There were a crazy couple of days a few months ago when the boxing community furrowed their collective brows and howled together into the void like some sort of unified hive-mind –
“What the fuck is going on?”
After wasting the best part of two years chasing undeserved paydays with Money Mayweather and The Pacman, Amir Khan, yet to have any sort of career at welterweight, signed to jump two weight divisions to take on Canelo Alvarez. Still reeling from that one, we then discovered within 24 hours that the best boxer in the world (since Mayweather’s retirement), 126lb Cuban maestro Guillermo Rigondeaux, was not going in with the likes of Quigg or Frampton, because none of the other top fighters in his division have got the coconuts to face him, but coming to Liverpool to fight err… Jazza Dickens.
The politics of the fight business often leave even the most dedicated followers scratching their heads, but those two particular announcements came so far out of left-field that they were met with the full range of Kubler-Ross emotions. Online responses ranged through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. At that point boxing fans worldwide smiled little smiles, ruefully acknowledged the absolute circus the sport has become, got the beers in and carried on watching anyway. What else can you do?
The Khan / Alvarez fight came and went, following exactly the pattern everyone thought it would. Meanwhile El Chacal’s scouse exhibition was postponed and it is perhaps appropriate that a week prior to that bout’s new date we were dealt the final blow of the 2016 bizarre-fight-combo. The announcement of Golovkin v Brook has landed like one of the grinning Kazakh’s body shots.
With the internet abuzz for at least the last fortnight in expectation of GGG against Chris Eubank Jr, the announcement that the toothy wrecking machine is taking on Brook is like hearing that a 12-year-old intends to push in front of his big brother to challenge the school bully. It’s not that Brook is a bad fighter, far from it. His speed and power at 147lb are unquestionable, but it is very, very difficult, to the point of impossibility, to foresee anything other than a Golovkin KO over the Sheffield man. Eubank Jr may not have lasted the distance with the WBC, WBA and IBF champ either, but at least has the size, reach and tools to give him something to worry about. With the best will in the world, it is very tough to say the same about Brook.
Since the advent of 24 hour weigh-ins there are some fighters who have perfected the art of rehydration to the point of having a considerable advantage over opponents. Alvarez is one such fighter. Kell Brook is another. Rumoured to put on as much as a stone (14lbs), post weigh in, he often climbs into the ring out-sizing his opponents by some distance. Already there are those using this as evidence the fight will be competitive. “Brook is a big welter!” They say. This is true, but the point is that at welterweight, that also constitutes his biggest advantage.
When Brook dismantled Frankie Gavin last May, it was not so much speed or technique that won the fight (although both were superior to Gavin on the night) but brute power. Kell’s strength clearly exceeded Frankie’s who was hurt by nearly every blow that landed, while the shots Gavin managed to drive home had little effect. Thus far, this has been Kell Brook’s corner of the welterweight market. Yes, he is a well-schooled fighter. Yes, he puts punches together well and has good feet, yes timing and counter-punching are his specialities, but he uses all those attributes to manoeuvre himself into positions to utilise his trump card – size and strength.
When Brook fights Golovkin he will be giving up that trump card, fighting a slightly taller man with a reach advantage. While Brook has shown himself to be among the best welters in the world, GGG is unquestionably the best middleweight. We have seen him destroy far larger men than Kell with pitiless ease. Martin Murray, Curtis Stevens, David Lemieux, tough, big men, none of them could last the distance, none of them could make it competitive, yet at the time when many were wondering if triple-G should step up to take on top super-middleweights, he signs to fight a welter. How can Kell possibly keep him off?
Perhaps the idea is that Brook is in a no-lose situation, much like Khan against Canelo. He can give it a go, get beaten then drop back down to welter with his reputation intact. Yet the worry will be that like Khan, he suffers a heavy and potentially damaging defeat. Brook is yet to lose as a professional. What will destruction at Golovkin’s fists do to him physically and mentally? Will it have long-term ramifications? No-one knows for sure.
Much as the fight holds some interest (and any time Golovkin gets in the ring you want to watch) I simply cannot make a case for Brook having any sort of chance. For me it is only a question of how long he lasts.
In a similar vein, in some ways more so, Rigondeaux and Dickens finally go head-to-head this Saturday. At least these two are in the same weight class, yet the man who is in a super-bantamweight league of his own, should not have to box a British champion with a loss to Kid Galahad on his record to get a fight. Again, it is much-watch stuff, purely for the reason that Rigondeaux coming to these shores is in itself a noteworthy event, but the scouser does not belong in the same ring.
For the record, Rigo can stop Dickens if he chooses to. It depends how he feels on the night. Not that Dickens is hopeless, but there is such a huge gap between his familiar domestic level, between eeking out points wins over Martin Ward and Josh Wale, to boxing the pound-for-pound best there is. If Dickens was a massive hitter, there could always be the hope he might somehow land one and finish it, but he is solid, rather than destructive.
At 35, the criminally unappreciated Rigondeaux may not be around much longer and it must be hoped that promoters, managers and TV companies find a way to see past their narrow self-interests soon. He needs fights with the very best super-bantams or feathers around. Imagine him and Lomachenko trading their eye-popping skills? Equally, Brook should be fighting Khan, that’s the common-sense match to make, or possibly Thurman or Spence. Alvarez should have gone in with Golovkin, as too should Billy-Joe Saunders and yes, Chris Eubank Jr.
The best in each weight class should fight each other. What a radical concept! And you know what? Those sorts of fights would sell themselves, hype and gimmickry unnecessary.
“Hah!” You all cry. “Far too simple!”
This is boxing, after all.
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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