Updated: May 5, 2022
A look into the tumultuous history of a fight that almost never happened!
Photo: Sky Sports
On February 19, one of British boxing’s most bitter rivalries in recent memory will be settled.
Amir Khan and Kell Brook will finally meet in the ring this Saturday, after more than a decade of call outs, failed negotiations and allegations of ducking.
After several attempts to make the fight, their matchup seemed destined to wither away, taking the same avenue as Ricky Hatton and Junior Witter. Brook, to an extent, was viewed by some as the Junior Witter of Khan’s career; the spanner in the works that could setback the promise of big PPV paydays.
Despite their infamous clash on Sky Sports Ringside in 2012, and both boxers being under the same promotional banner in 2018, their fight kept falling by the wayside at the 11th hour, with both men’s careers taking different trajectories.
Khan has repeatedly stated he is “levels above” the man from Sheffield, and Brook has always maintained that Khan cannot face the prospect of losing to him.
Conversations about their potential matchup began swirling in boxing circles as early as 2009, after Khan captured Andriy Kotelnik’s WBA super lightweight title. Brook, who did not enjoy the same fame and adulation as the Bolton star, appeared earlier on the undercard to defend his British welterweight strap against Michael Lomax.
To put that in perspective, when British Boxing fans first began asking who would win between the 2004 Olympian and the Ingle Gym prodigy, Gordon Brown was still tackling the financial crisis, Barack Obama was settling into the White House and YouTube was still in its infancy. That’s how much time has past since the consideration of their fight first made its way into boxing’s consciousness.
Khan and Brook looked to fight in 2012 after exchanging heated words on Sky Sports Ringside.
Photo: Give Me Sport
Fast forward thirteen years, comprising of highs and lows, numerous world titles, multi million dollar pay days, stone cold knockdowns and fractured orbital bones, the date is finally set for the inevitable clash, which may in time define their legacies.
Many will complain that their upcoming fight should have come ten years earlier – and such grievances are easily understood. But when presale tickets sold out in under four minutes it demonstrated that the hunger for this fight remains just as strong as it did when Khan and Brook were in their prime.
It goes without saying that bragging rights lie at the heart of this contest, leaving one man with a bitter pill to swallow come Feb 19. Khan’s resume glistens with standout names and sensational performances, but his legacy could be upended should Brook best his career long rival - the outcome lingering at the top of British boxing memory. As Adam Smith remarked at the press conference: “This is the fight and night that Amir Khan and Kell Brook will be remembered for.”
Past its sell by date it may be, but it remains a real fight, with all the passion, rivalry and intensity that keeps fans on the edge of their seats and deliberating on social media. The fight is augmented by a decade long drama between the two protagonists who have each made their feelings no secret. The disdain is real, and fortunately for boxing fans, at last, the date looms near.
As both fighters taper off their training and bring heightened focus to the event ahead of them, fight fans are gearing up for what has the potential to be a fight of the year in the UK.
Khan and Brook’s names will be forever connected, bound by their era and geography, and once their paths finally cross on Saturday, the “who wins?” conversation will finally be put to bed, though the timing of this fight will always taint the outcome.
Legendary boxing writer, Thomas Hauser once said of the Thrilla in Manila fight, that Ali and Frazier were not fighting for the heavyweight championship as much as they were battling it out for “the championship of each other.”
As both careers of Khan and Brook edge near completion, this sentiment could reflect their imminent showdown, albeit on a far less grandiose level.
Photo: Golden boy and Getty Images
Amir Khan was a household name before he turned professional, winning a silver medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics as the UK’s soul boxing representative. He delayed his pro debut to rematch Cuba’s Mario Kindelán – earning kudos by defeating the man who beat him in the finals.
The years that followed saw Khan become a British sensation, showcasing phenomenal hand speed and his signature Mach 1 combinations, which saw him dispatch his first 18 opponents in thrilling fashion. Khan earned a dedicated audience on ITV, with captivating outings against some decent talent including Willie Limond, Graham Earl and Michael Gomez.
His reputation for trading gained him a growing number of admirers with his fan friendly style, warrior mind-set and Spartan work ethic, delivering countless dazzling displays. However, his career came do a dramatic halt in 2008 at the hands of Columbian puncher Breidis Prescott, who hurt Khan instantly and ended the fight in 54 seconds.
The nickname, “A Mere Con” began echoing around the UK, as the Bolton star’s chin had been called into question in previous fights – now it seemed that obtaining world titles was a far cry from reality.
