Top Takeaways from Kell Brook vs Shawn Porter, a Famous Night for British Boxing
Kell Brook did British boxing proud in California on Saturday, winning the IBF welterweight title by defeating the defending champion Shawn Porter on points after 12 rounds.
Brook, now 33-0, entered as the underdog against the undefeated Porter, who was coming off a big KO win over Paulie Malignaggi.
Many pundits expected Porter to walk through Brook in the same fashion, with The Ring Magazine's poll of experts seeing 21 of 21 predict that Porter would win the fight.
They were all proven wrong as the Sheffield man rose to the occasion facing the toughest test of his life, landing the cleaner punches all night long in the face of an onslaught from the high-energy American.
Surprisingly, the one judge who scored the fight a 114-114 draw as part of the majority decision was Dave Parris of Yorkshire—Brook country. Even more bizarrely, on Sky Sports in the UK, pundits Jim Watt and Amir Khan undermined their credibility by scoring the fight to Porter.
However, the two American judges, Adalaide Byrd of Nevada and Max DeLuca of California, scored it 116-112 and 117-111 to Brook respectively.
I scored it 116-113 for Brook, with him winning Rounds 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 11—Porter taking 4, 7, 10 and 12—and the second round even.
There were a lot of close rounds that could be scored either way, but I would still be hard pushed to argue a case that Porter won the fight as he landed very few quality punches over the distance.
On Bleacher Report's live coverage, American writer Kevin McRae had a similar outlook, scoring 116-112 to Brook with no even rounds.
Here are the top takeaways from a memorable night in California.
1. Kell Brook Is for Real
To be fair to the majority of people who predicted Porter going into the contest, that was the safe choice because he had operated at a higher level previously while remaining undefeated.
Kell Brook had won his last four bouts by stoppage against a poor standard of opposition who were not really adequate preparation for the rugged American.
Meanwhile, Porter had just won fights against Malignaggi and Devon Alexander, both two-weight world champions who were proven top-level operators.
One of the biggest worries for Brook was that he would be simply overpowered by the squat, muscular Akron, Ohio fighter and bullied across the ring before being picked off.
Though Porter is probably the physically stronger of the two, Brook was able to tie him up effectively on the inside, and in the large amount of wrestling that ensued, he did not let himself get pushed around.
Overall, this was a huge improvement from Brook's last 12-round fight against Carson Jones in 2012, when he faded in the later rounds and found himself backed up on the ropes by the powerful American.
Brook was in excellent physical condition and never looked particularly tired, suggesting he learned the hard lessons from the Jones scare, a performance that his critics seized on as evidence he couldn't hang with the likes of Porter.
Above all, it was the composure of the Sheffield man that impressed; boxing for a world title for the first time away from home on a bill arranged by Porter's promoter, he showed no signs of nerves or being overwhelmed by the occasion.
By demonstrating good strength, stamina and a calm temperament, Kell Brook showed that he is for real.
2. Brook Made Porter Look One-Dimensional
Nobody should be allowed to undermine the significance of this win for Brook.
Shawn Porter had convincingly beaten two Top 10 fighters and held a belt in boxing's toughest division—he was ranked in the middle of the Top 10, at a similar level to Tim Bradley and Marcos Maidana.
Against Alexander and Malignaggi he was powerful, agile and dynamic, so if Porter looked one-dimensional last night, that's because Brook made him look one-dimensional.
In this fight, the American just wasn't able to get off any eye-catching punches, particularly the leaping hooks that caused his recent opponents so much trouble.
Actually, Porter didn't even throw that many of those punches, which suggests he'd felt Brook's counter-punching power early on and didn't want to risk getting caught with something big the other way.
In a post-fight interview with FightHype, his father Kenny Porter complained about Brook's holding on the inside. While there was a lot of clinching, this was a weak claim viewed in the context of the action.
When it came to rough tactics, Porter frequently headbutted Brook from his low stance, which left both fighters cut, threw far too many rabbit punches behind Brook's head and wrestled relentlessly trying to find punching room.
To some extent Brook was simply standing up to Porter's brand of bullying tactics that had previously overwhelmed Alexander and Malignaggi.
Porter displayed plenty of activity and threw more punches, but he was hopelessly ineffective at times, and you could count the number of significant shots he landed on one hand.
When Porter tired in the later middle rounds, Brook took advantage, and despite a late rally in terms of effort, the American looked out of ideas as to how to get past the Englishman's precise jab and effective smothering on the inside.
Brook has provided the blueprint on how to defeat the previously unbeaten Porter, but whatever the former champion does from here, Brook will always deserve credit for finding that formula and making a very good fighter look average.
