For ten minutes in Las Vegas, Nevada last night British welterweight Kell Brook was again ‘special’. Coming in as big outsider to regain a version of the world 10st 7lb (147lbs) title he’d temporarily neutralized the effectiveness of WBO champion Terence Crawford and, was in the fight.
He’d tentatively felt his way through the opening two minutes of round one, during which the fighters circled each other with barely a punch thrown and both looked to seek out the right range to attack.
He’d successfully launched periodic sorties landing strong left jabs and right hand power shots through the next four minutes. He’d just about bagged the opening two rounds.
The third was closer as Crawford started to feel his way in and get more success. The champion looked to take the round, but narrowly.
The 34 year old Brit hadn’t even needed to switch southpaw to confuse his opponent in the opening rounds. It was Crawford, a notoriously slow starter , who’d been the one starting to switch hit. We began to think could Kell really be that ‘special’ again ?
In between rounds a swelling had started to appear above Crawford’s right eye, but yet, it was in Brook’s corner where the endswell (cold iron) was being used to good effect around his vulnerable eye sockets. Maybe this was a warning sign, but Kell was definitely in the fight.
Then, a minute into the fourth the fighters finally got close and the pace stepped up; an exchange, and a straight right jab out of the southpaw stance smashed above Brook’s eye socket. Clearly the target and a ‘bullseye’ for Crawford given the Brit’s recent history of eye injuries. In that one moment the fight was as good as over.
Brook lurched backwards towards the ropes, stumbling and struggling to gain balance. American referee Tony Weeks called it a knockdown, counted to eight and asked the Brit if he was alright. Answering in the affirmative the fight was allowed to continue but within a second the champion, an excellent finisher, was all over his opponent. To this writer it brought to mind a famous Vinnie Pazienza quote from the 80’s …. “His legs turned to spaghetti, and I was all over him like the sauce !” Brook at that point was “the sauce”.
Crawford 37-0 (28 KO’s) swarmed the challenger and Weeks stepped in to stop the fight after 1:14 secs. ‘Bud’ Crawford remained the WBO champion and is arguably pound-for-pound the finest in the world. The Ring magazine rate him #3 but that is challenged by most US observers. Now he must be appropriately recognised as higher.
Brook 39-3 (27 KO’s), the former IBF world welterweight champion, had come to fight, but was simply outgunned by an elite champion at the very top of his game. Kell had used his sublime skills acquired since entering the Wincobank, Sheffield gym as a child, to win a ‘world’ title and, also navigate the opening three rounds and make them very competitive. But, when all came to pass he was no match for Crawford. “The better man won tonight…..no one ever done that to me in my career” was Kell’s summation of the contest. It was hard to argue.
So what happens now ? Crawford, aged 33, needs and strives for a career defining or ‘legacy’ fight. In his eyes Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KO’s) is that man. “I’m looking and trying to secure a Pacquiao fight” he replied post-fight. Hall of Fame promoter and Top Rank CEO Bob Arum claimed the fight was almost signed pre-COVID, somewhere in the Middle East (apparently Qatar), but as soon as no gate was allowed the negotiations fell through.
The alternative route is a unification fight with come-backing IBF and WBC world champion Errol Spence Jnr. (26-0, 21 KO’s). Spence, the previous man to defeat Brook at 147lbs, is returning to the ring after a horrific car crash last October in which he thankfully escaped with his life and faculties intact. He meets former world champion Danny Garcia on November 21 and questions will remain until he navigates that challenge. Arum claims Spence has, and will continue to run from Crawford.
A Crawford-Spence meeting is one of, if not the best, out there. At year start it was one of the most sought out fights to happen, but known to be contractually difficult. Whether Pacquiao or Spence are Crawford’s next opponent we can only hope, but whatever the outcome this is what the Nebraskan WBO champion needs to reach his potential and further secure his legacy.
Kell Brook will return to the UK, rumoured $2 million richer, and will always be remembered for the night he ripped the title off Shawn Porter in 2014 in one of the finest performances by a British fighter overseas. He will take his place in the roll call of British world champions, and may even fight compatriot Amir Khan in a long awaited grudge match, which is sure to still be an attraction in the UK.
However, on Saturday night in Las Vegas the ‘special’ fighter was undoubtedly Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford.