Khan vs. Brook – A Story of Excuses, Greed & Boxing Politics
By Jonny Rashman: The all British showdown between former WBA & IBF Light welterweight Champion Amir “King” Khan (33 wins, 20 Ko’s, 4 losses) and the former IBF welterweight Champion “The Special one” Kell Brook ( 37 wins, 26 KO’s, 2 losses) is a fight boxing fans have been desperate to see since 2012. The fact this fight has not happened yet is nothing short of a disgrace. It will be a travesty should these two boxing superstars not cross paths before they both hang up the gloves. My thesis is there is only one-man preventing this fight from happening. This article will explain who that man is and how I reached this conclusion.
The Khan vs Brook fight has been simmering for 6 years, a true grudge match, a classic speed vs precision encounter. Add in to the mix both fighters heart, power and vulnerability. This encounter has all the ingredients to whet boxing fans appetites.
Cast your mind back to 2012. Both fighters were being interviewed side by side on the Sky Sports boxing show Ringside.The tension in the room was palpable, which made for compelling viewing. This marked the first occasion a contest between the two rivals was first being mooted about, granted not on the worldwide scene, but most defiantly would have sold out any UK stadium at the time. Just look at the Froch vs Groves fights for proof of how a British grudge match can capture the imagination of a nation. This interview was classic box office television, with both men adamant they had the beating of one another. Brook was stone-faced throughout and repeatedly stated that Khan “can’t hold a shot” and that he would “knock Khan out”. This seemed to fluster and agitate khan with him telling Brook he has to “prove himself on the world scene” by fighting world class opposition such as Timothy Bradley, Manny Pacquiao, Marcos Maidana and Devon Alexander, who were at the top of their games in this period. A sparring session between the pair before Khan catapulted himself on the world scene by winning a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics games in Athens was brought up. This caused a lively debate that resulted in conflicting stories from the two fighters as to what actually happened in the sparring session. The end of this interview really intrigued me as this signaled the first time Khan set Brook the first of a catalog of goals. He demanded that Brook beat the then WBO world champion Timothy Bradley to secure a fight with him. Brook was asked why he turned down a fight with Bradley at the time, which his answer was “the money wasn’t great and the contract had all sorts or ties in it. I want to concentrate on going down the IBF route”. History has proven this was a great decision as Brook ultimately ended up winning the IBF belt which added credence to his reason for not taking the Bradley fight.
At the time (2012) Amir Khan was the bigger name and proven world class fighter. He had been a former WBA & IBF Light Welterweight World Champion, and had just come off back to back defeats in unification fights against Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia. There is no doubt Khan fighting Brook at this time would have been a step back in his career. In Contrast Brook was just starting to enter the forefront of British boxing fans minds. He was operating at predominately European, fringe world class level. Matthew Hatton a former Wold title challenger and brother to boxing royalty Ricky Hatton was the stand out name on his undefeated record. Under the guidance of charismatic UK boxing promoter Eddie Hearn who was starting to make waves in the boxing scene at the time. Brook was on his way to boxing stardom. Even though this fight was a British blockbuster, Khan’s Decision not to take the fight may well have had some validity.
The next few years would prove to be a very testing time for the Sheffield man, with three world title fights falling through due to injury against the then IBF World Champion Devon Alexander. The boxing gods were certainly not looking down on Brook in this period. In contrast Khan was rebuilding himself on the world scene, producing some of the best boxing of his career, with dazzling displays, notably against the battle hardened Luis Collazo and ironically against Devon Alexander, the same man Brook was scheduled to face on three separate occasions. With Brook being plagued by injury and still unable to secure a big time fight, khan would continue to say “no fight will ever materialize” unless Brook fights world class opponents and wins a world title”.
Midway through 2014 a breakthrough would come in the way of Brook rising to Khan’s challenge by securing his first world title, achieving the inconceivable task of dethroning an undefeated American World champion in his own backyard, “Showtime” Shawn Porter was the name Brook overcame, capturing the IBF strap in the process. This was the Special One’s Everest moment, a lifetime dream accomplished. Surely achieving this goal would pave the way for a Khan Vs Brook showdown? How wrong could I be? Fate would strike a devastating blow and all talk of the fight was put to the back burner. A few weeks after winning his first world title and still on cloud nine, Brook would face the biggest challenge of his life, far bigger than anything he has ever faced in the ring. After being the victim of an unprovoked machete attack to his left leg while on a family holiday in Tenerife. There were serious concerns Brook may never fight again, thus delaying any potential fight between him and his arch nemesis Khan.
It’s the year 2015 this time it was Khan having no luck in securing big time fights, with lucrative bouts against superstars Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao falling through. The talk of Khan vs Brook was firmly back in the agenda of the British Public. This was surely the perfect time for the showdown to happen. Brook had become a world champion, beat a world class opponent and built his name up to the American public. All objectives that Khan put in his way for the fight to be made, After back and forth negotiations and a frustrated Eddie Hearn airing his views on countless interviews as to why this fight couldn’t be made. A lengthy spell on the sidelines due to injury and inactivity for both fighters, delayed this fight yet again.
Moving to 2016 and after both fighters being out for nearly a year, momentum was really gathering pace for the fight to be announced. It looked like there was nowhere for both fighters to go after big time fights falling through on both sides. Just as the British public were getting their hopes up. Khan shocked the world and went down another route by announcing he was moving up two weight divisions to challenge WBC Middleweight Champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in a bizarre but brave move. This sent shock waves through the boxing community as the Brook fight looked nailed on to be announced. Even though I couldn’t blame Khan for daring to be great and finally landing a lucrative fight, this still seemed like a strange move in the fact that how likely was he going to be successful in stepping up two weight diversions and defeating the thunderous punching Alvarez. In Hindsight and Khan admitting himself this was a gamble to far, this fight should not have happened as it resulted with him being rendered heavily unconscious by a highlight wheel right hand from the flamed hair Mexican. It was the type of heavy duty knockout that can end a career. Near the end of the year Brook made the same bizarre decision in stepping up two weight divisions to take on the hard hitting undefeated middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. Brook was in the fight up in till a fractured eye socket forced his corner to throw in the towel in round number 5. I can’t help but think surely these two fighters were better off facing each other at a packed out Wembley stadium, fighting in the weight class they are accustomed to, rather than fighting heavy punching world class fighters in weight divisions they have never fought in. History has proven both men made the wrong decision in taking these fights as they both left something in the ring on both occasions.
Let’s get to the nuts and bolts of why this fight has not been contested. In mine and the majority boxing fans opinion, Khan is the one preventing this fight from happening. An interview in 2017 with Michelle Joy Phelps on Behind the Gloves very much added substance to this theory. Khan was asked “will you consider facing Brook” he replied by stating “no. The only way the fight will happen is if promoter Eddie Hearn is not involved with the fight”. Michelle asked “why” Khan responded by saying “me and Eddie don’t see eye to eye, and maybe because Eddie tries to be the big man”. Yet again Khan has put a major obstacle for Brook to overcome only this time Khan knows full well Brook isn’t going to part ways with Eddie Hearn. I can’t help casting my mind back to the infamous ringside interview in 2012 when Khan said “I will move up to 147 and knock Kell out, now I’ve said it in front of everybody.” If you go back to all the interviews throughout the years regarding this subject, it’s Khan who has consistently moved the goal posts and not followed through on his promises. The way this fight is playing out reminds me of a time in the UK over a decade ago between two British fighters who had a strong disdain for one another. The two fighters were former World Champions Ricky Hatton and Junior Witter. Like Khan, Hatton was the A side of the two fighters, and like Brook, Witter’s style would of caused Hatton nightmares. Ultimately British fight fans never got to see this fight for one reason or another, however the purse both fighters would of received would of been far less than the Khan vs Brook fight. There was also no sold out Wembley stadium on offer.
Fast forward to the present day, yet again Khan vs Brook is the only fight British fight fans are calling for, even after the injuries, defeats and long layoffs that both men have encountered. Khan who has been out of the boxing ring for over two years since his devastating knockout loss the Canelo Alvarez, is on the comeback trail, after purposely staying in the spotlight with a stint on I’m a celebrity get me out of here. In an Amazing turn of events he signed a three fight deal with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom promotional banner; yes this is the same Eddie Hearn who khan made these remarks about five months earlier. “The only way I would take that Brook fight is if he left Eddie Hearn. I just don’t like Eddie Hearn.”He’s very disrespectful, and he’s never come clear with me. If he really wanted the fight between me and Kell Brook, he should not be speaking to me, he should be speaking to [my adviser] Al Haymon. I always said that to him.” The word hypocrite springs to mind. In Khan’s defence, he is not the first and won’t be the last fighter to switch to a rivals promoter. Six years down the line surely this was the final hurdle stopping the fight from happening. Brook is a former world champion, has fought elite world class fighters, has headlined a fight card in a football stadium and now they are both under the same promotional banner. With all major stumbling blocks out of the way, this fight can finally happen.
