Kell Brook: One Last Dance
For Kell Brook, his upcoming November bout with Terence Crawford has that distinct feeling of one last dance.
Brook at 34, can’t have long left in a sport where at times he has flattered to deceive. Immensely talented, and despite being a former world welterweight champion, he could and should have done an awful lot more.
The failure to land that truly defining fight when Brook was at his absolute peak, will leave us forever wondering just how good he was.
Reported poor discipline, bouts of inactivity, uninspiring title defences, Brook hasn’t really risen to the heights his talents deserved.
Brook was hugely impressive when he took the IBF version of the world welterweight title off Shawn Porter in 2014, a win that looks even more impressive now.
But it never quite worked out for Brook, at least not to the standards his performance against Porter should be judged on.
Three routine defences followed before a fight accepted in frustration in 2016 against the world middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin.
After a spirited start Brook was wilting towards the end, eye injury or not, Brook had fought his fight. Golovkin was too big and too strong for the Sheffield fighter.
Once he recovered from surgery, Brook decided to move back to welterweight in 2017, to fight the potential superstar Errol Spence Jr in defence of his IBF world title.
At the half-way point, Brook looked the likely winner, but the struggles to make 147 and the patented body attack of his opponent began to tell. More eye problems and a surging fighter in front of him, Brook would once again fall short.
With two straight defeats, both inside the distance, serious eye injuries in both fights, his world title gone, Brook faced an uncertain future.
Brook has only had 3 fights since the loss to Spence in 2017, and with time slipping away, it just adds to the frustration.
The fight with Crawford is the final roll of the dice, a last chance to recapture what he lost on that night in Sheffield.
But Crawford seems a reach too far. A three-weight world champion, one of the finest exponents of his craft around today. Crawford is only a year younger than Brook, but the ageing gap appears much wider in the boxing sense.
Brook looked a reborn fighter earlier this year when he made his latest return. The hunger was back, and although his performance against Mark DeLuca in his last fight in February was encouraging, it was still levels below what he will need against Crawford.
In his previous fight, Brook showed worrying signs of an irreversible decline. Michael Zerafa gave Brook a far tougher fight than was expected, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if Brook had retired on the spot. Certain fighters are judged by higher standards than others.
The fight against Zerafa was one he took without Dominic Ingle, and against Crawford, Ingle will once again be elsewhere. The veteran trainer has cited reasons over travelling during the pandemic era, concentrating on his younger fighters, and how much time he would have had to train Brook for the fight. Ingle not being there in America, is perhaps telling.
The struggle to make the welterweight has always been there. At 34, coming out of lockdown, an apparent late call up to fight, will making 147 again, be too much for him. There is a difference between just making weight and making it and still being able to fight effectively, more so at this level.
Against Spence, the signs were not good in the later stages of the fight. He looked good early in the fight but was clearly fading the longer the fight went. Three years on, it’s hard to think it will be any better.
In the twilight of his career, you can’t really blame Brook for taking up on the opportunity. But is he now at the opponent stage of his career, a well-known name that’s easy to sell, but as a fighter, one that poses little threat to the home fighter.
Unless a UK broadcaster picks up the fight, the career of Brook might end in relative obscurity. There is something sad about the situation, a typical demise of a once-great fighter. Sentiment and a dignified end is something boxing rarely allows.
Brook won’t let anybody down in the ring, even in his previous defeats, he has shown what a good fighter he is. But there is a sense of inevitability about this fight. I would love for Brook to prove me wrong, but he has been picked for a reason.
Brook has only lost twice in 41 fights, and the odds heavily indicate that Crawford will inflict the final nail in the career of the Sheffield fighter.