It’s Groundhog Day in British boxing. With Amir Khan (32-4) awaiting his September 8 clash with Colombian Samuel Vargas in Birmingham, talk is already turning to the next step after this coming weekend. You don’t need any clues: it’s Kell Brook (37-2).
A potential domestic clash between two of Britains most well-known boxers has been rumbling on for over five years now. In conversation, citing one of the former world champions’ names would inevitably lead to the other getting a mention; the benchmark of two fighters on their road to a collision course, concluding inside the ring.
However, this collision course has since been reduced to anything but. Avoidance alley, ducking drive, evasion expressway; you get it: they don’t want it.
From what I’ve understood, we’ve been close on several occasions. Both fighters had family members representing them last summer, with Kell Brook’s father (and manager) Terry apparently causing the latest stumbling block in this on-going saga.
”Terry stood up, shook my hand, said, ‘We are not doing business’, and walked out,” Amir Khan’s advisor Asif Vali stated. According to reports, this was down to the proposed purse splits of 70:30 in Khan’s favour, with Brook’s team refusing to budge on a 50:50 split.
There has always been a battle of egos between Khan, and his senior challenger, Brook. Touted as the ‘next big thing’ in British boxing after drawing a reported 8 million audience during his silver medal achievement at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Khan has always believed in his position as the ‘A-side’ in any boxing matchup. Brook - raised in the infamous Ingle gym in Sheffield - had a contrasting climb through the pro ranks. Picking up the British welterweight title in his seventeenth outing, ‘Special K’ rose without the spotlight and pressure that his rival suffered from; Khan’s devastating loss to Breidis Prescott a signal that the Bolton-boy had been protected through the early stages of his career.
Khan, with four losses on his record, has been remembered as much by his defeats as he has his victories. Prescott, Garcia, Peterson and Canelo; this is the leverage that Brook had prior to his own 2016 defeat to Gennady Golovkin. However, since that defeat inside London’s O2, Brook has lost his IBF welterweight strap to the dangerous Errol Spence Jr. and completed one-and-a-half rounds against Belurussian Sergey Rabchenko, now at super-welterweight. Brook’s demise has allowed this domestic clash to bubble to the surface once again, with Khan’s stint on reality show “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” last year bringing him back into the public eye after a two-year lay off following a savage KO loss to Canelo.
Political, contractual intricacies are no longer of concern for us boxing fans; there is only so long that we can stay engaged in business outside of the ring until the interest passes us by. Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder might want to take note.
Do we still want the fight? I think so. Despite the lack of a world title being at stake, these guys could still sell out a stadium in the UK given the right amount of build-up to the fight. Sure, we’ve arguably had enough ‘talk’ without action between Khan and Brook, but with rare incidents of head-to-heads between them to go by, a run of pressers would easily bring this fight the attention it craves in the UK market; the US, not so.
Will Brook have to come back down to welterweight? Would they fight at a catchweight? Could it sell out Wembley Stadium? Would they split the purse 50:50? Who knows... however, with Eddie Hearn promoting both of these guys now under the Matchroom banner, we have eliminated one of the biggest hurdles in making this long-awaited dust-up.
Both guys are without a doubt on the slide, however, at this point, it is unclear who has fallen the hardest, or furthest. Khan has been so inactive it’s a concern if his hunger is still there; on the other hand, Brook’s fractured eye socket is undoubtedly still hanging over him, mentally, inside the ring.
Four years ago we could have had a world title grudge-match with both guys near their peak. Now, it’s a little different, but just as competitive. Brook and Khan have arguably never been as closely matched in their careers as they are now, meaning a meeting in December this year would verge on the narrative of ‘win or bust’, with further world title ambitions going up in smoke for the loser.
Fighting at this stage of their careers offers little reward for the winner, but huge risks for the loser. Let’s hope the reward of pride, and a cash-out figure is enough to make these two sign on the dotted line.