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Khan sees the bigger picture, leaves Brook out in the cold

The seemingly imminent announcement of Khan vs. Crawford puts to bed the Khan-Brook saga once and for all.

Amir Khan v Samuel Vargas at Arena Birmingham Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has been a contributor at Bad Left Hook since 2018.

It may be inevitable, but I’ll try not to go around in circles on this one. We all know the script by now. For as long as I can remember, the Amir Khan-Kell Brook “will they, won’t they” saga has rumbled beneath the surface of British boxing; threatening to explode but merely only simmering gently, as promoters and the boxing media continue to stir, add fuel, and massage the egos of both fighters.

Since starting writing for BLH, I’ve covered this topic twice, and despite my frustration at the hype this “rivalry” has incited, it’s been impossible not to cover with interest on a fighting level – especially being based in the UK (yes, I understand the hypocrisy). These two were seemingly made for each other. Their differing styles in the ring, their differing climb through the ranks, their clashes in background and personality, their shared quest for greatness around the welterweight limit. The recipe was there to brew this fight into one of the biggest domestic clashes the UK has ever seen, however, it’s now clear that a big, bold and definitive line can be drawn under this hyperbole once and for all.

We can sit here and point fingers at the fighters, their managers, their promoters and teams all we like, but the fact that Amir Khan has seemingly chosen a fight with Terence Crawford over Brook is a decision in which I struggle to understand any backlash over.

You can call Khan whatever you like, but one thing you can’t deny is his willingness to test himself at the highest level. In a professional career that began in 2005, Khan has danced with the likes of Marco Antonio Barrera, Andreas Kotelnik, Paulie Malignaggi, Marcos Maidana, Zab Judah, Lamont Peterson, Danny Garcia, Devon Alexander and Saul Alvarez, tasting defeat on four occasions in 37 outings.

His résumé speaks volumes of the character of Khan inside the ring, as well as the belief that he has in his abilities. His previous desires to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao in their primes underline this narrative; chasing the dollar bills may be a supplementary argument. He’s shown slight delusion in overestimating his worth, perhaps, but as fight fans, we can’t ask for much more than to see boxers testing their self to the edge of their limits.

This leads us onto the Crawford fight. Expected to be announced for April 20 inside Madison Square Garden, it’s another huge leap in the career of Amir Khan. Terence Crawford is one of the sport’s pound-for-pound stars, comfortably in everyone’s top three as it stands; Khan’s eyes were immediately drawn to this challenge as he continues to vie for greatness in the sport. Crawford is undefeated, untested, previously undisputed. You can see the appeal for Amir over a fight with Brook in the UK.

Khan will make a reported $5 million from this fight, and despite a bigger figure being speculated for an O2 Arena showdown with Brook, Khan’s heart has ruled his head as he returns to fight Stateside. Hold on. Or has his head ruled his heart? It’s hard to decipher whether Khan ever truly wanted the Brook fight, and if not, why. Could his career have handled potential defeat?

Despite looking faded and jaded in his last outing against Samuel Vargas, Khan knows that his exciting style in the ring can enable him to land fights and win fights, with this latest opportunity being a prime example of his pull. It’s not quite the mountain that he had to climb to face Canelo Alvarez at middleweight. Crawford is two fights into his career as a welterweight with his punching power still disputed at 147-pounds – he’s a spiteful puncher, however, with his fast, athletic timing of shots causing his opponents the biggest problems.

Khan will see weaknesses in Crawford’s artillery as well as his largely underwhelming résumé, however, at 32-years it’s hard to see how Khan can capitalize effectively. He went life and death with Vargas in September whilst Crawford blitzed out a game Jose Benavidez in the twelfth round, just one month after.

Kell Brook, once again, is left scratching his head on where to go next. His career is on the verge of fizzling out if Eddie Hearn fails to get ‘Special K’ a big fight at 154-pounds. He’s mandatory for Jarrett Hurd’s WBA title, although it looks like Hearn has another trick up his sleeve.

In steps Liam ‘Beefy’ Smith. Making the leap from Frank Warren and BT Sport to Matchroom and Sky Sports, the former WBO light-middleweight champion is looking for pastures new. The 30-year-old is coming off the back of a convincing defeat to Jamie Munguia in which he failed to win back the title he lost to Canelo in 2016.

The Brook vs. Smith fight has plenty of narratives; enough narrative for Hearn to hang his hat on as they look to make an alternative domestic scrap at 154-pounds. The Smith brothers are heralded in their fighting city of Liverpool, however, nationwide they struggle to get the attention they crave – four brothers all winning the British title is some achievement.

This fight makes sense for the upcoming summer, with talks of Anfield (Liverpool FC’s football ground) being a potential venue alongside a Callum Smith super-middleweight defence. On paper, it’s a good contest, with Smith’s experience at the weight allowing a “50/50” tagline to accompany it. Videos of the pair sparring will no doubt be resurfaced in the upcoming months with the winner having no excuses left to challenge for one of the light-middle straps.

So the Khan-Brook collision course has completely derailed nearly seven years after it began. I fully believe that Brook has always wanted this fight, with Khan constantly setting his sights higher than to have a career defined by a domestic rivalry. As much as we thought Khan was wasting his career waiting for Floyd to sign, Brook has spent the same amount of time waiting for Amir; both still have a chance to reclaim world honours, but will be heavy underdogs.

“It’s now or never” has been a headline recycled by Sky Sports and Matchroom over the past two years in regards to Brook and Khan fighting. Can we all just accept and admit that it’s “never”, and move on?

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