BN: You announced your retirement in May 2022, but suggestions persist that you may yet fight again. To what extent do you still consider yourself a retired fighter?
Brook: I consider myself a bit of a semi-retired fighter. When you’ve done it since you were nine years old, it’s in me blood; it’s hard to get away from it. Any fighter what has retired, what I’ve spoke to, said the same. The last performance against Amir Khan, and the excitement and the way I executed it, I question myself quite a lot – I’ve not seen anything, since I’ve fought Khan [on February 19, 2022], with that excitement in a fight. I’ve not seen no fighter really excite me either. It’s hard to walk away when I know that.
BN: How easy, or difficult, a decision was that to come to after the satisfaction of beating Amir Khan?
Brook: It were pretty easy at the time. I’ve obviously done everything in boxing. I’ve been the first guy on the card that nobody knew about. I didn’t get the big Olympics behind me – I were a normal fighter what had to work himself up the rankings to get into the position I ended up getting into. I’ve been in little changing rooms – had it the hard way – become mandatory, boxed X for the British [welterweight] title at Bethnal Green, won that outright, [travelled] over to America, had scary fights with Carson Jones – them fights that really test you, and know that I’ve got that grit. I’ve passed everything what’s needed to be passed to be a top-level fighter. Coming over to America; fighting fights people are gobsmacked about. [In September 2016, Gennady] Golovkin, who were a killer at middleweight. Fighting me mandatory when people thought I’d give the title up. The people what know about the game know how good [Errol] Spence [in May 2017] were before everyone else did. I boxed [Terence] Crawford [in November 2020].
With Khan, it was a grudge match and all I needed in me career to say I’ve had an unbelievable career, and taking care of business against him and being in that kind of fight – another Brit, in Britain, with all the fans excited after all the years of us being talked about – was the one. After that I thought, “I’ve had a good run – why not hang them up now, while I’m on top? I’ve ticked all boxes – what else do I need from the game?”
It were as satisfying as the fight that he told the truth, because he seems to lie a lot, lately. He come out and said he didn’t have no recollection of the spar, and he said it out loud. I’ve got to give him respect at the same time that he were humble, and he told the truth.
BN: To what extent were you aware, in the build-up to that fight, that that could be your last?
Brook: From the start – it started really hitting home that this could be the final fight that I ever have. There were mixed emotions in there about it, because it’s a sport we all love. It’s me bread and butter. I’ve been all over the world through boxing – met some unbelievable people – got very healthy and fit through boxing. Mental health and everything else. It’s a game we all love and we all need – that we understand.
BN: How did that affect your preparations?
Brook: This, in my eyes, was my first fight. The grudge match and the back and forth – who were the best? – and knowing that whoever lost would have to live with it for the rest of their life, I knew that it’d haunt me forever. I wouldn’t be able to sleep well at night. So I knew, in that particular camp – I made sure that not even a grain went past my lips what shouldn’t do. I were bang on time for bed; I were up early. I were making sure I put that work in and concentrating on every single training session. Every one. No, “I don’t feel too good today”. I made sure I got the right masseuse there; the rest in; everything. I knew, if I didn’t do everything right, it’d haunt me. “I could have done better at this; better at that.” I did everything I could to be the best I could be for that night.
BN: What was your frame of mind at the time you were announcing your retirement?
Brook: It felt satisfying, but it also felt weird – it’s something I’ve never done. I remember being the youngest in the gym; then also thinking I’m the oldest in the gym; it’s mad how things turn round. I’ve got to the stage where, I’m saying out loud, “I’m finished from boxing – I’m retired”. There were many different emotions. It did feel satisfying looking back, watching fights back that Sky Sports or DAZN have put out there – at all the wins, different experiences I’ve had, and reminiscing. Thinking, “I’ve done everything – had me grudge match, won titles, been in against killers, fought all comers – everything of the game I’ve done”. I did feel satisfied, but I love competing as well – I love that challenge. I love these young kids who think that I’m past it. I love a challenge. I love a challenge. So that might be where I come out and say I’ve got more fights in me. Someone’s yet to turn me on to that.
BN: In the months after that announcement there were regular suggestions that you were struggling with retirement. To what extent is that true?
