Photo Credit: Hogan Photos/Golden Boy
On paper, two years is all that separates the careers of Kell Brook and Shawn Porter. But in boxing, 730 days might as well be a lifetime. Careers and dreams can be established, resurrected or snuffed out in this span. When it comes to the IBF world title matchup the pair will engage in this Saturday August 16, the storyline opens with each fighter vying for different degrees of recognition. Brook, a 10-year pro at 28 years old, seeks to finally cash in on a title shot that has literally been delayed for years due to injuries and questionable opponent decisions. For Porter, the reigning IBF titlist, Saturday’s fight represents the establishment of what could be argued as the most consistent run among the current welterweight champions.
“I have that determination to prove I’m the best.”
The above is the first statement made to this writer from Kell Brook’s mouth after completing a fight week media workout. He’s brimming with the confidence you’d expect from an undefeated fighter currently nursing a four-fight KO streak dating back to mid 2012.
A native of Sheffield, Yorkshire, Brook’s nickname of “The Special One/Special K” signifies the hope of UK fight fans to have a fighter that can compete on the world stage in the glamorous welterweight division, a distinction they haven’t had since Ricky Hatton’s decline post 2009.
Unfortunately, the last two years of Brook’s career have been filled with stumbles. In 2012, Brook reportedly turned down an offer to face then WBO welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley in order to receive mandatory status with the IBF. That move turned out to be a disaster – Brook saw three fight dates with then IBF titlist Devon Alexander fall through due to injuries (twice due to Brook, once because of Alexander).
Despite his recent failures in getting a title, Brook is relieved his title shot is coming against Shawn Porter and not Alexander. And no, it isn’t because he sees Porter as an easier fight. In fact, he relishes the likelihood of their bout being much more brutal than anything he could have experienced against Alexander.
Obviously, Devon Alexander is a good fighter. But he brings a lot of negativity by running around the ring during fights,” says Brook, who’s last in-ring appearance was a fourth round TKO of Vyacheslav Senchenko. “With Shawn Porter, you won’t have to go and look for him. He’s definitely going to be there and that’s more appealing to the fans.
“It’s going to be a tough fight with a little bit of everything. It will have it all and be a candidate for Fight of Year.”
Fans got a glimpse at Brook’s’ toughness and heart in July 2012 when he waged a bloody war with Carson Jones. It was a bout he nearly lost. Brooks’ broken nose spewed geysers of blood as Jones continually battered him during inside exchanges. Brooks’ stronger technical skill and early lead was enough to get him a majority decision. Less than a year later, he showed marked improvement in the rematch with his left jab, the power and accuracy of his right hand, and a newfound calmness when pressured to knock Jones down twice in route to an eighth round stoppage.
More than anything, that fight is responsible for Brook’s confidence.
“I can rumble. I can box. I can take a shot and come back,” he detailed. “I was born for this. I always find a way and rise to the occasion. I’m excited to see what I do, myself. I always perform under pressure. It will make me deliver.
“I just have it within me where I’ll fight to the end. You’ll have to kill me. It was massive learning experience in that fight. I learned that when there was nothing left physically, I still had enough mentally to get through it.”
Shawn Porter’s demolition of the usually slick Paulie Malignaggi made the boxing world take notice, Brook included. However, the challenger’s praise of his championship prey only goes so far. If you can pacify Porter’s pressure, you can create an easy target.
“I don’t think he’s a fantastic boxer,” Brook says flatly. “He’s a good boxer. His main attributes are coming forward, his strength and relentlessness. But his boxing is not the best. You can expect fireworks — clean shots and an efficient performance from me.”
And should Porter fall, don’t expect Brook to become selective with his adversary choices. In fact, he already has sights on the division’s other acclaimed young gun.
“The new kid coming up, Keith Thurman – I like him,” he said. There’s many fighters like Pacquiao, Bradley and Rios. There are so many great matchups out there. The welterweight division is jut oozing with talent.”
THE GROWTH OF A YOUNG CHAMPION
“I’m a much better fighter and boxer than Carson Jones.”
Shawn Porter gets a good laugh when he hears about Kell Brook characterizing their future encounter with the latter’s struggles with Carson Jones. He doesn’t disagree with everything Brook said – he particularly affirms the possibly that Brook will find himself a bloody and battered mess before the final bell.
In December, Porter bullied and wore out Devon Alexander under a never-ending wave of mauling and a high-punch output. This past April, he savaged Malignaggi in just four rounds, leaving the outspoken Brooklyn writhing on the canvas under a bottom rope.
During this run, fans have begun to wonder how Porter will handle a fighter that’s strong enough to handle his strength and trench warfare. If Brook’s power proves to be too much, does Porter have the skill to box from the outside and mid-range for 12 rounds? Has he truly come into his own as an elite welterweight over the past year, or does some of his earlier pedestrian fights at junior middleweight, plus his draw against Julio Diaz, hint at what Brook might accomplish on Saturday?
“Stylistically, it’s an easier fight because he doesn’t do a lot of the things those guys [Alexander and Malignaggi] do,” claimed Porter “Not much has changed. If anything, Brook is not as complicated a fighter as Malignaggi. We didn’t really have to add anything special for this ‘Special K.’”
The previous statement comes with an asterisk due to the fact Porter, when pressed, readily admits that blowing out an older Malignaggi is a lot different from being able to push around and beat up a power-punching, prime and natural welterweight like Brook. To that end, Porter immersed himself in film of Brook’s past fights. Nothing was overlooked (“I familiarize myself with how they bleed, how they act in all situations.”). He determined that Brook’s best filmed performance was his October 2013 knockout over Vyacheslav Senchenko. And from that win, Porter concluded that Brook is too uncreative in the ring to match him.
“When you’re hurt, eyes closed and battered, every fighter has to rely on their basic fundamentals. He is very good at the basic fundamentals of boxing,” explained Porter. “He stays consistent in following the rules of boxing. There may not be much foot movement and feints. Once I disrupt that comfort zone, we’ll see how he responds.”
Making opponents uncomfortable is the essence of Porter’s success. His mauling, aggressive style is something hard to teach. The predatory methods in which he tears into opponents, most notably in the Malignaggi fight, still something that Porter is not completely comfortable with, but knows it will be essential to defeating a fighter the caliber of Kell Brook.
There’s a switch that automatically gets hit when I get in the ring,” he says. “I did take a look at the Paulie Malignaggi fight one time. I noticed how vicious and ferocious I looked. I honestly didn’t like it, but it got the job done. If it happens again, I’ll be just as ferocious this fight.
“In the heat of the moment, I was full of energy. When I dropped him, I didn’t see what was caught on video. That high comes down immediately. I know the mindset I need to be in for this fight. When the fight is over, I’m back to being regular Showtime Porter.”
Shawn Porter vs. Kell Brook is the main event of a Showtime triple-header that airs Saturday August 16 at 9 p.m. ET.