WHEN they look back on their career, every boxer has that one special night. That one special fight. When their head hits the pillow and they close their eyes, it is the fight that immediately comes to their mind. The sights, sounds and smells never forgotten. Their favourite film, playing on a loop for as long as they live.
For Kell Brook, his victory over Shawn Porter seems destined to be that fight. There is something about a British fighter winning a world title on foreign soil that stirs the souls of UK fight fans – especially when that soil is American soil.
Porter was unbeaten. A whirling dervish of a welterweight. Brook was also unbeaten, but he was the underdog on that August night in California. With question marks surrounding his professionalism and dedication to training, some suspected that Brook’s undoubted potential would remain unfulfilled at the highest level.
His world title shot had been a long time coming. When it finally came, he made sure that the opportunity would not pass him by. His Ohio opponent was as rabid and tenacious as ever, but Brook weathered the storm and gradually took control over a gruelling 12 rounds. Landing crisp counters and grabbing hold on the inside, that old Wincobank wiliness came to the fore when he needed it most. It wasn’t pretty, but it was certainly effective.
If you asked Brook, he would tell you that three simple words are embedded in his memory from that night in 2014: “And the new…” Three simple words that caused the away corner to erupt in ecstasy.
Terence Crawford’s night is surely still to come.
The American is a reigning world welterweight champion, so he has already emulated Brook’s achievement. On top of this, he has previously worn a world title at lightweight, in addition to being a former undisputed king at super-lightweight.
Listing this impressive haul of belts, it seems illogical to suggest that he has not yet experienced a defining victory. But this simply illustrates the talent that the Nebraska native possesses. All-time greats – and that is what Crawford is aspiring to be – are judged by a different standard to the rest.
Just like Brook, Crawford’s first world title was secured overseas; he outpointed the decorated Ricky Burns on hostile ground in Scotland to become the WBO lightweight champ in 2014. But as good as this win was, it is not the fight that Crawford will be remembered for in years to come. Neither will he be remembered for his victories over Yuriorkis Gamboa, Viktor Postol, Julius Indongo or Jeff Horn. All fine wins for a variety of reasons, but not career-defining.
If Crawford was to defeat the living legend, Manny Pacquiao, this could well fill that gap, especially considering the Filipino icon’s recent renaissance. However, the one that is tailor-made to occupy the hole is the unified welterweight titlist, Errol Spence Jnr. A victory over his fellow undefeated pound-for-pounder would be the win for Crawford.
Yet this is all for the future. The present for Crawford is Kell Brook, who he meets this Saturday (November 14) inside Top Rank’s Bubble at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
A disillusioned Brook did not compete for the entirety of 2019, but it was not for lack of trying. Mooted fights with Crawford and perennial rival Amir Khan failed to materialise. Even more vexing for the Sheffielder was the fact that Crawford and Khan ended up fighting each other.
Brook’s bad luck continued into early 2020. Just when it seemed as if a clash with Crawford was close to being confirmed, the coronavirus pandemic struck. After a long and frustrating wait, Brook’s WBO title challenge was eventually announced last month.
Back in February at the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury rematch, Crawford was filmed having a conversation with Brook, during which he asked bluntly, “You gonna make weight?” It is the question on everyone’s lips.
Brook has been open about his previous struggles making 147lbs, as well as his past tendency to “cut corners” in the gym. He looked sharp and in shape when knocking out the overmatched Mark DeLuca nine months ago, but that was at 154lbs.
The last time Brook fought at welterweight was in 2017, when he fractured his left eye socket during a brave knockout defeat to Spence, who relieved him of his IBF crown. Less than nine months earlier, Brook had fractured his right eye socket when courageously stepping up two divisions to take on middleweight monster Gennady Golovkin. A stoppage reverse to “GGG” was the first loss of Brook’s career.
Now 34 years old, making the welter limit won’t have got any easier for Brook, although he insists that the weight will not be a problem. With his usual trainer, Dominic Ingle, unable to coach him for this bout due to pre-existing commitments, Brook has been working with Carlos Formento in Fuerteventura.
Brook is only one year older than Crawford, but the man from Omaha has far less mileage on the clock. Brook – who has been stabbed on two separate occasions in outside-the-ring incidents – has been involved in some punishing bouts during his 41-fight career, whereas Crawford has not even come close to losing in 36 outings. In this sense, it is no wonder the champion is a massive betting favourite.
Brook has vehemently disputed suggestions that he has taken this fight merely as a late-career payday. He is adamant that he wants another special night; one that would even surpass the Porter victory.
For Crawford, while a win against Brook would not be the big one, it could act as a bridge to reach Pacquiao and Spence. A bridge to reach his defining moment.