KELL Brook faces his biggest test this weekend when he takes on American Shawn Porter for the IBF welterweight title in Carson, California (part of the Los Angeles sprawl). It’s a fascinating fight, with opinion split as to who will win.
Porter has improved hugely over the last couple of years and looked particularly impressive destroying Paulie Malignaggi last time out in April. But then Brook is unbeaten (like Porter) and much fresher than the “Magic Man” was when I watched Shawn beat him in Washington DC four months ago.
The omens supplied by history are both encouraging and discouraging for Brook. The Sheffield talent may or may not be aware that it was in the month of August, albeit 99 years ago, that a British boxer went to the USA and wrested the world welter crown from an American – Ted “Kid” Lewis outpointed Jack Britton over 12 rounds in Boston on August 1, 1915.
Lewis subsequently met Britton in six more world title fights and won only one of them (another was drawn). But the measure of the Aldgate star’s achievement is that the next time a Briton dethroned a world champion in the USA was Alan Minter beating Vito Antuofermo for the middleweight crown in 1980.
Just 15 days after Minter’s exploit came a fight that Brook supporters will want to gloss over. On March 31, 1980, Dave “Boy” Green challenged the fabulous Sugar Ray Leonard for the WBC welterweight title in the USA and was knocked cold by a left hook in round four. The Chatteris brawler had already been knocked out by Carlos Palomino in a world title bid (in London) and by Jorgen Hansen in a European championships clash in Denmark, so putting him in with Leonard was asking too much. At least Brook will go into the Porter match with a 100 per cent record and his confidence intact.
Another over-ambitious match featuring a Brit challenging an American for the world welter title in the USA came in July 2001, when Adrian Stone travelled to Las Vegas to face Sugar Shane Mosley for the WBC belt. Bristol’s Stone was a decent fighter at European level but Mosley was at his peak, having beaten Oscar De La Hoya the previous year; Adrian was knocked out in three rounds.
So in whose footsteps will Kell Brook follow on Saturday? Will he emulate Ted “Kid” Lewis or suffer the same fate as Green and Stone? The last two were arguably past their best when their US chance came, whereas Brook is at his peak now. Win or lose, he will surely let Porter know he has been in a fight and go back to Yorkshire with his reputation enhanced.