The curious case of Amir Khan vs. Kell Brook
By Ajuan Isaac-George: Historically, the very nature of boxing as a sport attracts polarizing and flawed characters. Carlos Monzon, Mike Tyson and more recently, Floyd Mayweather are all examples. They were considered geniuses in the ring while their morality was questioned outside of it.
Still, when it comes to naming the top twenty fighters of all time, it’s not uncommon to see any of those names crop up, showing the willingness of boxing fans and historians to separate the man from the fighter. Even the most loyal of Amir Khan fans will be hard pressed to place the 30-year-old Bolton native in that kind of company but there is some truth behind the theory that the boxing fraternity often overlook Khans in ring ability in favor of his less than flattering out of ring exploits.
In fact, although Kell Brook is coming off back to back stoppage loses, against top level opposition in all fairness to the former IBF welterweight champion, you would do well to find a handful of pundits to pick against him. The fight is not as lucrative as it would have been towards the back end of 2015 but there is renewed interest as the pair seek to re-establish themselves as box officer draws, particularly after a few fiery exchanges on social media. If you ignore Amir Khan’s perceived personal problems and he looks anything like the fighter that gave a boxing lesson to former world champion Devon Alexander almost three years ago, the matchup is considerably more fascinating than popular opinion would have you believe, particularly if it’s made at 147lbs. Playing devil’s advocate, let’s look at some of the key factors should the two face each other in 2018.
The most widely predicted outcome of clash is that Brook would eventually get to Khan in the mid- late rounds. As history suggests, this isn’t really an unfair forecast as the latter has been stopped three times in his career; Breidis Prescott, Danny Garcia and Canelo have all put Khan to the sword in dramatic fashion. However, despite his reputation as a puncher in the welterweight division, most Brook’s stoppages have come against low level opposition whom most world level fighters would deal with similarly. Against the two elite welterweights he has faced, Shawn Porter and Errol Spence, Brook landed cleanly on many occasions, yet neither were particularly fazed.
Make no mistake about it, Brook is a hard puncher, but he is not a one punch knockout artist in the mold that Sky Sports Matchroom heavy commentary would have you believe. This coupled by the fact that Khan has only been stopped by men with genuine ability to ice opponents in one punch, makes the knockout victory less likely than first glance suggests. Khan’s biggest Achilles heel is not his chin, but rather his tendency to lose focus at the crucial moment. The biggest question in if this fight goes the distance is more due to which Amir Khan turns up on the night, as opposed to Brook’s power. Brook is the puncher of the two, but don’t be surprised if it goes the full 12 rounds.
If the fight does go the distance, the deciding factor will be boxing ability, an area where both men have excelled. Brook utilizes an extremely stiff jab, counter lead right hands and excellent timing and accuracy to nullify his opponents, while Khan uses his lighting hand spend to fire off rapid combinations before employing equally rapid foot speed to get out of range. The key factor could be how both men fair down the distance. Traditionally they’re both more than capable of doing so, surviving onslaughts against Marcos Maidana and Carson Jones respectively and still going on to win. Brook however, has always been a massive welterweight and notoriously must boil himself down to make the limit. At this stage of his career, the affect may be more pronounced than ever. Should Khan manage to stay out of harm’s way for the first 6 rounds, there’s always the possibility he could outbox a weight drained Brook down the stretch.
Often, by the time we get the fight we want, the participants are past their prime. For Brook and Khan, we can’t be certain that’s the case until they get in the ring. What is certain, is that both are more battle hardened and vulnerable, with a lot more to lose than they had in their twenties. Had the contest taken place when it should have, both would have had time to rebuild and likely challenge for another world title. Now, it’s a different story. Passionate though they are, British boxing fans can be unforgiving. Should Khan lose, there will be those who call him a washed-up fighter who padded his record with over-hyped Americans and ultimately talks better than he fights. Should Brook lose, he will be seen as a flat track bully who rarely ever produced when it mattered.
The high-level stakes combined with the cash and promotional build up will make it an all British clash on par with the Carl Froch vs. George Groves 2. Brook will be hoping for a similarly fatalistic outcome in his favor while Khan should not be discounted just because of his out of ring behavior. He /might have a few world class nights left in him as he chases Floyd Mayweather in a quest that is almost certain to fail. Ultimately, it could come down to how much Khan’s speed and ring generalship have been affected due to the extended lay off vs. Brooks willingness to pull the trigger after several career threatening injuries.
What we can be sure of is that it isn’t a fight you want to miss. If it happens.