It was a match-up years in the making and when Amir Khan versus Kell Brook finally happened in Manchester this past weekend, it was widely viewed as a pick ’em fight, owing to the perception that both boxers had declined at the same rate. Each, after all, had lost bruising world title bouts and was several years removed from his heyday. In fact, Khan hadn’t held a championship since Danny Garcia bludgeoned him almost a decade ago.
It’s all history now: Brook made a mockery of the odds by dominating his rival en route to a spirited sixth round TKO win. Khan looked flat-footed and world-weary, but by comparison Brook was fast, sharp and explosive, a patient panther stalking his prey. I had opined before the first bell that Khan and Brook were operating at around seventy percent capacity, but the victor’s performance forced me to perform a hasty recalculation. Brook is no longer a young man, but this really was up there with his most eye-catching performances.
As fitting a swansong as last week’s victory would be – the Brook-Khan rivalry had simmered for over fifteen years – talk now turns to what the winner does next. Brook’s powerful display has elicited calls for showdowns with the next generation of British stars, though one wonders if there is much to be gained beyond zeroes on a check book. In any case, here are five possible future options for “The Special One.” All are worth consideration and offer their own particular intrigue, assuming of course that Brook elects to extend his career.
1. Chris Eubank Jr: “Next Gen” has emerged as a front-runner, mainly by dint of his punditry duties on Sky Sports’ coverage of the fight. Immediately after Brook’s hand was raised, Eubank began to talk up the prospect of a collision, dredging up memories of the saga that saw Brook – in Eubank’s eyes – steal the Golovkin fight from under his nose in 2016. “He’s proven tonight that he still has the spice,” he said with a smirk. “Now I wanna see how spicy he can get with me, because I’m not Amir Khan. We have history: he’s the reason I didn’t fight Gennady Golovkin and I’ve never forgiven him for that.”
This could be a tricky match to make, however. Eubank operates at 160 pounds, while Brook met Khan at 149. A more natural weight for the Sheffield fighter, particular at this late stage of his career, would be 154, but Eubank is a big middleweight and it’s doubtful he’d consent to anything less than 158. A day after slaying Khan, Brook tweeted to Eubank, “155 otherwise don’t mention my name.”
Weight dispute aside, this would be a blockbuster in the UK. It’s an intriguing stylistic prospect too, with neither shy about having a war. That said, is a win over Eubank – who’s never held a world title and suffered losses to both Billy Joe Saunders and George Groves – really a legacy-enhancing fight? And is it worth staring down a bigger man just to settle a score and earn a payday? Only Kell has the answer.
2. Conor Benn: Bizarrely, another progeny of British boxing royalty finds himself in the Kell Brook sweepstakes. Conor Benn, son of “Dark Destroyer” Nigel, has amassed a 20-0 record in the welterweight ranks and was last seen scoring a brutal highlight-reel knockout of ex-champion Chris Algieri. Benn is aggressive and exciting, and he certainly talks a good game; this one’s another easy sell for the British market.
As with Eubank, however, there may be another contretemps regarding weight. Benn is a modest-sized welterweight who reliably hits the scales under 147 pounds. Is he willing to jump up in weight? Let’s face it, he doesn’t have the stature to be calling the shots, so he’ll have no option if he wants the showdown.
While this would undoubtedly be an engrossing fight, there’s not much to be gained from Brook’s perspective. Benn is ten years his junior, with a growing profile and reputation, but he’s not yet a world champion. And given the depth of the 147 ranks, perhaps he never will be. This match-up also lacks the apparent needle or spice that exists between Brook and Eubank. All things considered, this strikes me as a less likely proposition.
3. Charlo vs Castaño II Winner: Having shared the ring with the likes of Porter, Golovkin, Spence and Crawford – and had metal plates inserted into his face compliments of two of them – Brook has earned the right to pick and choose his opponents. He’s scaled the heights, endured the lows, and is coming off a spectacular win over his most bitter rival. If he wants to sail off into the sunset, no-one will blame him. Ditto if he wants to face Eubank or Benn purely to shut them up and add a few million to the retirement fund.
But if he longs to reach true glory one last time, the high-stakes option is the winner of the upcoming junior middleweight rematch between Jermell Charlo and Brian Castaño. The victor will be only the seventh man in boxing’s four-belt era to simultaneously hold the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO titles, following Hopkins, Jermain Taylor, Usyk, Crawford, Josh Taylor and Canelo. Quite a carrot for Brook to ponder.
Having handed Khan a drubbing in an exciting pay-per-view event, Brook’s popularity is at an all-time high. An audacious bid for titles in a second weight class would certainly stir the public’s imagination. Charlo and Castaño are excellent but beatable, and Brook may fancy his chances at 154. Retiring after a win over Khan would be nice, but checking out after mopping up all four belts would be even more satisfying.
4. Liam Smith: “Beefy” doesn’t have the name value of a Eubank Jr or Conor Benn, but unlike that pair, the Brit presents no obstacles in terms of weight, having operated at 154 pounds for several years. The former WBO champion guarantees action and has recently breathed fresh life into his career by knocking out cross-town rival Anthony Fowler.
Clearly, Smith is down the pecking order and it would be a curious choice if Brook selects him to be his next foe. But stranger things have happened. In the back of his mind, Brook may prefer to risk a loss to Liam Smith, who has at least been a world champion, than go out on a defeat to Eubank Jr or the younger Benn.
5. Errol Spence Jr: The most devastating night of Brook’s career remains his defeat to Errol Spence Jr at Bramall Lane football ground in 2017. Fresh off a maiden defeat to Golovkin at middleweight, Brook returned to welter to defend his IBF title against a heralded American who exuded assurance throughout the build-up. In a hotly-contested firefight, Brook suffered yet another savage eye injury and was counted out in round eleven after taking a knee.
Many accused Brook of quitting that night, and such remarks must have injured the fallen champion’s pride. That he bounced back to challenge another pound-for-pound great in Terence Crawford, before beating Khan, speaks volumes. In any case, five years after their first meeting Brook could be tempted to launch a revenge mission. Spence has fought just once since losing control of his Ferrari 488 Spider in Dallas in 2019, and though he faces Manny Pacquiao conqueror Yordenis Ugas in an April unification, Brook might reasonably consider his old foe damaged goods.
There are some stumbling blocks to this one too, of course: Spence is a career welter and Brook would have to hit the 147 pound limit to challenge for the three belts (providing the American beats Ugas). Spence, meanwhile, gains nothing by meeting Brook at a higher weight. File this one in the “unlikely” category.
Well, that’s about the sum of it. Kell Brook is a fighter coming off a huge win and now with a multitude of enviably lucrative options at his disposal. Given how formidable he looked against Khan, I would personally like to see him roll the dice against the Charlo vs Castaño victor, though the build-up to a Brook vs Eubank showdown would be loads of fun, and the bout itself action-packed. Nothing else to do but kick back and wait to see what “Special K” does next. — Ronnie McCluskey