07/10/2013 13:23 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Amir Khan Could Be the Man to Solve the Floyd Mayweather Mystery

As the rumour mill ramps up with talk of a Khan vs Mayweather showdown in May, it is easy to dismiss Khan's legitimacy as a challenger given his oft-exposed defensive frailties. But as far as pure pugilistic talent goes, Khan is one of few who can dance to Mayweather's aesthetic standards...

Nostalgia is a powerful agent in the highly charged field of professional sports. The passing of time has an unfailing ability to transform the tightest of triumphs into memories of titanic supremacy, where the victor is elevated to an insuperable symbol of impregnability while the unfortunate loser, perhaps in reality beaten by nothing more than cruel luck, has to contend with the sobering truth that their sizable efforts will be forgotten in the absolutist minds of fans who choose to remember their heroes as either winners or losers.

But such was the decisiveness of Floyd Mayweather's surreptitious demolition of Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez a couple of weeks ago that this flawless display of fighting dexterity was hailed as close to sporting perfection as possible, even as both fighters still glistened with sweat having spent 12 rounds toiling to significantly different levels of success.

Canelo, the unbeaten 23-year-old Mexican prodigy, was supposed to be Mayweather's toughest test in a stellar 17-year career, 15 of which have been spent competing for world titles. As well as the obligatory grit and resilience seemingly hereditary in Mexican fighters, Alvarez's technical boxing skills and combination punching, as well as superior size and strength, appeared a perfect match for the supposed blueprint on how to beat the world's greatest pound for pound boxer.

In any sport, natural superiority in talent and technique is routinely equalised by the lesser player dishing out that respective sport's 'rough stuff'. Mayweather's toughest fights to date had seen such roughhouse tactics dished out by Jose Luis Castillo and Oscar de la Hoya, who were able to use blunt, consistent force to bully the slickest fighter in modern boxing towards the precipice of defeat, and educated observers thought Canelo was built to do the same.

Yet the gulf in class when both stepped in the ring was almost unbelievable. Mayweather, 13 years Canelo's senior, made a mockery of the fight's billing as an even contest. In every imaginable aspect, the gap between Mayweather and Alvarez was as wide as the Grand Canyon that sits just miles away from the MGM Grand, the Las Vegas bearpit and boxing Mecca that Mayweather has adopted as the canvas for his uniquely artistic arsenal.

After Mayweather's masterclass came the inevitable questions of Canelo's capability. Whereas Mayweather was dismantling Robert Guerrero with similar ease in his last contest, the Alvarez roadshow came close to derailing against the unbeaten but unheralded Austin Trout in a match that again exposed the subjective nature of boxing scoring. While Alvarez scored the bout's only knockdown and looked a clear victor when on top, there is no question that Trout was the dominant force for most of the contest, with Canelo only claiming the ascendancy in sporadic spurts of power.

But even if his victory over Trout had been conclusive, fighters in the bullish and brawny mould of Alvarez face little chance against Floyd Mayweather's slick trickery, with the ease of 'Money' Mayweather's victories enhancing a sporting monopoly comparable to the supremacy enjoyed by the likes of Usain Bolt and Sebastian Vettel in their chosen disciplines.

Despite his advancing years, credible opponents for Mayweather are an increasingly rare breed. Manny Pacquiao, once boxing's other superpower, probably regrets the Cold War-esque stand off between himself and Mayweather more than his long-time rival, with two consecutive defeats scuppering what would have been the one bout in modern boxing worthy of 'mega-fight' billing.

One of Pacquiao's conquerors, Juan Manuel Marquez, has already been subject to the humiliation of sharing a ring with Mayweather, while unbeaten Tim Bradley, who won a debatable decision over Pacquiao, is firmly locked into a promotional contract with Top Rank, who sit well on the opposite side of the promotional fence to Mayweather's Golden Boy, with this fence between boxing's two promotional behemoths only getting higher and wider.

In the Golden Boy stable, unbeaten Danny Garcia is the man in form having dispatched the fearsome Lucas Matthysse and Britain's own Amir Khan in his past four fights - wins that bucked the political script so rife among boxing's power players outside the ropes. While Garcia has a habit of confounding the odds, his is a skillset of solidity - a sound technique, good chin and a left hook that has humbled some of the light-welterweight division's best, but nothing to touch the extraordinary talent of Floyd Mayweather.