A masterstroke by Frank Warren saw him take on faded Mexican legend, Marco Antonio Barrera six months later, a boxer with a prestigious reputation in the game but who posed less risk than his resume suggested. This win lead to his first world title, defeating Ukrainian Andriy Kotelnik by unanimous decision and only three fights removed from his devastating knockout loss to Prescott.
His first defence was a 76 second destruction of number one ranked contender, Dimitry Salita, and now under the tutelage of Freddie Roach, it was time to become a global sensation.
When Khan crossed the pond to America, we saw him enter his glory years and develop into a global force. The boxing world gained a truer understanding of what Khan was made of. His startling attributes combined with tremendous heart and a tendency to stand and trade - made him a must see attraction.
Boxing master classes against Paulie Malignaggi and Zab Judah, alongside wars with Marcos Maidana and Lamont Peterson followed and proved Khan had the skill set to outbox the best in the division should he not be coerced into fighting his opponent’s fight. Perhaps due to the relatively high profile of the Prescott loss, Khan was determined to prove his toughness, but this admirable ethos backfired on several occasions.
Over eagerness in exchanges and the desire to win in spectacular fashion have allowed his opponents to access his Achilles heel, and this trait saw Khan’s second defeat against boxer/puncher Danny Garcia, in 2012. After boxing beautifully in the opening rounds, Khan got drawn into trading hard shots on the inside, after Garcia caught him with several hard hooks as he entered exchanges. Khan could have used his hand speed, head movement and legs to cruise to a decision but chose not to, a mistake which allowed the WBC champion to work methodically with thumping, single shots. After dropping Khan with a sensational left hook in round three, Garcia went on to stop Khan early in the fourth.
Such instances have plagued Khan’s career, and despite going on to produce mature performances in big fights against Devon Alexander and Luis Collazo in 2014, there is always the possibility that Khan will change his approach during fights - especially if he gets clipped.
Khan delivered a boxing masterclass against smooth operator, Devon Alexander
Photo: Donald Miralle, Getty Images
Speaking to talkSport last month, Khan looked back at the Garcia loss, saying:
“Emotions took over. I really wanted to hurt him, I really wanted to go for the knockout and I got caught myself with a big shot…but as I got older…I’m a lot more wiser…I know for a fact that when I step in that ring, I have to stick to the game plan. [My trainers] keep telling me, even when we’re sparring, ‘Look you need to stay calm, stay collected and you have to think about he game plan…that time will come in the fight where you catch him and you will hurt him.'”
But Khan has voiced similar messages, several times before. His tendency to stay in the pocket for too long against punchers was relived in the 2016 Saul Alvarez fight. Throughout the contest, Khan shocked Canelo with his lightning speed, in-and-out style, executing a perfect balance of aggression and evasiveness. Then, after becoming overzealous in round six, and not realising how Canelo had been setting traps in the previous rounds, using body shots, he was removed from his senses with a crushing overhand right. The same can be said for his 2018 showdown with Samuel Vargas, where he was knocked down in the second round after abandoning what one would assume was a more strategic game plan.
Khan, at his best, is a tour de force. He can control a fight using his trademark hand speed and employ sharp combinations to quickly build up a points lead, where a TKO stoppage or decisive win are available to him. His speed, both in hand and foot, bewilders his opponents and when he fights in short bursts, combined with educated lateral movement, he is highly effective.
In particular, Khan is great at throwing a sneaky left hook from range, which appears to look like a jab as he throws it out, using this effectively to begin his combinations.
With the exception of the Terence Crawford fight in 2019, Khan has demonstrated he is capable of a points win against anyone. After Crawford dropped him in the opening round, an inhibited Khan began throwing fewer punches, looking for clean shots in a “swim without getting wet” strategy that is simply near impossible against a fighter of Crawford’s calibre.
When a fighter has a history of being dictated to by emotions and bravado in high profile fights, one questions how he will perform against his career-long adversary. If we see an over emotional Khan, he may neglect his strengths and present Brook with an easy path to exploit his weaknesses. Apart from the Maidana and Peterson fights, where Khan seemed to have borrowed Carl Froch’s chin on those occasions, trading with crisp counter punchers has led to his downfall.
Khan’s most recent outing against Billy Dib in 2019 offered little in test or education, which saw a resurgence to the Khan of old, easily handling and outclassing the faded fighter. Khan has several advantages in the upcoming Brook fight, but inactivity, with his last fight being almost three years ago, may come as a detriment against a highly motivated Kell Brook.