Brook: That’s 100 per cent true. Having nobody call me, and not having a purpose in life – my purpose, to become champion, beat the guy in front of me, train every day. I’m getting calls off me trainer. “Make sure you’re in at this time; you’re eating this food; having your rest; this time for sparring.” When I’ve not been getting none of that I’m thinking, “What do I do with me life now? What do I actually do?” I got lost in this world, and the bad press shows you I were lost and making terrible decisions, and I were fucked up. I weren’t good. I were in an horrifically dark place. Horrific. I wouldn’t wish it on me worst enemy. Bad. Bad, bad, bad.
That, what happened to me – getting filmed [snorting white powder] – he works in mysterious ways, God, and doing that, the pressures of being this champion, supposed to be hard-man boxer, not getting the help and talking to people, it opened up. All the world knew that someone filmed me doing that in my house – I’d hit rock bottom at that stage, and it were, “I need help”, and I got the help I needed. Probably one day, when I see the guy who filmed me, I’ll probably end up shaking his hand. “Thank you for that – you’ve changed me life for the better.” I feel amazing now. I’ve got structure in my life; [work] to help people; a routine. I’m a better dad; a better everything. It’s mad how things turn round. I thought me world had ended. But I got a lot of support. Mental health is a massive thing in the world now. If I can reach out and help anyone who’s struggling, the joys I’d get – ‘cause I’ve been and lived it – if I can help someone else who’s in that spot, bring them on. Knowing I’ve pulled someone out from that dark pit and got them in this beautiful world – there’s more to life than the sad and the dark times and badness, and depression. I was as depressed as can be.
BN: To what extent was that time different from the other periods of inactivity you’ve endured?
Brook: [Before then] I was still an active fighter, training, knowing that something’s going to happen. The difference is knowing that I’ve told the world I’m retired – told meself I’m retired. “No more boxing for me anymore.” Knowing that, that’s the difference – a current fighter’s still ready for something to come up. If a fight hasn’t materialised I know something will down the line. But knowing I’m retired, and it’s the end of the show – the show is over – is a massive difference between the two.
BN: What’s the new-found structure in your life you’re referring to?
Brook: I’m just a keep-fitter, me [laughs]. I’m just a keep-fitter. I go to the gym, work out, let them endorphins off; wake up in the morning, meditate; do me gratitude list. I’ve got a routine – take me kids to school. I don’t just wake up and think, “What will I do today?” The night before I’ll have something where I know what I’m doing the next day, and it’s structure for me, because that’s what we need, as fighters. When we’ve had a routine – having a structure and a purpose, me big purpose out there every day is to help people. That’s what I do these days. I help people what are struggling. I run; I box; I keep fit. I get a sweat on and I train.
BN: How do you reflect on the fact that a video of that nature ended up somewhere public?
Brook: It’s frustrating, but it shows you who your friends are. I brought someone into my home, where I think I’m private, and they’re still sneaking a fucking video out of me. It shows you what a rat – proper rat – he is to do that. Before that even happened, probably an hour before, I actually give the guy a new coat, and he’s there in the house, talking to me, but all along he knows, in his mind, he’s fucking videoing me, doing that in my own home. It shows you what a rat he is.
The reason I’m sorry is because I’m a role model for these young fighters, and it’s putting a dark cloud over the game. I don’t want young fighters, when they’re first starting out, their hero’s doing badness like that. Picking my girl up from school, and the mothers and dads are looking down and thinking, “Your dad’s a fucking cokehead”, or whatever they might think. Everyone makes mistakes, and I made a massive mistake, and I’m just apologising to the young fighters and to anyone who were offended. It is what it is, and I’ve turned me life round now, so that’s what’s happened.
BN: How many proposals have you been made to fight since announcing your retirement?
Brook: I’m a blue-chip fighter. I could come back out of the game and fight whoever I wanted to, and it’s going to be big, and everyone’s gonna wanna see it. I’ve spoke to different people. General chat, really. These fights can happen, and I just wanna hear maybe a bit more to get me to switch on and maybe wanna train and get into another fight. It’s got to be financially good for me, and the challenge has got to be good for me. I’ve gotta think, “This guy can test me”. ‘Cause I love a challenge; I love a test; I love competing against the best.