3. Timing Is Brook's Key Weapon
In the welterweight division, there are quite a few special fighters with obvious talents that make them formidable.
At the pinnacle, Floyd Mayweather has quickness of mind and body with great defensive instincts, while Manny Pacquiao boasts tremendous footwork, power and use of unusual angles when coming forward.
Then there's Juan Manuel Marquez, the supreme counter-puncher, Keith Thurman, the power-puncher and Amir Khan, the out and out speedster.
Brook's skills are a little subtler, but if you had to distil the ingredient that makes the self-proclaimed Special One a speaker of truth, then it is his timing.
Shawn Porter consistently struggled to work his way past Brook's jab, which the Englishman threw at just the right moments to dispel his opponent as he tried to hustle his way inside.
Brook's one-two with the straight right following the jab was successful throughout the fight and was easily the best combination on evidence.
In the judging of the fight, it was Brook's accuracy and quality punching that won out over Porter's activity and aggression—and that's how it should be.
One of the biggest fights out there for Brook, possibly the biggest financially, is a domestic showdown with former two-weight world champion Amir Khan.
In a 2012 interview with both men on Sky Sports, Brook predicted that his timing would trump Khan's speed, which would certainly be the central dynamic if that fight could be made, possibly at a football stadium next summer.
4. That Wasn't Enough to Earn a Mayweather Fight
At welterweight, Mayweather holds the WBC and WBA titles, Pacquiao the WBO belt, with the IBF title changing hands to Brook on Saturday.
Mayweather-Pacquiao has still not happened because of promotional disputes, and Pacquiao would be unlikely to fight Porter for the same reason.
Before last night, Porter—holding a belt and coming off a sensational KO win—was a possible opponent for Mayweather in May 2015. Another big performance against Brook and he just might have been in line for a career-high payday opposite the money man, but that hope went out the window on Saturday.
However, despite the classy performance from Brook—which propels him into 5th on BoxRec's computerised rankings—he didn't really do enough to stand much chance of winning the so-called Mayweather sweepstakes.
Only a KO win, or perhaps multiple knockdowns en route to a points victory, would have captured the imagination of the US audience sufficiently enough to put Brook's name into the mix as a serious challenger to Mayweather.
That said, as the away fighter in his first world-title fight, it was not Brook's concern to put on a great show—he simply needed to win, and taking unnecessary risks to try to stop Porter would not have been worth it.
Pacquiao is in greater need of credible opponents than Mayweather, not least because Marquez is refusing him a rematch of their December 2012 thriller. As Brook is unaffiliated with a US promoter, he could make a fight against either of the two kingpins.
And, frankly, Brook is a lot better than Pacquiao's next challenger, the light-welterweight Chris Algieri, which suggests he might well stand a chance of a dance with the Pacman.
In terms of a Mayweather fight, Brook would need another good win, preferable a KO, live on U.S. network TV to earn the opportunity against the Ring Magazine champion and pound-for-pound supremo.
5. There's More to Come from Brook
Shawn Porter is a difficult guy to look good against. He stays out of range before jumping in with speed and is happy to make the fight a messy brawl because that tends to work to his advantage.
Given the way Porter stopped Malignaggi inside four rounds, Brook was justly concerned about the American's power and remained fairly cautious all night to avoid getting tagged with the leaping hooks that had scored big versus Alexander and the Magic Man.
Brook may even have fought within himself a bit, being careful to keep plenty in the tank to go 12 rounds with a strong, energetic opponent.
Even if he did hurt Porter on more than one occasion, the Sheffield man didn't really push for a KO, although he was unlucky that the bell rang for the end of the round the one time he had Porter in genuine trouble.
At the end of the fight, apart from a cut caused by a headbutt, Brook looked virtually unmarked and not particularly drained—a contrast to the bashed-up Porter. A visual case that Brook won comfortably.
By proving to himself that he can go the full distance with a rough, top-level opponent, Brook should be more confident next time out. Trusting his stamina and conditioning a little more, he may ratchet up his output enough to really put his opponents under the cosh.
At 28, Brook should be about to enter his prime, and with Pacquiao—and perhaps Mayweather—now on the decline, he could even one day challenge for supremacy of the welterweight division.
After some disappointing performances by British fighters in the U.S., Brook has now restored pride to his country's fight scene. Furthermore, to win a world title in your opponent's country is a serious achievement for anybody in the sport.
Brook will have more big nights in the future in which he may look even better—and his elevation to world level is just the shot in the arm British boxing needed.