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As Khan bout nears, Canelo Alvarez questions credentials of Golovkin, maybe his next foe

Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, left, and Amir Khan face off during their final press conference at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, left, and Amir Khan face off during their final press conference at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

(JOHN GURZINSKI / AFP/Getty Images)

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez won admiration three years ago when he lobbied for a bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr. that marked him with his only defeat but won him riches.

Now 25, Mexico’s most popular fighter nears his first middleweight title defense Saturday at the new T-Mobile Arena against 5-1 underdog Amir Khan of England.

Should he defeat Khan, World Boxing Council champion Alvarez will have until May 22 to begin negotiations to fight unbeaten, two-belt middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, or WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman said he’ll strip the belt and give it to Golovkin.

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Reporters who met with Alvarez (46-1-1, 32 knockouts) before Wednesday’s news conference with Khan turned the conversation to Golovkin.

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“Fighting the type of opponents [Golovkin] fought a couple weeks ago, come on, that’s not going to bring this fight,” Alvarez said.

On April 23 at the Forum, the 34-year-old Golovkin (35-0) won his 16th consecutive middleweight title fight and posted his 22nd consecutive knockout, flattening mandatory International Boxing Federation challenger Dominic Wade in the second round.

“He needs to work his way up, he needs to earn his shot,” Alvarez said of Golovkin. “He would have to fight somebody … who has skill, somebody that brings it. Yes, he has all these knockouts, but who has he fought?”

Alvarez’s assessment doesn’t account for the mythical pound-for-pound rankings that place Golovkin above Alvarez, and the fact that Golovkin is avoided by many opponents.

“There’s no reason to be afraid” of Golovkin, Alvarez insisted.

Former longtime middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins of Alvarez’s promotional company, Golden Boy, told a story of how he needed to come down from the 160-pound middleweight limit and agreed to fight at 158 pounds to land a lucrative bout against the more popular Oscar De La Hoya.

“Why give Triple G [Golovkin] a pass?” Hopkins asked, asserting that Alvarez will bring more fans and money to the fight and deserves the courtesy of a favorable purse split and the right to ask Golovkin to shed a few extra pounds for a catchweight.

“I’m a 154-pounder,” said Alvarez, who’s fighting Khan at a 155-pound catchweight.

Said Hopkins: “It’s not too premature to fight [Golovkin]. Both sides have to come to a reasonable, common weight that both are comfortable at. Who’s the star? The superstar fighting on Cinco de Mayo carries the numbers and is the guy.”

De La Hoya, Alvarez’s promoter, confided the fighter has privately told him, “I’ll fight anyone,” referencing Golovkin.

“When he took the Mayweather fight, I knew, as a fighter, [Alvarez] didn’t have the necessary experience to beat the best fighter on the planet,” De La Hoya said. “But him as a young fighter wanted to believe in himself and believe he can do it against all odds. We know it was obviously a huge mistake.

“He’s still willing to face anybody and everybody — Khan is faster than Mayweather. … Canelo is never one to shy away from a challenge.”

Meanwhile, Khan (31-3, 19 KOs) admitted, “I’m not supposed to win” Saturday. But the challenger detailed how “being an underdog for the first time” has its benefits.

“It’s about being disciplined. I can’t lose focus,” Khan said. “I haven’t respected the guys who’ve hurt me [in the past]. Knowing you can be hurt, your defense is sharper.”

In the past, Khan came close to landing fights against Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. “Going against [them] would be easier than this [fight], more of a chess match. I’m not as strong as Canelo,” Khan said.

Khan said he sought to place a rehydration weight limit on Alvarez following the weigh-in, but that was rejected. Khan expects Alvarez to weigh close to 175 on fight night, and to weigh around 162 himself.

A former 140-pound world champion, Khan also is obligated by the WBC to fight Golovkin should he upset Alvarez.

“I need to look after my health,” Khan said. “It’d be a massive fight, though, so you never know. This [155 pounds] might be a good weight for me.”

Khan said Alvarez “is probably not going to feel” the full impact of his punches, “but what wins this fight is skill.”

Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire


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