(By “Showtime” Stephen Lynch) Britain’s Kell Brook is on the cusp of attaining the Holy Grail and realizing his career goal of becoming a world champion, but the last steps of his journey are being overshadowed by the Mayweather PR machine and Pacquiao-Bradley rematch. All of the lights are currently focused elsewhere on the 147 stage as the Special One prepares for his Merseyside stay-busy 10-rounder on 15 March.
Now locked into a mandatory position to fight for the IBF title, Brook finds himself playing a curious waiting game while the other welterweight power players move their pawns into place. Floyd Mayweather, the sport’s long reigning standard-bearer, will choose either Amir Khan or Marcos Maidana as the winner of his latest sweepstakes – with younger pretender Adrien Broner presumably fighting the other, potentially on the undercard of Floyd’s May 3 show. Timothy Bradley will defend his WBO strap against renascent star Manny Pacquiao in an April rematch. Mexican veteran Juan Manuel Marquez also has his eyes set on Devon Alexander-conqueror Shawn Porter and Marcos Maidana – a win against either would land him a record 5th title in as many divisions.
Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero is looking to pull a Shane Mosley and leave Golden Boy in favour of chasing a lucrative fight with Top Rank’s flagship fighter Pacquiao. Keith “One Time” Thurman is rapidly turning heads and reportedly is being lined up to fight Luis Collazo while a reinvented Paulie Malignaggi also plans his return to the welterweight summit.
Of most concern to Brook is American Shawn Porter, whom I understand doesn’t have a rematch clause to fulfill against former champion Devon Alexander. “Showtime,” or whoever should beat him in his next outing in April will have to defend the IBF strap against the Special One by the end of June. Porter, like the rest of the division and everyone else in boxing circles, is waiting on call for the unbeaten and unassailable Mayweather to show his hand. I suspect Floyd’s choice has been made for several weeks if not months, regardless of the publicity-gaining online poll that the P4P Number 1 has kindly asked his fans for their views on. When it’s announced the named opponent will have reverberating ramifications for all of the fighters above – and perhaps none more so than Sheffield’s Kell Brook.
Brook and promoter Eddie Hearn have long chased an all-English, Lancashire v Yorkshire blockbuster against Amir Khan and both wish to make a fight with the Bolton-born fighter in a football stadium this summer. This would be contingent on how good Khan’s performance is in his next outing in May, indeed as Hearn has said in the past that Brook would forsake a mandatory position to fight Khan. The winner of Pacquiao and “Desert Storm” Bradley should also be an attractive option should it present itself to Matchroom, unhindered by the longstanding Top Rank-Golden Boy Cold War.
Brook’s tune-up opponent is unknown, but expected to be more on the ho-hum side of the threat scale – which brings us to some rumbling suspicions that his career is being guided very carefully along with bucket loads of Matchroom/Sky Sports-sanctioned hype. A common criticism is that Brook, still after almost 10 years as a professional and 31 wins, hasn’t proven himself at world level yet. Despite an apparently enviable skill set and some classy, punch-perfect performances behind him – detractors claim Brook’s record lacks a win against a true elite fighter. “Who has he really beaten though?” they ask. For all his well-documented faults, Khan has had world title defenses and unification’s on foreign soil against the likes of Maidana, Malignaggi and Zab Judah.
Is Vyacheslav Senchenko among these top-drawer names? The man who wrested Senchenko’s title from him in his Ukrainian backyard, Brooklyn’s “Magic Man”, has been more complimentary of Brook than “King Khan” recently. Now with the Gus Fring of boxing, Al Haymon, Paulie said he thought Brook is “the goods” and deserved to be fighting among the world class welterweights under America’s bright lights.
Floyd’s fan poll closes this Sunday, and Khan retains a narrow lead in a crudely executed PR tactic masquerading as a genuine barometer of public opinion or referenda-style direct democracy. Most of us expect Khan to be handed the assignment either way, but then again most of us had expected to see Mayweather and Pacquiao square off by now too (rumored to be “on” again for September 2014 since you asked). Kell Brook’s immediate plans will pass under the glare of the mainstream boxing media until he finally walks down to the ring for his first world title challenge this summer.
Before this he’ll watch his younger, more established compatriot walk into the MGM Grand Garden arena, to dethrone a Grand Rapids, Michigan native whose glittering 17 year career will occupy its own chapter in the annals of boxing history. Slowly and steadily progressing career trajectories are not what lands PPV paydays it seems – excitement, knockdowns, knockouts, blood, guts and glory with a few losses rather. Amir Khan and Maidana bring these in abundance, more than Brook – whose injury misfortunes have been perceived as promoter protection and stage-management. The arch-cerebral Mayweather doesn’t seek out those as calculating as him, Brook should throw caution to the wind and declare war on the big beasts that occupy the welterweight division – he who dares, wins.