Kell Brook v Gennady Golovkin: 'Briton one punch away from greatness'
|Kell Brook v Gennady Golovkin: WBC & IBF middleweight title fight|
|Venue: O2, London Date: Saturday 10 September Time: After 22:00 BST|
|Coverage: Commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, plus live text commentary and report on BBC Sport website and app|
The kid can't win. Two years of flak about the calibre of his opponents, from keyboard warriors firing off blanks from armchairs, and the second Kell Brook signs to fight the most dangerous fighter on the planet, those same keyboard warriors accuse him of embarking on a suicide mission.
Few British sport fans hanker after the lean 1990s, when finishing runner-up in tennis' US Open could land you the Sports Personality of the Year award. But, for Britain's current sportsmen and women, performing in a golden era has its downsides.
For when gold medals and world titles are falling down on the public like a blizzard, it becomes difficult for an athlete to stand out from the crowd.
Britain has 14 boxing world champions, some of whom could walk down any high street in the land (except, perhaps, the high street in their home town) unaccosted. Maybe they enjoy the anonymity, but anonymity doesn't get the tills ringing. And ringing tills are what professional boxing is all about.
"To stand out and become a great fighter you have to go out and do something crazy," says Brook's promoter Eddie Hearn, whose tills haven't stopped ringing since the fight was announced in July.
"You can't just defend your world title against mandatory challengers in Sheffield. That's where the sport has foundered in the past. Now there is an acceptance from fighters and their teams that they have to be in big fights.
"It's my job as a promoter to look at the different opportunities, present them to a fighter and say, 'You're one punch away from becoming the biggest star in world boxing. Go and do it, son, and you'll change your life forever.' Kell's a big boy, an unbeaten world champion. He's not a six-round novice."
Some have suggested Hearn should be more careful with one of his prize assets. Gennady Golovkin, whom Brook fights at London's O2 on Saturday, is a career middleweight with 32 knockouts from 35 pro fights. Watch Golovkin's highlight reel and you'll see him iron out opponents in every which way.
Meanwhile, Brook has spent his entire career at welterweight and is jumping two weight divisions in order to challenge for Golovkin's WBC and IBF belts.
|Gennady 'GGG' Golovkin||Name||Kell 'The Special One' Brook|
|Karaganda, Kazakhstan, 8 April 1982||Born||Sheffield, UK, 3 May 1986|
|6 May, 2006||Turned pro||17 September, 2004|
|WBA, WBC & IBF middleweight||Current titles||IBF welterweight|
|35 fights, 35 wins (32 KOs)||Pro record||36 fights, 36 wins (25 KOs)|
More illustrious boxers have tried and failed to do the same, including Cuban great Jose Napoles, against the equally great Carlos Monzon in 1974. Brook's fellow Briton Amir Khan also came a cropper when jumping from 147lb to challenge Mexico's then WBC middleweight champion Saul Alvarez in May.
Brook's team believe their man will be more than comfortable at 160lb, and it is certainly true that the 30-year-old was a heavy-set welterweight. Brook's transformation has a little more science to it than eating more pies and cakes.
"He's not putting on weight and hoping for the best and we haven't allowed him free rein to eat what he wants," says Brook's trainer Dominic Ingle.
"It's more calculated than that. If you put weight on wrong, it's dead weight. So we've had him at the University of Sheffield, making sure he's got the same cardiovascular fitness at middleweight that he had at welterweight.
"He'll be conditioned - unlike Khan against Alvarez, when he didn't look in the best shape - he'll have more energy and his heart will be able to carry him through the fight.
"And if Golovkin thinks Kell is too small and won't punch hard, he might get a shock. Kell will be the hardest puncher he has faced, as well as the best boxer."
Ingle admits he was surprised when Brook called to tell him about the fight, not least because Chris Eubank Jr was all set to challenge Golovkin before his meddlesome father started taking his red pen to the contract agreement.
But Ingle, whose father Brendan churned out Herol Graham, Naseem Hamed and Johnny Nelson from his Wincobank gym, was quickly persuaded that a match some boxers would have run a mile from actually made a lot of sense.
"I said to him, 'You've been a world champion for two years and the big fights you wanted haven't materialised. If you have another two years like that, your career is going to be over and done with. You've got to take this fight.'"
Brook says politics nixed potential match-ups with the cream of the welterweight division, including Khan and Americans Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia, while Liverpool's Liam Smith had already signed to defend his WBO light-middleweight title against Alvarez in an NFL stadium in Texas.
As for Golovkin, the world's leading middleweights aren't exactly queuing up to fight him - Eubank Jr turned down a reported £4m to fight the Kazakh and chose to defend his British title against Tommy Langford in Cardiff instead.
So what seemed a most unlikely match when it was first announced in July - it is the only time I've read a press release and done a double-take - was actually an organic coming together of two fighters nobody else seemed to want a bar of.
Which is not to say Brook has much of a chance of winning. Only a few boxers have won world titles at welterweight and middleweight, and they tend to come from the very top drawer, Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns among them.
Although from the same Wincobank school as Graham, Hamed, Nelson and, more recently, Junior Witter, Brook is not a typical Ingle boxer. Brook is a good technician with good feet and a variety of punches, but a dancer he is not.
BBC boxing correspondent Mike Costello says that when he interviewed Golovkin a few days ago, he was so excited he was "giggling like a toddler getting ready for a pillow fight". Safe to say, the 34-year-old is unfazed.
A fine boxer himself, Golovkin has never been as much as wobbled in his career and there is a very good chance he will walk Brook down and stop him late on.
"People used to say to me, 'Why are you fighting this guy? He's rubbish,'" says Brook. "Now they're saying, 'Why are you fighting this guy? You'll get knocked out.' But I'm trying to give them the best fights and everyone in the world is excited about it. I want to give them all a big drama show."
The British public should salute Brook for his audacity and thank him for luring such a fine boxer to these shores. And hope he packs plenty of headache pills.