Nathan Gorman. ”Amir always has good fights, but he needs to make this one boring.
“If he tries to have a go with this lad, I don’t think he needs me to tell him, he needs to use his speed, move, move. The moment he stops moving those feet, he will be in trouble because Alvarez is a big puncher.”
Hatton’s concern is that by putting on some extra pounds to move up, Khan may have slowed down for what will be his first fight in a year since beating American Chris Algieri.
”I don’t think it’s the hand speed. It’s the foot speed. Amir is not a fighter like Mayweather, he is more straight backed.
“He has to use his feet to be defensive. Alvarez’s feet are not the quickest, whether Amir can maintain the speed when he puts the weight on I‘m not sure.”
Khan, who won the WBA light-welterweight title aged 22, having been a lightweight silver medalist at the Athens Olympics, has lost three of his 34 fights.
Editing by Hugh Lawson