Khan-Brook: Do We Still Want It?

Khan-Brook: Do We Still Want It?

By Will Cutmore

Amir Khan vs Kell Brook. A fight which, in years gone by, would have ground the country to a halt. A rare ‘crossover’ fight, in which interest is not limited to boxing fans, where the attention of the general public is peaked, at least in the UK.

It’s not overstating the mark to suggest that this fight is five, perhaps even six years too late, should it still be made in 2021. Some take it one step further, dismissing it as an interesting spectacle altogether.

There are of course those that still would love to see the fight. How much genuine appetite remains to see this fight? I take a little from both schools of thought.

Rarely have we seen such needle and spite, a war of words between two fighters who have never shared a ring, at least not in an official bout. I look back to their entertaining appearance on Sky Sports’ Ringside show.

Incredibly, that was in 2012 and there was an intrigue for the fight even then. In subsequent years, the excitement surrounding this fight has sparked an untold amount of debate from anybody who has even a passing interest in boxing.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when would have been the optimum moment to make the fight. It certainly became a potential blockbuster after Brook defeated Shawn Porter to claim the IBF world welterweight title in 2014.

If Brook wasn’t a big enough name in Khan’s eyes beforehand, he unequivocally proved his worth, bringing a world title and world-class name on his resume to the table.

Fast forward to 2015 after Brook had taken care of his mandatory defence against Jo Jo Dan. Amir Khan with a solitary fight that year, scoring a unanimous victory over Chris Algieri. Around that time, Khan vs Brook was certainly building into one of the biggest fights to be made.

This fight had outgrown any arena in the country, and such was its appeal, would have easily filled a football stadium in the north of England. Unfortunately, it never materialised.

I view 2016 as another great opportunity wasted to have made the fight. Khan, again only fighting once, took on Canelo Álvarez on Cinco de Mayo weekend. Four months later, Kell Brook grabbed the opportunity to take on Gennadiy Golovkin at the 02 Arena, following the fallout of Chris Eubank Jr., the initial opponent for GGG.

Far be it from me to criticise either fighter for taking on these absolute superstars of the game. There was plenty of upside for both, not least financially, even in defeat. Khan’s stock was dealt no harm in losing to Canelo. Much the same with Brook, who performed far better than the pre-fight expectations.

However, neither are natural middleweights and both were in the end, emphatically beaten. It is that fact, that both stepped up to middleweight (Canelo-Khan was fought at a catchweight of 155lbs), the only time either has done so, whilst a fight with each other was possible, which is most perplexing.

Undeniably, I would have sooner seen Khan vs Brook and Canelo vs Golovkin. Fortunately, we have since seen the latter, twice. Intense fights, full of action, drama and in the first fight, controversy. As for our British mega-fight, we were left wanting.

There are always various tales, posturing and criticism flying back and forth between camps as to why a fight doesn’t get over the line. Fans are left to form their own opinion. I get the sense there was some hesitation from team Khan over the years. For the record, I am categorically not saying that Amir Khan ducked Kell Brook, or was unwilling to fight him.

Since the aforementioned 2012 Ringside appearance on Sky Sports, Khan has fought outside of the U.S. on only four occasions, one of which was last time out in Saudi Arabia, vs the over-matched Billy Dib. Khan, for the majority of his later career, has operated stateside, in turn becoming a household name, securing some big paydays, whilst linking him to countless other huge fights.

An established fighter in the states, I believe Khan intended to ride the wave for as long as possible. Undoubtedly, Khan was handsomely paid for those big fights in America. Whilst the Brook fight would possibly generate a career-high payday, he longed for the superfights with Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, to no avail.

If he were to lose to Brook, any chance of those fights happening would dissipate. In Khan’s mind, as the bigger name, with a better resume, simply put, he concluded Brook did not belong in his company. It’s logical to infer that Khan assumed the Brook fight would always be there, that Brook needed him much more than the other way round.

Now in 2021, a time in boxing where the global pandemic is slashing purses, and for the time-being eliminating gate revenue in the UK entirely, talk of the fight has resurfaced. Why?

Other than the fact the world is a crazy place right now, it is the only real option for both men. I mentioned in my Crawford vs Brook review that Brook should push for the Khan fight, or retire.

The same applies to Khan. For both, their best days are certainly behind them. A comprehensive defeat (for both) to Terence Crawford is testament to that. However, crucially, I believe both are equally so past their prime. That is why some interest remains. Why some intrigue may creep into the minds of boxing fans.

Despite everything, all these years later, it’s still a 50-50 fight. Eddie Hearn has stated in a recent interview that the fight is worth roughly a third of what it was at its peak. He joked that he couldn’t make the fight when there were millions of pounds on the table, yet now both fighters seemingly want it when there is significantly less on offer.

I believe that interest from the fighters may cool when numbers are mooted. If I am being realistic, this represents a cash-out fight for both. To get anywhere near the purse that either will expect, this would have to be on PPV. Is Khan-Brook a PPV fight in 2021? Probably not, but due to the history, what it promised to be all those years ago, the agony of being so close on several occasions, it probably trickles into the category where people will begrudgingly pay for it.

Whether Hearn or any other promoter for that matter, will take a risk on a ‘probably’, banking on that loyalty and to an extent sentiment, from the UK fanbase, is another question.

In summary, there is some interest amongst the boxing community to see this fight, perhaps merely just to say it happened, for those who have grown weary of the saga.

Regardless of where you stand, everybody can recognise and acknowledge it for what it would be – two once brilliant fighters, rivals, at the end of their careers. The last dance. If the unthinkable happened, even those who claim to be no longer interested would surely have their head turned once the build-up, hype and mind games commenced.

Whether or not it actually transpires, all these years later, is as murky as it was in 2012. For both Amir Khan and Kell Brook, it’s a simple choice: cash-out or get out.

Photo Credit: Sky Sports

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