Photo: Getty Images
Kell Brook’s ascent to boxing stardom moved at a much slower pace. He turned professional in 2004 and quietly built up an undefeated record, facing domestic and European level fighters for the first seven years of his career. Brook always looked impressive, but lacked the notoriety and media attention enjoyed by Khan, due to
fighting mostly obscure names on smaller shows.
Brook captured the vacant British welterweight title against Barrie Jones in his 11th outing, but his first real litmus test would come in 2011 against dangerous veteran, Lovemore Ndou. Brook demonstrated the fast counter punching and precision timing that audiences had come to know over the years, staggering Ndou on several occasions on his way to a unanimous decision victory.
A year later, “Special K” would outgun Matthew Hatton, dropping him in the ninth and winning in impressive fashion over twelve rounds. Victories over Carson Jones further catapulted his presence within the welterweight division, but also highlighted holes in his defence, after being taken into deep waters by Jones. After winning a majority decision against the dangerous American in 2012, Brook would rematch Jones a year later, dropping him twice, emerging victorious in the eighth round.
The Steel City native’s breakthrough performance came in 2014, defeating Shawn Porter over twelve hard rounds. In the early stages, Porter’s jittery movement presented a difficult rhythm to contend with, yet Brook consistently timed shots which landed clean on the IBF champion. He was able to detonate clever right hand leads, left hooks and fast jabs to make up for the evident speed disparity.
Despite being up against a fiery and aggressive Porter, who used his outstanding engine to bully and swarm throughout, Brook was never overwhelmed and stuck to his game plan, landing more solid blows as he found his range. The fight was competitive down the stretch but Brook took advantage of a tiring Porter, continuing to come forward and time his shots well. The judges, favouring accuracy over aggression, awarded Brook a majority decision.
Brook shocks Porter to capture the IBF Welterweight title
Photo: Action Images
Following the Porter fight, Brook was questioned about a fight with Amir Khan. Speaking inside the ring he said: “The British public want it. He’ll probably think of something else, [that] I need to win another title for the fight,” alluding to Khan’s previous demands, adding: “But let me tell you…Queen Khan is getting it…You’re getting it next boy, I’m the champ of the world.”
The fight, of course, failed to materialise and Brook would go on to make three defences in decisive fashion against Ionut Dan Ion, Frankie Gavin and Kevin Bizier.
Four months after Khan moved up in weight to be brutally stopped by Canelo, Brook followed suit, jumping two weight divisions in 2016 to challenge middleweight powerhouse, Gennady Golovkin.
Brook was undefeated in 36 fights going into the fight and produced a spectacular effort in a fight many thought was a total mismatch. Like great fighters before him, Brook rose to the occasion, issuing Golovkin many problems during the fight.
After being hurt from a body shot in the first 90 seconds of round one, Brook started to find a home for his uppercuts-through-the-middle and hooks around the side, receiving a nod of approval from “GGG”. “The Special One” was even backing up the gigantic Kazakhstani and stopping him in his tracks via straight rights to the chin, forcing the iron chinned star to constantly reset.
Brook bravely stood his ground against a superior puncher, trading in the centre of the ring, and at times, making Golovkin miss wildly. He also fought well on the back foot, evading punches as “GGG” closed in with predatory intent.
He continued to frustrate the middleweight belt holder, landing a big uppercut that rocked back the head of Golovkin in the final minute of round two.
As the rounds went on, Brook continued to show his class on both the front and back foot, prompting Paulie Malignaggi, who provided commentary on the fight, to say: “He still stands so calm, just making Golovkin miss by ever so little. It takes a real skill to do that, especially when you know a guy that punches as hard as Golovkin.”
In the third, it was apparent Brook’s eye was bothering him. He was still in the fight but Golovkin’s punches were landing heavy to both body and head. Each man continued to impose their will, with Golovkin landing straight rights upstairs and Brook scoring with high-quality check hooks.
Brook found himself on the ropes early in round five and “GGG” began to unload a barrage of shots, with most of them landing. Although Brook was ahead on the scorecards, trainer Domonic Ingle felt the need to end proceedings two minutes into the round. Brook’s eye socket had been broken.
Brook’s ring IQ and timing allowed him to exploit holes in Golovkin’s defence, and though a crushing loss, he made a statement to the boxing world that his fundamentals were world class.
Brook brought the fight to Golovkin throughout the contest.
Eight months later, Brook moved back down to welterweight to defend his title against the dangerous Errol Spence Jnr.
