BOXERS have a long time to live with their successes and failures in a prize ring. When the gloves that for so long defined them are packed away for good, the boxers become ex-boxers and they’re left with memories of what they once were.
Only a vast minority can look back without any regret. Everything they could have done, they did. Anything they shouldn’t have done, they didn’t. But such contentment is incredibly rare because mistakes are most commonly made while growing up. We too often forget that most boxers are barely adults when they start their careers.
The curse of the young is not knowing what it’s like to be old. And the curse of the old is knowing they can never be young again. Only a select few realise those truths while still in a position to act upon them.
Kell Brook, at the ripe old age of 34, understands the end of his career is nigh. He knows he’s not a young fighter anymore and there’s nothing at all he can do to change that.
It is perhaps that realisation which has led to the Sheffield star taking his career – and future – more seriously than ever before. One naturally wonders if he’s left it too late. When all alone with his thoughts, Brook must wonder that too.
For so long Brook was a young man with the whole world in his hands. He oozed natural ability and his plentiful gifts were the envy of many. Brook had so much time ahead of him and so much ability to make the most of it. But it can be argued it hasn’t yet worked out that way. Not as he expected, anyway.
The notion that Brook underachieved, despite winning an IBF title in America against a very good champion in Shawn Porter, has some foundation. Weeks after winning that world belt Brook was left with machete wounds in his leg following a horrific incident while on holiday in Tenerife.
The fighter couldn’t possibly be blamed for the misfortune but it’s easy for those on the outside to accuse Brook of putting himself in a situation where elite athletes shouldn’t be anywhere near.
There have long been whispers – from his trainers, the media and even the promoters who championed him – that Brook was too easily led. That outside of training camp, he struggled to live the life that true greatness demanded. The truth is, not many can.
Brook understands that now. He’ll keep hoping it’s not too late.
In Terence Crawford, an unbeaten three-weight titlist, Brook has an opponent who can clean the slate. “Bud” is a supreme fighter, one who patiently guides his impossibly fast hands with great accuracy, sublime feet and impeccable timing. Victory over this apparent superman will see Brook achieve everything that seemed destined for him all those years ago. Any misadventures of his youth will be forgotten.
Some will say he’s been here before. But this is not a fight thrown together haphazardly like his courageous mission against then-middleweight king Gennady Golovkin. Or a contest he felt under pressure to take – both for the purse on offer and to keep his welterweight title – like the brave defeat to Errol Spence Jnr.
Those fights left Brook with deeper pockets and his reputation enhanced. Two broken eye sockets, too. He gave everything he had. But they were fights he could afford to lose. The same cannot be said here.
Brook is the underdog again. But this is not about the money or the plaudits. This is only for himself. Unlike every other big fight he’s been involved in, his training camp for this opportunity began long before the contract was drawn.
All grown up, Brook is starting afresh. Starting again, with crystal clear focus and dedication yet while so close to the end, is perhaps the hardest battle of them all.
For the first time in his career, Kell Brook understands what is truly at stake.