LAS VEGAS — Kell Brook is one of the very few active boxers who doesn’t have the word no in his vocabulary. When he’s offered a fight, he interrupts the question and says yes before he knows the identity of the opponent.
He’s fought for far too long in the shadow of fellow Brit Amir Khan, who has managed to avoid fighting him for all these years that the two were on top.
When Gennadiy Golovkin was at his peak as middleweight champion and having trouble finding a quality opponent, Brook had no problem moving up to challenge him.
He was battered by the heavy-handed Golovkin, and left the fight with a broken orbital in his left eye. He came back in his next fight attempting to defend his IBF welterweight title against the powerful, Errol Spence Jr., one of the sport’s rising stars at the time.
Spence broke Brook’s right orbital bone and lifted the title from him.
Brook is one of those special guys who is up for any challenge and is never intimidated. He may be outgunned, as he was against Golovkin and Spence, but he’ll never shy away.
And so, it brings us to his bout on Saturday (10 p.m. ET, ESPN) at the MGM Grand Conference Center against Terence Crawford, the WBO welterweight champion.
Crawford is No. 1 or No. 2 in the world on the majority of the leading pound-for-pound lists, but Brook said the pressure is all on Crawford heading into this fight. There is no Golovkin, no Spence, no Shawn Porter on Crawford’s résumé.
“He’s definitely amongst them, if not the top,” Brook told Yahoo Sports of comparing Crawford to the best. “But he’s not fought anybody yet for me. He’s not fought anyone with my pedigree. I don’t believe he’s boxed anyone the size of me or [with] the determination or the power. I think he’s boxed smaller guys.
“We’re forgetting that he came from lightweight all the way up to welterweight and I’ve always competed at welterweight and I’ve even been in there with a middleweight like Golovkin and at super welterweight. So you know, I’m a big, strong guy with experience.”
To be fair, Brook hasn’t fought all killers, but the one thing he has done is consistently fight winners. Including Crawford, in his last 10 fights, Brook has fought fighters who are a combined 275-10-1.
Records don’t tell all the story, however, and can be manipulated by controlling the matchmaking carefully.
But Brook’s B-level opponents are remarkably decent and in some cases, more than that.
Despite the massive odds favoring Crawford (-1500 on BetMGM), this bout figures to be one of the toughest of his career.
“I wholeheartedly agree with that,” Top Rank president Todd duBoef said. “Kell is not just another guy; he’s a legitimate, quality opponent. This is going to be a test for Terence.”
Brook is 34 and while that’s old in boxing years, he’s not shown signs that he’s slowing to the finish. And he’s chosen not to balloon up in weight between his last few bouts, so he’s closer to the weight he needs to make when he begins camp.
He’s been eating well during camp, he said, which will enable him to be strong and with plenty of reserve when the bell rings.
Crawford is clearly a different breed of fighter than most, a mean, tough, hard man in the ring. But Brook could be described the same way, and he’s motivated by all those who have questioned him and his chances against Crawford.
“I’m ready for this fight,” he said. “I’m more than ready for this fight. These doubters out there who haven’t got me as the favorite, they’re the ones who motivate me in this fight, you know, because I know what’s in me. I know what’s in my heart and in there [in my head] and what I can do.
“I believe that I’m going to go out there and I’m going to shock the world.”
It won’t be the biggest upset in boxing history — Mike Tyson was at one point a 42-1 favorite at The Mirage in Las Vegas to beat Buster Douglas in their 1990 fight in Tokyo — but it will turn more than a few heads should Brook win.
Crawford knows full well what he’s up against and Brook said for those who don’t, he’ll show them Saturday.
“I know what I’ve put myself through in training,” he said. “I know what my mentality is and my strengths are and the power and the accuracy I’ve got. I’m a different fighter than I’ve been before. I’m a better fighter than [when I defeated] Shawn Porter. People go on about age, well, he’s no spring chicken. He’s a year younger than me. He’s not no 20-something. He’s a year younger than me. It’s not like I’ve been in gruesome fights with 12-round hard wars.
“I’ve had two eye injuries and most of the time, I’ve been on top. And I feel revived.”
It will shock the world if he upsets Crawford on Saturday. But perhaps it shouldn’t. Crawford is a great fighter, but if Brook isn’t great, he’s at the least very, very good. And on any given night, he’s capable of beating anyone in the world.
Yes, that still applies even at 34.
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