KELL BROOK had made a bold choice. He was a significant underdog going to Las Vegas to challenge Terence Crawford for the WBO welterweight title. He hadn’t fought at this weight since 2017 and he had put his body through a punishing career that encompassed gruelling defeats to Gennady Golovkin, up at middleweight, and Errol Spence. Crawford in contrast has looked imperious throughout. A three weight world champion, undisputed at super-lightweight and excellent as a welterweight titlist, Crawford is one of the best boxers operating at any weight in the world today.
But Brook’s pre-fight confidence, even just making the weight on Friday and looking in magnificent condition when he did it inspired hope. Unlike an IBF title fight, Brook pointed out, the WBO didn’t have a check weight limit for the day of the fight. He could do the weight, he insisted, and perform on the night.
The early going in the fight had promise. Brook began composed and cautious. He let Crawford come to him and did not rush himself. He threw his jab and connected. Brook landed to the head and placed it the body, just probing the champion’s defences. Firing out a quality one-two we saw flashes of the old Kell Brook.
Crawford however is a clever decision-maker. He adjusted. The American can fight just as well from either stance and switched southpaw. He blocked Kell’s jab from coming in and left Brook to reach for him with a cross.
The finish when it came was quick. Brook lunged for him and Crawford met him head on with a lead right, a stiff jab really. But it was a strong shot and Brook by stepping on to it increased its weight. The Englishman was hurt instantly by that one blow. He staggered backwards, tumbling into the ropes and Crawford cracked a couple more hooks into him.
The referee Tony Weeks deemed the ropes had held him and gave Brook a count. The challenger wanted to continue but even as the action resumed he looked badly dazed. Straightaway Crawford hammered him back into the ropes and stopped him at 1-14 of the fourth round.
Brook was left stunned, at the speed of the finish and the strength of Crawford.
Crawford is a tremendous boxer with spiteful power even at welterweight. But the worry for Brook is how decisive the damage of that one lead right was. He is a tough fighter, he showed that against the monstrous punching of Golovkin and against Spence too, he broke eye sockets in both of those fights. But with a hard career behind him, Brook’s punch resistance looks like it might be deserting him. That raises questions. It’s unclear whether moving back to super-welterweight would help him and besides 154lbs is another ferociously competitive division at world level.
Brook is undoubtedly courageous. His choices of opponent confirm that. But in boxing the line between being brave and being foolhardy is simply winning. This merciless defeat leaves Brook wondering where to go next.