Brook had difficulty dealing with the fast hands of Spence and was unable to penetrate “The Truth’s” tight guard. He was forced to fight at pace and didn’t land nearly as many punches as he had in any previous fights. Spence’s movement and in-and-out style saw Brook catch air throughout the first five rounds. Brook’s timing found him success at times, but he struggled with the rapid hands and feet of Spence, his efforts to counter being unsuccessful as the challenger continued to get off first.
It also became apparent that Brook’s power failed to put a dent in Spence who never slowed nor lost concentration. The southpaw stance wasn’t the problem – he’d faced and defeated eight left-handers before. It was the speed and distance management. Brook’s low hands and nonchalant exterior allowed Spence to beat him to the punch, where the American found the target consistently as the Sheffield man’s hands were too slow to react.
Spence outworked Brook in the later rounds, punishing him to the body and head, and the sustained pressure forced Brook to rush his work. In the ninth round, Brook’s eye looked bad. Brook was dropped in the following round, but despite being hurt and tired, got the better of some late exchanges to close round ten.
In round 11, Brook knew his eye socket was badly damaged, opting to take a voluntary knee , brought on from unfathomable pain. His decision to remain down for the referee’s count may have saved his eyesight.
Both the Golovkin and Spence Jnr fights, revealed the skill, heart and grit of Brook; but they came at the price of having two damaged eye sockets. His fundamentals were never called into question, but the Spence fight highlighted that his defensive skills needed to be sharpened if he were to face opponents with fast hands.
Brook returned with three wins against Sergey Rabchenko, Michael Zerafa and Mark DeLuca, which saw the British star look less impressive, being troubled at times by slower fighters, partly due to ring rust and his earlier consecutive TKO defeats.
Brook’s last fight was in November 2020 when he challenged elite welterweight, Terence Crawford. The contest started out as a cagey affair, with neither man committing much until the final minute of the first round.
Brook showed he still had the hand speed and timing to fire out accurate single jabs and was able to catch Crawford with a left hook coming in. In the second round, he continued his measured output, evading the majority of the champion’s punches, and at times stalking him around the ring.
Up until the third round, Brook was successfully stopping Crawford’s onslaught with single jabs, but in the following round “Bud” Crawford flicked the switch, landing a power jab which sent Brook to the ropes. After receiving a ten count from Tony Weeks, Crawford landed concussive swinging hooks to end the contest ten seconds later. Weeks may have saved Brook’s career by mercifully calling a halt to the action at 1:14 of round four.
By the end of 2020, it was clear Brook was still able to ask questions at world level, but there were also questions facing the Ingle Gym prodigy. Brook’s boxing brain remained in tact, but after two busted eye sockets, fans were now concerned about Brook’s punch resilience following his third TKO loss.
Photo: Getty Images
What each man has said.
“This means everything to me, my legacy, my whole boxing career because I have to win this fight. If this is one of my last big fights I have to make sure I shine and look good in it…I’m more focused than any other fight I've ever had because…I cannot lose this fight.
“Regardless, if the fight happened now or it happened ten years ago, in my opinion the same thing would’ve happened, I would destroy him. But this is where time will tell and I think it is going to be a mega fight.
“It's always a better fight when you have two fighters who don’t like each other and who want to hurt each other…I know I shouldn’t be saying this, but it’s boxing at the end of the day, we’re gonna go in there and see who the better fighter is.
“He’s gonna get banged out. Honestly, I'm gonna school him like I used to do in sparring.
“I feel that Kell Brook will get such a beating in this fight that I don’t think he’ll want a rematch, but the option is there.
“It's like I'm coming levels down to take this fight, I've fought the best around the world, I've conquered America and for me, it's to give the British fans this fight.."
"He’s always seemed to veer off, he’s never given me no respect, he never acknowledged me. He’s saying fight this guy and I’ll fight you, win a world title and I’ll fight you. He’s always ran away and I think it’s come to this part of his career where there’s nowhere else for him to run.
“I’ll feel complete...It would haunt me for the rest of my life if it wouldn’t have happened, because I was trying everything to make it happen and finally it did happen. It’s a grudge match I need on my record.
"It sold out in record time, and it shows you that this fight is not lost…it would have been a lot better a few years before but…better late than never, it’s happening.
"[I'm] coming forward to take his chin clean off his head. Forget boxing, forget what I've learned, I'm coming for a pub fight, I'm coming for a car park scrap. That’s what's happening.
“This is my first fight. Forget me winning world titles, this fight to me means everything.”
