When you think of a hostile, terrifying environment the lion's den comes to mind. Just put yourself in there, all eyes of the pack are on you, willing for the leader to take you apart limb from limb, the heat and pressure all on the outsider. The same applies to fighting away from home in boxing, and for Sheffield's Kell Brook, this is exactly the environment he encountered in 2014 when he travelled to California to take on the IBF Welterweight champion, Shawn Porter (22-0-1 KO15). Porter was hyped up by many as the next successor to the outgoing Floyd Mayweather. Porter’s, swarming, aggressive style had earned him fans from around the States and he was on the verge of really breaking out and becoming a worldwide star. He was once seen as the future and the future was now. For Brook, he was seemingly being overlooked. Rumoured fights with both Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton had failed to come off and he headed to the golden state as a 2-1 betting underdog. American pundits weren’t giving Kell much of a chance, he had beaten some solid opposition like Carson Jones, Matthew Hatton, and Vyacheslav Senchenko, but he had gone back and forth with Jones in their first fight and for many, his unbeaten record of 32-0 (25 KO’s) was not as impressive as it seemed on first glance. It all seemed to point towards another win for America’s rising world champion.
Brook remained focused and strayed away from any trash talk, whereas Porter engaged with the crowd at the final press conference asking his fans “What time is it?” and warned Brook that he would know what time it is come Saturday night. Porter then told Sky Sports that Kell was in front of his crowd and his fans and he would be knocked out on fight night. On the mid-August night, many boxers were confident in a Porter knockout, including Keith Thurman, Devon Alexander and Brook’s nemesis Amir Khan. Brook’s confidence was unwavering throughout and he entered the ring with all the confidence in the world that he would be crowned the new IBF champion by the end of the bout.
As the fight got underway Porter, as advertised came forward and put the pressure on the challenger straight away. Porter came forward, stalking his bigger challenger and lining him up for three or four punch combinations. Kell stayed calm and welcomed the champion forward, catching him with counters from the outside and tying him up when he got on the inside. The first few rounds were messy, Brook would hold and nullify Porter’s offense and Kell was cut on his left eye due to a clash of heads from the many clinches. Porter was edging the fight. His output and forward pressure were impressing the judges, whereas Brook’s counter shots and holding were making it seem he was struggling. The Sheffield native was never in trouble during the opening portion of the contest but by the sixth, he began to tire. Brook began to get into a rhythm and his jab was beginning to control the contest, the tiring Porter began to be easier to hit and the special one began to land the cleaner shots, landing a particularly good uppercut in the seventh round. The fight was tight, but Brook was taking over and the American crowd rallied to try to get their hometown hero, their pack leader to get back to his overwhelming pressure, but it wasn’t to be. Porter was also cut from a clash of heads and at the end of twelve, the travelling Britons were celebrating what would be a truly memorable win. The judges' scorecards were read out; “117-111, 116-112 and 114-114 for the winner by majority decision....and the new IBF Welterweight champion of the world, from Sheffield, England, Kell Brook.”
Brook came into the lion's den, survived the early onslaught of the lion and tamed the crowd for a truly memorable victory. After the fight, Brook called for an all British super-fight against long-time rival, Amir Khan. On the other hand, Shawn Porter’s father and trainer, Kenny Porter criticized the scorecards and style of Brook saying that Brook clinched for the majority of the fight, whereas Shawn Porter claimed he was still the champ. Both fighters went on to have good careers at the top level. Porter would go on to challenge for the Welterweight title on two more occasions at the time of writing, losing to Keith Thurman in a close fight and winning the vacant WBC title in a win over Danny Garcia before dropping his title in a unification clash with Errol Spence Jr. He solidified his name as one of the top fighters in the world at 147.
For Brook, his reign as IBF champion was a little uninspiring, defences against Jo-Jo Dan, Frankie Gavin, and Kevin Bizier failed to endear him to fans. He then jumped up two weight classes to challenge Middleweight kingpin Gennady Golovkin for the WBC & IBF titles, he lost his unbeaten record to the feared Kazakh but did look good for the five rounds before breaking his orbital bone. He would lose his IBF title in a fight at the hometown football club, Sheffield United’s stadium, Bramhall Lane where he would again break his orbital bone.
Maybe Brook never hit the heights that his win over Porter proposed he would, but one thing is for definite, Kell walked into the lion's den in 2014 and beat the young, rising lion, solidifying himself as one of the kings of the Welterweight jungle. And nothing can take that away from him.