By Rudy Mondragon
It was recently announced that Amir Khan (31-3, 19 KOs) will be challenging the WBC middleweight champion, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (46-1-1, 32 KOs) on May 7, 2016 at the brand new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. This will be the first time in recent years that Floyd Mayweather Jr. will not headline a Cinco De Mayo fight weekend.
The announcement of this fight has brought on great debate from all corners. Canelo is the middleweight champion, yet some question that title because he has not fought anyone at the 160 lbs limit. Rather, he has engaged in contracted bouts at a max weight of 155lbs. Not a true middleweight champion in the eyes of some boxing fans and experts.
Another critique is that Canelo is taking on a smaller opponent rather than fighting someone his own size. Khan has not fought north of 147 lbs and only has 3 fights at the welterweight division. Although he possesses great skill and speed, one powerful punch can take the challenger out as we have seen in the past (see Prescott and Garcia).
One thing is for sure, Khan and Canelo are big names in mainstream boxing with strong followings from Mexico and the UK. The styles these two possess will make this fight exciting. The possibilities of Khan being knocked out as well as Khan outboxing Canelo make this fight worth tuning in for.
What I found interesting however, were some of the tweets that made their rounds through Twitter immediately following the announcement of this fight.
@BoxingLegal came across a tweet that featured a cartoon image of Blanka versus Dhalsim from the classic video game Street Fighter. The photo was an attempt to poke fun of the racial and ethnic dimensions of this fight. Blanka, representing the Brazilian beast and savage and Dhalsim representing the stereotypical dark skinned Indian yogi. The photo has since been removed from twitter and the twitter user seems to have canceled their account.
Ironically, Canelo’s light skin and good looks distance him from being read as a savage beast (which many Mexicans, especially darker skin Mexicans, are labeled and read as such) and draws him closer to whiteness. In Khan’s case, the stereotypical representation is completely inaccurate given his Pakistani roots and Islamic background. I’m sure @BoxingLegal’s handbook found this and more in regards to the image being a racist representations of the two boxers.
I also found it necessary to discuss one of Dan Rafael’s (@danrafaelespn) tweets regarding #CaneloKhan. Rafael was clearly excited about the match up. In an effort to show his excitement in a humorous way, he tweeted “Channeling my inner @realDonaldTrump: #CaneloKhan is going to be yuuuuuuuuuge!”
I understand that tweets are limited to 140 characters. It is no excuse however, to tweet something without recognizing the implications of the references made in one’s tweet. Rafael’s tweet leaves out the politics of a hyper-conservative and xenophobic billionaire politician. The reality is, based on numerous Trump interviews and speeches, Donald would actually not think this is “yuuuuuuuge!”
Wait, let me take a step back. Trump would only think this is a big deal if it meant money in his pockets or was comped front row seats to watch a violent spectacle between a Mexican and Muslim. In all honesty, Trumps views construct Canelo as a criminal immigrant threat to this country and Khan as an Islamic enemy that is a hazard to this world.
Let me just say, Dan Rafael does great work and I love following his coverage of boxing. However, I do think it is necessary to unpack tweets and images that ascribe to racial stereotypes as well as linking a boxing match to a problematic figure like Donald Trump. After all, the boxing world is a microcosm of the larger society. The connections are endless and through writings and conversations, we can connect the dots to see how the sport cannot escape the social, cultural, and political realities of the times.