This past weekend, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez knocked out Amir Khan in the fifth round of their pseudo-middleweight championship fight.
I say “pseudo” for two reasons: 1) Alvarez has rarely defended his middleweight title at the actual limit of 160 pounds, opting instead to use his considerable drawing power and subsequent negotiating muscle to mandate catch weights around 155 pounds, just like this fight and 2) Amir Khan, while one of the very best technical boxers in the world and a former Olympian to boot, took this fight two weight classes above his optimal fighting weight, no doubt to try and make history, but also to nab the massive payday that comes along with fighting someone of Canelo’s stature.
For the first few rounds, Amir did well, despite what two out of three judges’ scorecards said. He stayed on the outside and used his speed advantage to outbox Canelo, a brilliant and powerful counterpuncher, but a notoriously flat-footed one. Beginning toward the end of round four, however, the Amir Khan that got flattened by Breidis Prescott, Danny Garcia and nearly flash-KOd by Marcos Maidana showed himself: namely, the one who begins to put more faith in his chin than his skills, and believes he can survive a firefight. He can’t.
About halfway into the fifth round, Khan wound up, just slightly more than he should have, on a left hook that probably wasn’t powerful enough to stop the iron-chinned Alvarez in the first place. He paid for it, knocked cold by an Alvarez counter right hand.
It was a conclusion that most everyone, pundits, fans and fellow fighters alike, saw coming, even as we tried to entertain ourselves by finding ways around it. Alvarez was too big, too strong, too powerful and possessed legitimate world-class boxing skills to augment his natural advantages and Khan was known for going out on his shield. This was inevitability exemplified.
I can’t be certain, but I may have a slightly more firm sense now of how Bernie Sanders and his supporters must feel. Faced with Hillary Clinton, a near-career politician and seeming inevitable Democratic nominee, the Sanders campaign did everything in their power and more to convince themselves and a sizeable portion of the Democratic constituency that theirs was a viable cause. The galvanization of youth voters was historic, echoing that of Obama’s 2008 campaign, appropriately Clinton’s last major political defeat. His socialist leaning and calls for free post-secondary education, higher minimum wage and more resonate with young and progressive voters more than the center-left economics of Clinton.
I get it. It feels good, it feels important to align oneself with a cause. It feels even better when the cause is that of the underdog, and the hurt is all that more acute when the machine wins.
I know this firsthand. I’ve been in Wisconsin now for nearly five years, long enough to witness the Scott Walker mess from back to front. I saw a seeming army of motivated and well-meaning citizens try to take down an obviously corrupt and, without teetering an iota towards hyperbole, a downright evil man in the recall election. When he eventually won out, due in part to the underhanded and illegal tactics we all knew his campaign and the Koch machine would use, it was disheartening at best, existentially crushing at worst.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, not where Democrats of all stripes are concerned. Let’s turn back to the fight for a second — for months, fans and pundits have been calling for Alvarez to face Gennady Golovkin, an undefeated destroyer at middleweight and champion several times over. Alvarez’s camp (the fighter himself seems willing to face Golovkin) has stalled negotiations with demands regarding catch weights and purse divisions, seemingly hell-bent on recreating the Mayweather-Pacquiao drama that poisoned the boxing landscape for over half a decade.
With this latest victory, however, the Canelo camp is under immense pressure. Khan was a worthy opponent, but undersized and a virgin at that weight class, easy pickings for a long-term, naturally bigger champion. At this point, there is no one left to pick off, and Golovkin’s angling for this fight has gotten more public, more vocal and more resonant with the general boxing public.
Sanders has done something noteworthy and important throughout the course of this campaign and continues to do it, I grudgingly concede, by not bowing out when he clearly has no remaining path to the nomination. He has steered the conversation farther to the left, farther towards positions and goals that matter to his constituents. And Clinton hasn’t been able to ignore it, not without conceding several points to Sanders and his cause. As a result, she’s still not the candidate that he and his supporters want — hell, she’s not a perfect candidate for those of us who’ve been supporting her all along — but she’s closer. And Sanders can take heart in knowing that he made that happen.