Kell Brook vs. Shawn Porter: Why Has It Taken Brook 10 Years to Get Here?

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Kell Brook vs. Shawn Porter: Why Has It Taken Brook 10 Years to Get Here?
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

This Saturday at the StubHub Center in California, Sheffield welterweight Kell Brook at long last challenges for a world title as he faces Shawn Porter for the IBF belt.

Both fighters are undefeated with the 28-year-old Brook's record standing at 32-0. Porter, 26, from Akron, Ohio, is 24-0-1, having drawn against Julio Diaz before he won a rematch.

BoxRec's computerised rankings put Porter sixth in the division and Brook seventh, while Ring Magazine puts them each one place higher, just above Marcos Maidana.

That indicates that this is a legitimately first-rate welterweight fight, probably the best we'll see in 2014 that doesn't involve either Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao.

It is Mayweather who Porter would like to fight for big money, while Brook, unaffiliated to any US promoter, could potentially challenge either of the division kingpins—but he may prefer the idea of a money-spinning all-British clash with Amir Khan.

Brook has been on the brink of a world-title fight for at least three years now and some people have begun to put an asterisk by his name, as if, for all the talent he displays, there is something holding him back from fulfilling his potential.

At an open workout attended by both fighters prior to Saturday's fight, Porter's trainer, his father Kenny Porter, pushed this issue, questioning how long it has taken Brook to reach world-title level, given the Yorkshireman turned pro aged 18.

"It takes you 10 years to get a title shot? Huh? Ten years?" Porter jibed. "I would have told him [Shawn, had he taken that long], boxing ain't for you, we gotta find something else to do."

"I would not let somebody waste my time for 10 years, telling me they can do this. Go tell somebody else." He concluded, "How dare you think you can come here and take something other than an ass-whoopin'?"

By contrast, Shawn Porter turned pro in 2008, weeks before his 21st birthday, and won his world title in December last year aged 26, after just over five years as a professional.

To be fair to Brook, 18 is a very young age to turn professional, especially in the UK, and, with a much shorter amateur career than Porter, he would he expected to take longer to rise through the ranks.

Furthermore, Brook was initially guided up the WBO rankings by previous promoter Frank Warren, winning two eliminators in 2010, but never got a shot at that title.

That was because the WBO was so pleased to have the then-champion Pacquiao representing their organisation that he was allowed to pick and choose his opponents—they were not going to force him to defend against a little-known Englishman, no matter how many title eliminators Brook won.

When Brook moved to Matchroom Sport and promoter Eddie Hearn, they instead targeted the IBF rankings, which has ultimately resulted in the fight with Porter for that title.

Even so, there is something in Kenny Porter's taunts. Brook was originally supposed to fight Devon Alexander for the same belt back in January 2013 but pulled out with injury. Alexander then pulled out for the same reason on the first rescheduled date before Brook made it a hat-trick of delays, citing a foot problem.

That prompted Alexander's trainer Kevin Cunningham to brand Brook a "clown." After the Alexander fight was ultimately cancelled, Brook appeared downcast in interviews and looked to have gained weight—for his comeback fight he would arrange a 152-pound catchweight, five pounds over the welterweight limit.

Reflecting on that experience this week in an interview with Michelle Joy Phelps (video above), Brook said he passed through "dark, dark times," but claimed that he has since refocused on his boxing career.

In the meantime, Shawn Porter cut in line to face Alexander, outpointing him late last year to become the new champion.

When Porter-Brook was signed, domestic rival Khan weighed in, questioning if he was psychologically prepared for the big time by telling the Daily Mail, "I keep hearing from some close to Kell that he is not sure if he is ready for Porter."

Certainly when Brook made his US debut back in 2011, he was unusually honest post-fight when asked about nerves, telling Sky's Ed Robinson, "I've been hiding it a bit, saying I wasn't nervous...but I was."

Hearn concurred, adding, "He was definitely nervous, I saw him in the changing rooms...you don't want those kind of nerves at world-title level."

And that was despite the fight in question coming against the lightly regarded Luis Galarza, an easy opponent given Brook's pedigree and previous wins to that point.

All that being said, Brook does have one experience of going into the proverbial lion's den which came back in 2008 at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow, Scotland.

Brook had won the British title in his prior fight but was facing the previous title-holder Kevin McIntyre, who had not lost the belt in the ring, and who could be perceived to have the stronger claim on it.

The local favourite McIntyre had 31 fights on his record to Brook's 17 and had beaten better opposition to that date.

Despite being booed by the famously aggressive Glasgow crowd, Brook put in a near-perfect performance, dropping McIntyre three times in the opener to force a first-round stoppage.

Porter is a much tougher proposition than McIntyre and the stage is a lot bigger on Saturday night but there is some evidence that Brook can rise to an occasion.

Perhaps Brook's long road to a world title has simply been bad luck due to injuries, a change of promoter, and the caprice of sanctioning bodies.

Or perhaps he is psychologically lacking and this is what has left him hanging on the precipice, unsure of his next step, until events finally close in on him this Saturday.

There is no question that Shawn Porter rose to the occasion against Alexander, and even more so in his first defence versus Paulie Malignaggi. He will look to do so again to put himself in Mayweather's eyeline.

Brook must now do the same to have a chance of dethroning the champion and staking his own claim in the division. It will either be a victory all the sweeter for being 10 years in the making, or a defeat that suggests a wasted decade.

 

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