BN: How did you reflect on Khan, your long-term rival, announcing his?
Brook: I didn’t really have a thought about it. He’s had a good career and done what he’s done. It were similar to me. He’d had his big fight – he’d done very similar things to me. What else does he need to do? It was probably the right decision for him to take after taking a hiding.
BN: Is it true you planned to attend the cancelled fight between Chris Eubank Jnr and Conor Benn?
Brook: Yeah. I’m intrigued to see what the outcome is. Just as a fan.
BN: How do you reflect on the fight between Eubank Jnr and Liam Smith? Would you have any interest in seeing the rematch?
Brook: I were a bit shocked how Smith put him away, and he put him away in style. I did actually have Smith probably winning that fight anyway, but the fashion he did it in I didn’t expect. [I’m] not really [interested in a rematch]. I’ve seen enough to know Eubank Jnr’s a piece of shit.
BN: How would you feel about Benn fighting without his name being cleared?
Brook: I wouldn’t be happy about it without him coming forward with a clear reason for all this – him failing his test. I wouldn’t be happy with him not explaining himself and then getting in for the big fights.
BN: How did the news of Khan testing positive for a banned substance the night you fought make you feel?
Brook: I’m still a bit numb from it. He was the one that wanted all this drug testing in place. With the breaking news, and me finding out after everyone else – it’s been over a year since the fight happened, and nobody phoned me [to say], “He failed a drug test after the fight”. I’m scratching me head about it. However it happens, Ben [Shalom], the promoter, UKAD; the [British] Boxing Board [of Control]. Nobody’s contacted me, in a fight – someone failing a test – what I was involved with. It just baffles me.
The respect I had for Amir Khan has completely gone out the window. Because it makes me put into perspective – how long has he been on these drugs? I’m still waiting – it’s still fresh – and I’m still thinking, “What’s he gonna come out with? What is the reason? Why is it in his system?” He failed a drugs test. I’ve got mixed emotions, at the moment, about it, but all I know is he failed a test and I were fighting him in that fight.
I want this to be highlighted, because I’ve got three beautiful kids and it’s scary to know that he come in there, with this drug in him. It’s basically going in there with a knife in one hand and a gun in the other – in a fight. It’s not a fair fight.
He’s going in there on drugs, and it brings an horrible taste in me mouth. These young fighters, and the people what respect Amir Khan, and look up to him – he’s putting it out there to young fighters that he’s on drugs, and it’s putting an horrible fucking name attached to the boxing game, and it’s happening too often. And it’s just disrespecting the sport – these fighters are taking drugs, and cheating, and it’s destroying this game, that they’re doing this. It’s horrible.
These fighters, from [Sugar Ray] Leonard days; [Marvin] Hagler; [Tommy] Hearns – all these fighters, these clean fighters – and these days it’s just getting tarnished with these drug cheats, and it’s putting a fucking horrible name on the game, what’s been beautiful and lovely, and given the fans and the fighters exciting nights. It’s just, horrible.
It makes me think – ‘cause I hit him with some big heavy shots in that fight. Even after, I said to Dom [Ingle, my trainer], ‘I don’t know how he’s stood on his feet that long’, to be honest with you, ‘cause I hit him with some nice shots and he still stood there. So it makes me think, ‘What’s this stuff he’s on? Could he just get through it better with this stuff in him?’ That’s what it’s made me think. If not, I reckon I could’ve flattened him in round one.
BN: As you speak today, how likely is it you’ll fight again?
Brook: I don’t know. I’m content in my life, and what I’ve done in the game, but I also like the competition. We all love the money, and I do love to excite the fans – to get themselves ready, talking among themselves about a big fight I’m involved in, and walking out to the fans is hard to walk away from, and everything else. If someone doesn’t present itself to me right, I won’t box again. If it does, there’s a chance I can fight again.
BN: If you don’t, how much satisfaction would your career give you?
Brook: A lot. I’ve done it all. I’d be satisfied.
BN: What would you change?
Brook: I wouldn’t change anything.
BN: Who was the best you fought?
Brook: I can’t really pick one. Golovkin, Spence and Crawford – it’s hard to put me finger on one.