Updated: May 5
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