John MacDonald examines how Kell Brook can conquer long-time rival Amir Khan when they finally collide this weekend in Manchester.
Set The Pace.
Kell Brook believes he will knockout Amir Khan. He sees the stoppage as an inevitability, rather than a possibility. It is the only outcome he has ever envisaged.
At many of the other stages this fight was discussed, but failed to materialise, the majority would have been in agreement with the Ingle fighter’s assessment. At his best, Brook had impeccable timing and was able to send opponents to the canvas with either hand.
However, Brook is no longer that boxer. It could be argued that ‘Special K’ peaked circa 2015 and the intervening years have not been kind. Battles with Gennady Golovkin, Errol Spence Jr. and, most arduous of all, the scales have all taken a toll.
Evidence of Brook’s decline has been clear to see for a number of years. The last time the Sheffield man looked impressive was against Sergey Rabchenko, almost four years ago. His two subsequent victories against Michael Zerafa and Mark DeLuca were lacklustre displays. The Zerafa bout in particular raises cause for concern, Brook weighed in at 150lbs, in an attempt to demonstrate to Khan that he could make a catchweight. The result was underwhelming, as Brook laboured to a decision victory against a fighter many had predicted he would stop.
Everyone knows Kell Brook is not the fighter of old, but has Brook himself acknowledged that fact?
In a 1996 episode of The Simpsons, Homer had a short-lived spell as a boxer. His success was not based on pugilistic talent, but his ability to absorb punches. Everyone’s favourite yellow anti-hero would take blow after blow until the opponent exhausted themself, allowing Homer to knock them out with ease.
If Brook still believes he is in his prime, that all he needs is one punch, one which he will invariably find, then the fight could resemble a Homer Simpson bout as Khan peppers the Sheffield man with shots while an unperturbed Brook waits for an opening that does not arrive.
In a battle between a man who is tight at the weight and another that has not fought since Theresa May was Prime Minister, the boxer that dictates the tempo will likely win. Brook has the ability to do so while forcing Khan to work harder than he would like to, with educated pressure. The 35-year-old is adept at drawing exaggerated responses from opponents with front foot pressure and feints. As Khan will not want to stand and trade with the naturally bigger man, Brook must methodically stalk his rival. Khan will likely win the opening rounds due to his startling speed, losing the frames isn’t necessarily cause for concern for Brook, as long as Khan is paying a high price for banking the stanzas.
If Khan is able to box at a pace that suits him, it is not a given that Brook will find a fight-ending punch. Yes, Khan is vulnerable, but his inability to take a shot is overexaggerated. Khan has been on the canvas in three fights he went on to win, he also survived a late onslaught from, the formidable, Marcos Maidana. Flooring Khan is one thing, finishing him off is another matter entirely. It is also possible that too much value is placed on Brook’s power. The Ingle fighter has only faced three world class opponents, none of which seemed in danger at any point. Even against second and third-tier opposition, Brook rarely scored one-punch knockouts.
Brook can stop Khan, but he must lay the foundation. Expecting your opponent to capitulate does not make for an effective gameplan.
Control The Emotions.
Amir Khan has got under the skin of Kell Brook. While some of the vitriol on show at the final press conference would have been in aid of trying to shift a few more pay-per-view buys, plenty of it was genuine. Brook believes his rival has never given him the credit, he feels, he deserves.
Perhaps, Brook also feels he does not get his dues from boxing fans in general. For a fighter that was once genuinely highly rated, he only has one world-class win on his ledger. As things stand, Brook will likely be remembered as a wasted talent; one who’s career was derailed by opting to face middleweight destroyer, Gennadiy Golovkin, rather taking on Jessie Vargas in a welterweight unification.
Defeat to Khan would lower Brook’s stock further. With no titles on the line, this bout is ostensibly irrelevant, however the victor has the opportunity to change the perception of them amongst the public. Perhaps, that is worth more to Brook than belts at this stage in his career.
Brook has appeared irritable and emotional all week, the arduous process of cutting weight will not have helped his mood, but it is imperative that he does not allow anger, resentment or frustration to derail his gameplan tonight.
The emotional pain of a loss here will likely exceed any damage inflicted in the ring. Brook must remember that. If he truly wants to hurt and silence his rival, the best way to do so is by sticking to the gameplan.
Don’t Show Your Hand.
When Amir Khan is hurt, everyone is aware. His legs immediately betray him. The dazed look in his eyes compounds the matter.
Kell Brook can be hurt, too. It is not as obvious, slightly harder to spot, but the Sheffield fighter has a tell.
The Ingle Gym is famous for producing awkward fighters, boxers that hold their hands low and switch stances. Despite having spent the majority of his career under the tutelage of Brendan and Dominic Ingle, Brook does not look like the archetypal Ingle boxer.
The only occasions where Brook fights like an exponent of the Wincobank Gym is when he is in trouble. This was evident in Brook’s first fight with Carson Jones. The Sheffield fighter had cruised through the first six rounds, but in the second half of the fight, he started to tire. The American was relentless and when in trouble, Brook dropped his hands and turned southpaw.
The Jones fight is not the only occasion Brook has done so, against Gennadiy Golovkin and Errol spence Jr. the 35-year-old repeated the trick.
When in distress, Brook fights on instinct and reverts to what he was first taught. While that is understandable, it clues his opponent in to the fact that he is vulnerable.
Khan has the hand speed to unleash a barrage of punches that can tempt any British referee to halt a contest, Brook must be careful not to indicate to his rival that he is ripe for the picking.