So the stage was set. Khan was making his much anticipated return from the boxing wilderness in April 2018 against the durable Phil Lo Greco. Brook was at ringside adding fuel to the fire that the fight would finally be announced. After Khan blitzed Lo Greco in a round, Kell Brook entered the ring. It is customary on a Matchroom Sport show before a big fight is just about to be announced for both fighters to go head to head in the ring after one of them has just fought. Khan was asked by sky sports Andy Scott “Who do you want next? Are you after avenging your losses against Danny Garcia or a big domestic fight against Kell Brook? Khan replied “I want to fight the best out there and become world champion again, and if it means going up in weight, we will do that. At the moment I am a 147 fighter. My plan is to win another world title” Andy Scott then asked “Kell Brook is in the ring are you interested in that fight? “Me and Eddie will sit down with Kell’s team, I think the weight is the issue, I am a 147 fighter. I moved up to 150 for this fight because I haven’t had a fight for 2 years. I will fight Kell Brook! and beat Kell Brook! Kell I came to Eddie. I signed a deal with your promotional company. I’ve got close to you, so I’m chasing you!” Brook looking dejected and shell shocked was asked to respond, to which he said “he doesn’t want the fight, he’s just run off he, doesn’t want the fight, all the fans want the fight. He’s been in the jungle and chased stars, but I will make him see stars!” To the bewilderment of every boxing fan in the world, Khan refused to accept the fight, all we had was more empty promises the likes of which we have heard since 2012.
Just over a month ago Khan was back in action against Samuel Vargas. Just like the Lo Greco fight he came sprinting out of the blocks, knocking Vargas down with his lighting fast hand speed. This fight seemed destined to finish early, however Khan’s vulnerabilities came back to haunt him and he was floored with a right hand. He managed to survive and win a unanimous decision. In the after fight interview Khan was asked if his performance would be good enough to beat the likes of Brook and Manny Pacquiao? He said “100% I wanted to get my feet wet and I did that. I mean Manny Pacquiao is an amazing name in boxing; He turned to the crowd and shouted who wants to see the Manny Pacquiao fight? Who wants to see the Kell Brook fight? Which brought a mixed response? Sky Sports Andy Scott then asked “Do you have any objections to fighting Kell Brook? Still refusing to give a straight answer, Khan said “147 is my division. Me and Eddie are going to sit down” Still Kell Brook’s name wouldn’t go away. “What other obstacles does Kell Brook have to overcome to make the fight happen?” he responded “there’s a huge public demand for it. The only fight that works for me over the Kell Brook fight is Manny Pacquiao. Manny Pacquiao is who I want. Manny is my number one pick”. A frustrated Eddie Hearn was then asked “are we in danger of losing this fight?” He forcefully responded “It has to happen next or it will never happen. It’s up to these guys, there’s only so much we can do. It’s now or never for the Brook fight”. It beggars belief why Khan would even mention Pacquiao’s name at this point. It’s the perfect time to fight Brook, with both men nearing the end of their careers. How many realistic opportunities is Khan going to have to face Brook? There is always going to be a bigger name to fight, there is always going to be a world champion to fight.
I am a big fan of Amir Khan he has proven throughout the years he is a warrior. His willingness to compete against the best fighters in his division is to be admired. His blistering hand and foot speed, combined with his vulnerable chin, makes him one of the most exciting fighters on the planet. Although Khan has a massive worldwide fan base, he does get plenty of stick from boxing fans for one reason or another. I am the first to defend him and remind people what a warrior this man has been throughout the years, however I firmly believe and history has proven he has made every excuse not to step in the ring with Brook. His willingness to be Judge, Jury and Executioner has clouded his judgement in my opinion. In the last few days Khan told Sky Sports “nothing can stop this fight with Kell Brook. He’s agreed to be 147 and also have rehydration clause of 10 pounds. I’m happy with that”. For someone who is so confident of knocking Brook out, why has he gone to the extreme of having a rehydration clause? It’s not like Brook is coming down from Super Middleweight. With all the historic problems Brook has had in making 147, that surly should be enough for this fight to happen? I understand his rhetoric to get every advantage he can possibly get, but having a 10 pound rehydration clause is just another obstacle in a long list he has presented Brook with. Khan looked a shadow of his former self in his most recent outing. His eagerness to exchange blows, rather than outbox his opponents has been at times detrimental to his career. For me Khan looks to have lost a yard of foot speed, making him a sitting duck, especially for Kell Brook’s “chocolate brownie” right hand. I am convinced Brook will knock out Khan. I believe his timing and power will negate Khan’s speed. Ultimately this fight will eventually get made. With the news Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are set to lock horns for a second time. Khan has nowhere else to go for a lucrative stadium fight. We have been here before after all, surely after 6 years the stars have aligned for boxing fans to finally get to see the fight they have craved so much for?