Extraordinary, though, is what the aforementioned Amir Khan is. In amateur boxing, where bouts are contested over three rounds rather than the 12 endured by professional fighters, Khan would enjoy Mayweather's billing as the planet's best given the inimical introduction he offers opponents in the opening moments.

Rugged Argentinian Marcos Maidana was crumpled to the floor in the first round from a body shot, before he recovered to batter Khan in the later exchanges; Lamont Peterson was also sent to the canvas in his opening round with Khan before climbing off the floor to claim the win (albeit testing positive for steroids after the fight), while Garcia suffered a cut and looked set for a thrashing before the Philadelphia fighter was able to detonate two of his hooks onto Khan's notoriously fragile chin.

As the rumour mill ramps up with talk of a Khan vs Mayweather showdown in May, it is easy to dismiss Khan's legitimacy as a challenger given his oft-exposed defensive frailties. But as far as pure pugilistic talent goes, Khan is one of few who can dance to Mayweather's aesthetic standards.

Plus, whereas Khan presents his greatest threat in a fight's opening moments, it is in the early exchanges where Mayweather has tended to show signs of vulnerability, with Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto and even Roberto Guerrero enjoying fleeting moments of early success against Mayweather before being picked apart by his unprecedented in-ring smarts.

Should Khan be handed his golden chance against boxing's golden goose - early estimates suggest the fight making at least $200m - the Brit's knack for a whirlwind start should give him the fight's first three rounds before Mayweather's masterful mind begins meddling to negate Khan's blistering boxing.

Khan can, and has been, bludgeoned into submission, with sluggers such as Maidana, Garcia and the extremely limited Julio Diaz prepared to absorb Khan's flurry of fists in order to land their own punches. Such crude tactics are sacrilege to Floyd Mayweather, who prides himself on a dazzling defence and unblemished face after 45 fights. Plus, Mayweather is by no means throwing fists of concussive fury; his controversial knockout of Victor Ortiz aside, where Mayweather knocked the young American down as he held his hands by his sides in the midst of an apology, the pound-for-pound king has one knockout to his name in seven years and nine fights.

While Mayweather's outstanding skills compensate for a lack of power, possibly made worse by repeated hand injuries in recent times, a fighter employing skill over will is one against which Amir Khan has the greatest chance of succeeding. Where Khan can be bullied, backed up and beaten by brawlers, his two finest fights to date have come against Paulie Malignaggi and Zab Judah, both of whom box with a sophisticated rather than set-guns-to-fire style.

Despite the deceiving 'Jr' tag after Floyd Mayweather's name, which adds to his aura of youthful invincibility, the planet's best boxer will be 37 when he is next scheduled to step into the professional prizering. While there is no sign of decline yet, Father Time has been an untimely surprise to the likes of Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson and Roy Jones Jr, with the speed that once augmented these fine fighters among the first things to desert them. Where Mayweather, a prime athletic specimen, will likely retain the strength and ring-smarts required for his persona as the matador over any of boxing's on-rushing bulls, swatting away an elusive wasp intent on stinging may be a trickier prospect as time takes its toll.

In the absence of legitimate opponents elsewhere for Mayweather, who has just four fights left on his career-defining deal with US broadcaster Showtime, Khan's fleet-footedness and capacity for a fast start makes him the most intriguing pretender to Mayweather's throne as boxing's undisputed best. From a practical perspective, if Khan can replicate his fearsome opening salvos in a fight's later rounds, he need only win four rounds more - providing, as expected, he banks the first three - and avoid any knockdowns to win the fight on a judge's scorecards.

Perhaps more pertinent, though, is that Mayweather has never given a concession in speed in his 17 years as a professional boxer. The challenge recently posed by Alvarez, all rabid aggression and rippling muscles, was one he has faced and fended off for nearly two decades. Should Khan be able to impose an early advantage in an area that has defined Mayweather's reign at the top, 'Money' might start to feel older far quicker than he ever feared, and boxing's fickle fans could forget why they ever questioned the Brit's self-appointed moniker of King Khan.