When people look back at the British boxing scene between 2009- 2016, Amir Khan and Kell Brook will be well remembered as two of the best fighters to come out the UK. Both men travelled across the pond to win titles, and both dared to be great against significantly larger champions two divisions above their fighting weight. At this stage in their careers, settling the score between them is probably preferable to risking defeat against younger belt holders at welterweight or junior middleweight.
Rightly or wrongly, their upcoming encounter may rise to the top of boxing’s memory, affecting how we remember them. Not because it is of championship significance, for a shiny belt or because it occurred during their primes, but because the debate over who would win lasted roughly 14 years and such lingering conversations often cement themselves in boxing folklore.
For Brook, beating his nemesis would mean walking out from the shadow that Khan left in his trail when he repeatedly topped the bill in Las Vegas and New York. If "The Special One" emerges victorious, he can mark off perhaps the most the important entry on his bucket list. In comparison to Khan his record consists of less star power, with his biggest win being against Shawn Porter.
Though he displayed valiant efforts against Golovkin, Spence and Crawford, unfortunately for Brook, years from now he will only be remembered for the outcome of those fights: a loss. Beating Khan will place another notable name on his CV and will put him in the conversation for other money fights, should he want them. A loss will push him closer to gatekeeper status.
Speaking at the November 2021 press conference, Brook said: “I’ll be putting on one of my best performances, I’ll make sure no stones are left unturned…whoever loses has to walk that and live with that for the rest of their lives…I’m going to put myself through hell in this training camp…He knows what this means to me, I’ve wanted this fight for years. We're gonna exchange…we know that he likes to get involved…it’s a matter of time in my eyes before he hits the deck.”
For Khan, the risk vs reward factor is far greater; seeing his hand raised will add little to his legacy compared to his previous accomplishments and a loss will stain his record more considerably than it will for Brook.
Conventional wisdom implies that Khan’s faster hands and blistering combinations should see him able to outwork Brook. Khan is a strong starter, usually setting a fast pace from the opening round and will no doubt find openings in Brook’s, at times, shaky defence. He'll possibly be the fresher man coming into the fight, carrying fewer battle scars than his rival. Khan has fought at a higher level, for longer, and despite knockout losses, he has been subjected to less punishment over his career.
Brook, however, can offset Khan’s physical advantages with solid fundamentals, landing his signature counter hooks and uppercuts that have troubled even the likes of Golovkin and Spence. Khan’s quick combinations could be short lived if Brook can deliver a choice counter, dissuading the Bolton star from continuing in his attacks. Along with his strong ring IQ, Brook is a strong finisher once he hurts an opponent, so a stoppage could be there for him, especially against a man who has touched the canvas 11 times and been knocked out on three occasions.
The overriding grudge match status adds a mental pressure that is almost tangible. Whoever tries to win the occasion rather than the fight will be severely disadvantaged.
It could be considered naïve and plain wrong to suggest February 19 will produce an all time British classic, with both men entering the twilight of their careers. But sustained hostility throughout their decade long drama and each man's desire to obtain domestic bragging rights can lead one to think we may see one for the ages between the best of enemies.
12/7/19 Billy Dibb W TKO 4
20/4/19 Terence Crawford L TKO 6
8/9/18 Samuel Vargas W UD 12
21/4/18 Phil Lo Greco W TKO 1
7/5/16 Canelo Alvarez L KO 6
14/11/20 Terence Crawford L TKO 4
8/2/20 Mark DeLuca W KO7
8/12/18 Michael Zerafa W UD 12
3/3/18 Sergey Rabchenko W KO2
27/5/17 Errol Spence Jnr L KO11
Predictions: This fight divides opinion, and due to inactivity from both boxers is a very tough fight to call. Luckily, at ESBRBoxing, we have prediction king, Greg Doyle sharing his thoughts.
You can also check out our staff panel discussion below!
Time: Ring walk approx: 22:00
Venue: AO Arena, Manchester, UK
Channel: Sky Sports Box Office
Amir Khan vs. Kell Brook, 12 rounds, welterweights
Charlie Schofield vs. Germaine Brown, 10 rounds, light heavyweights
Bradley Rea vs. TBA, 8 rounds, middleweights
Frazer Clarke vs. TBA, 6 rounds, heavyweights
Viddal Riley vs.TBA, 4 or 6 rounds, cruiserweights
Adam Azim vs. TBA, 6 rounds, lightweights
Hassan Azim vs. TBA, 4 rounds, welterweights