The two 32-year-olds are past their box-office peaks and Khan is being lined up to take on WBO title-holder Terence Crawford
The immediate, logical reaction to Kell Brook grinding out a flat-footed points win over the Australian Michael Zerafa in Sheffield was that it would make his long-awaited showdown with Amir Khan much easier to put together.
“If I was Amir Khan, I’d be straight on the phone,” Eddie Hearn said after an unimpressive 118-110, 119-109, 117-111 win that ensured Brook is the mandated challenger for Jarrett Hurd’s WBA light-middleweight title. “Kell knows that was below par. But, every time they fight, one becomes the favourite and one becomes the underdog. [Kell] knows he’s got to be a lot better than that, and he will be.”
However Bob Arum – talking later in the evening to Fighthype.com in the Madison Square Garden Theater (downstairs from the main auditorium), where Vasiliy Lomachenko buttressed his reputation with a wide points win over José Pedraza – put the argument for Khan to take on WBO welterweight Terence Crawford in the United States next spring.
“We’re working on the paper work,” Arum said. “It’s not signed, but I’m hopeful. It will happen in America. For all the talks about the English gates, and all the talk about the English pay-per-view, to make real money you’ve got to fight in the United States. The pay-per-view revenue from England is less than $13. From the United States, it’s $35.”
The Hearn argument goes that two 32-year-old former world champions with diminishing cache, who grew up 50 miles apart in the northern hotbed of British boxing, should forget past shouting matches and give the public the fight they want towards the end of their distinguished careers. However, logic ranks some way below greed and stubbornness in this business.
Three months ago, Khan hit the deck again before labouring to a 12-round points win over Samuel Vargas, a domestic-level Colombian-born Canadian fighter who’d been stopped by Danny García and Errol Spence Jr. On Saturday night, Brook, slow and worryingly hittable, also boxed below world level to outpoint Zerafa.
Brook admitted ringside he was “a bit rusty”. “I don’t know if I were trying too much. I expect too much, and I were a bit flat. Normally I’m sharp, and everything’s there that I want to do. But I was a bit like [Wladimir] Klitschko; I couldn’t let my right hand go, I couldn’t get into my rhythm.”
Not being able to pull the trigger is one of the red flags for older fighters. As the reflexes go, seconds become shredded into split-seconds. Opportunities open and close like a lawyer’s briefcase. One thing is a given: reactions do not get quicker.
Brook started well enough, marking Zerafa up around the eye and mouth in the first round. An early night looked likely. But the Australian – whose only two previous losses had been at middleweight – is a tough customer and, although he didn’t do enough to make an impression on the judges, made the Sheffield man struggle. It was not a great look.
Brook-Khan once might have been a Wembley show in mid-summer, but that boat sailed a long time ago. Neither would budge on money. Then Khan, the smaller man, demanded Brook come back to him in weight. Both of them are running out of excuses.
There are echoes here of another northern feud that was never settled. Two years ago, Ricky Hatton told Boxing News he always wanted to fight Junior Witter, but the numbers did not add up – nor the bragging rights. “With Junior slagging me off as well, which was starting to get on my nerves, I was of the opinion that I was in the top five so why would I fight Junior Witter when I could fight Sharmba Mitchell, Kostya Tszyu and all these people for big money?” he said.
He added: “At the end of the day, I did want to fight him and I did want to beat him but why would I give him the opportunity and payday when he’s being so disrespectful and I was highly ranked anyway? It just lost its way, it’s one of those fights that got away and it would have been a good one. It made sense what Frank said and when he built me up, I moved on and Junior didn’t. We just lost the opportunity.”
And that, ladies and gentleman, is the boxing business in a nutshell.