Crawford vs Brook: Preview & Prediction
By Henry Walter
In the autumn of 2016 Britain had just voted to leave the EU, Trump was yet to become president and Britain’s best welterweight was undefeated, 36-0 (25 KOs), with three successful defences of the IBF “world” title under his belt.
Seemingly about to punch his way into the pound for pound top ten, it was widely known that Sheffield’s Kell Brook was chasing a big fight. Yet the announcement of one, when it finally came, was a huge shock to virtually everyone.
Rather than signing to face one of the other top welterweights, Brook had instead agreed a deal that would see him step up two weight divisions to challenge for the world middleweight title. In the opposite corner Brook would face the undefeated middleweight monster and pound for pound contender Gennady Golovkin, 35-0 (32 KOs).
Golovkin had knocked out his last twenty-two opponents on route to gathering the WBC, IBF and IBO titles. Most in the boxing media felt that it was a fight Brook couldn’t possibly win and the bookies rapidly installed him as a 9-2 underdog.
While the majority of boxing insiders were of the opinion that Brook would not be able to overcome Golovkin’s considerable size and power advantages, some understood the gamble. Brook would be allowed to keep his IBF welterweight title regardless of the Golovkin result at middleweight. If he lost he would still be a welterweight champion. Yet boxing is never that kind or predictable.
When the fight began Golovkin’s size and power advantages were very evident. Brook was briefly stunned in the first round but showed courage and steely determination to force his way into the fight and back Golovkin up with hard combinations as the fight progressed.
Ultimately Golovkin’s power proved too much and Brook’s trainer Dominic Ingle threw in the towel in the fifth round with Brook still on his feet.
Former world heavyweight champion Michael Spinks was one of many who felt the fight was stopped prematurely and he told this writer that he believed Ingle had jumped the gun with stoppage.
Yet in the days after the fight it emerged that Brook had suffered a fractured eye socket during the bout. The injury required surgery (his surgeon was fittingly named Muhammad Ali) and kept him out for eight months. He was warned that he would have risked his sight in the eye if the fight had continued.
When he did return he walked straight into a tough welterweight title defence against the highly rated and undefeated American Errol Spence Jr. The fight was close, hard fought and very competitive. However, in the late rounds Spence began to take over and Brook was knocked down, clutching his eye. Unable to beat the count Brook lost for the second time in succession and it seemed his career had been throughly derailed.
It was very apparent that Brook had sustained another eye injury and he had recieved an almost identical one to the one he had suffered against Golovkin. Further surgery was required and Brook was warned he might never be able to fight again. However, this second surgery was thankfully also a success.
“I’ve had to come back from two injuries. They were bad injuries, not just one but two. I’m happy I’ve got a very good surgeon who has repaired me and I’m back now!” Kell Brook
Brook was able to return to the ring ten months later with a predictable KO win over fringe contender Siarhei Rabchanka. This was followed by an uninspiring unanimous decision win over Michael Zerafa and a seventh round KO win over decent American Mark DeLuca.
Brook has never quite managed to capture his pre Golovkin form, perhaps understandably considering he was plagued with career endangering injuries in the fight as well as the one immediately following it. Now, at 34, he faces his biggest test since Golovkin.
Terence Crawford is the reigning WBO welterweight Champion and sits comfortably in most critics pound for pound top five. Known primarily for his counter-punching skills and defensive ability, Crawford has captured world title belts in three different weight divisions and at will start a heavy favourite against Brook, who many critics feel is shop worn.
Crawford holds high profile knockout wins over the likes of fellow world champions Yuriokis Gamboa, Jeff Horn and Amir Khan and will be looking to add Brook to that list. On paper this really is a tough ask for Brook but boxing is an unpredictable sport and Brook has serious talent.
Once predicted to be the future of British boxing, Brook was a student of the late world class trainer Brendan Ingle since his amateur days and trained at the legendary Ingle gym for the majority of his amateur and pro career. Brook split from his trainer Dominic Ingle (Brendan Ingle’s son) shortly before the Zerafa fight in a move many felt was unwise. He is currently trained by Carlos Formento.
Most of the boxing media outlets are predicting a straightforward Crawford win and he is certainly the in form fighter. Yet it would be unwise to dismiss Brook’s chances completely. Bigger upsets have happened and Brook is certainly talking a good game. He claims that he is refreshed and fighting with renewed ambition.
“All the doubters writing me off are also what I need to pull off what I think will be the biggest upset for a British fighter since Joe Calzaghe beat Jeff Lacy. Like Joe, I’m going knock out the man they all think is the best boxer in the world. Crawford is a great fighter and a big deal but I’m not here to make up the numbers. I’ve come to make history.”
If that is the case and we see anything close to the pre Golovkin Brook then Crawford could be in for a very tough night indeed.
This fight may well be much closer than many are predicting. Both men are tremendously skilled and both possess formidable power. Crawford is the fresher of the two though and he has looked more comfortable operating at the highest level. That for me will be the difference. Expect Brook to start confidently and I wouldn’t be surprised too see him win several of the early rounds.
Sooner or later though Crawford will start to take over and I can see him winning a close but fair decision or even possibly forcing a late stoppage.