The gibberish reached fever pitch in the final days of last week, as everyone with a Sheffield accent or a contract with Sky went hysterically through the looking glass. We had been told for weeks that Kell Brook was a big welter and would outweigh Golovkin on the night. Then as fight-night drew near and the lust for PPV sales heightened, this became accompanied by a swirling vortex of utter, cynical nonsense.
Suddenly Golovkin was ill. Golovkin looked afraid in the stare-down. Golovkin wouldn’t be comfortable with a raucous atmosphere. Brook meanwhile was in the shape of his life and so, so relaxed at middleweight. He would have speed and power and movement. The spirits of Emile Griffith and Sugar Ray Leonard were invoked. Head of Sky boxing, Adam Smith, even had the temerity to roll out the line Bernard Hopkins and Oscar De la Hoya used for Amir Khan’s equally ill-advised tilt at Canelo Alvarez. Brook, apparently, was “daring to be great.”
Ok guys, ok.
Never mind that many of these payrolled pundits were blatantly contradicting public statements they had made previously. Johnny Nelson, for example, had waxed lyrical about GGG after he dismantled David Lemieux in October last year, saying how he was too strong for the middleweight division and should move up to 167 to find a worthy challenge. Yet with his corporate hat on, he was now telling us that someone who had boxed his whole career at 147 could beat him.
Paulie Malignaggi, as I mentioned last week, was one of the first to condemn this match-up when Eddie Hearn first signed it. He joined a chorus of outrage on Twitter by wondering how long it would be before such mismatches result in serious, life-changing injury. Yet facing cameras, with a Sky microphone in his hand and the slightly sinister Mr. Smith beside him, he was suddenly saying the total opposite.
By far the best display of tortured logic came from Carl ‘the cobra’ Froch, one of the more recent additions to the Sky panel, who was interviewed on the The Warm Up show on Talksport on Saturday morning. When the presenter asked him if Brook could beat Golovkin, he went to great lengths to explain how the jump from welter to middle was not that great, that Brook would take to it readily and his chances were good. Yet when he was asked if Golovkin could have beaten him he said, “there are weight classes in boxing for a reason. I was a super-middle and would have been too big and strong for him.” Clang! One personalised question was all it had taken for Froch to wander off message and lose the party line.
Tut-tut – you don’t get your contract renewed like that, Carl.
During four and a half exciting rounds on the night, Brook did better than many expected, even forcing Golovkin onto the back foot at times. One thing he proved beyond doubt is that he has an excellent chin. Triple G hit him with shots that have crumpled middleweights and Kell held his feet. All those plaudits for bravery are greatly deserved.
Beyond that, the facts, however, remain stark. Brook was hurt in round one, under increasing pressure as the fight went on and simply unable to contain the bigger man. Yes, he had bursts of success for which he can be commended, particularly in round two, but by the time he was withdrawn in the fifth, backpedalling desperately, he was really starting to ship major punishment and the evening was on the cusp of turning tragic. Bravo Dominic Ingle, but taken as a whole this was simply not a contest.
Despite his speed and defensive skill, which unsettled Golovkin to some extent and caused the Kazakh to look more ragged than usual, Brook was unable to get GGG’s respect. From a very early stage the middleweight number one gave up trying to box Brook, preferring to walk through him and hammer him. After all, when a wasp is buzzing around trying to sting you, you don’t buzz back, you just squash it with something heavy.
To criticise Golovkin for this blunt force approach, which some respected figures have done (attempting to atone for their wild pre-fight blather) is to miss the point. As a smaller man, Brook had the edge on speed and sharpness. Once that became clear, there was no point in GGG fighting on those terms – you don’t play to your opponent’s strengths, so he just old-manned him instead. In many ways it was reminiscent of the Khan / Alvarez fight, where Amir had some successes in the first three rounds before the size and power of his opponent became too much. In that way, it followed the pattern most honest analysts had expected.
I am sure if we see Golovkin in with Daniel Jacobs, Billy Joe Saunders or even Chris Eubank Jr in the near future, the patient, balanced and accurate GGG will return. Yes, he looked sloppy by his standards, but he still won by 5th round stoppage. Not bad for a guy who was supposed to be ill, scared at the weigh-in and daunted by 20,000 beery Brits singing ‘Sweet Caroline’ by Neil Diamond.
So, Kell Brook gets to go home with a broken eye socket, a story to tell his grandchildren and about £3.5 million. Where does he go from here? Nowhere other than hospital for at least six months, but he can then return to a weight division more suited to his physique, where he has a chance of being competitive. If healing permits his re-emergence at light-middle there are some exciting fights for him there, provided his promoter can make them. His gutsy showing on Saturday, under heavy Kazakh fire, will ensure he has the good will of the public.
Speaking of the public, whoever they are, it must be asked for how much longer they can allow themselves to be conned like this? They should not be paying extra fees on top of their subscriptions to watch Anthony Joshua v handpicked B listers or world champions bullying men much smaller than them. And yet they are. And they keep doing it.
Anyone who loves boxing should be outraged, demanding better. We know there are politics, egos and yachts to be paid for, but come on… is it too much to ask for some real, competitive title fights, between high-profile men in the same division? Fights where you don’t know who is going to win with about 95% certainty before they happen?
Perhaps that is a question for the pundits.
My book ‘Journeymen, the other side of the boxing business’ was longlisted for William Hill Sports book of the year and named one of the sports books of the year by The Guardian. It is still available from all usual outlets.
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