By: Sean Crose
Kell Brook had been kicking around for a while before he finally faced Shawn Porter for the IBF welterweight title in August of 2014. Few Americans knew who the native of Sheffield, England was before the Porter fight, but those who followed boxing closely knew that Porter was facing a legitimate challenge from across the pond. Sure enough, even though Porter had won impressively against Devon Alexander and Paulie Malignaggi in his previous bouts, the aggressive slugger was unable to effectively dissemble the strong, straight punching Brook. The Englishman ended up going home with a major world title and the eyes of the world upon him.
Although he ended up being criticized for facing less than stellar competition in his first three title defenses (against Ionut Dan Ion, Frankie Gavin, and Kevin Bizier respectively), Brook ultimately decided to do what boxing fans are supposed to honor fighters for doing – he dared to be great. Jumping two entire weight classes, Brook challenged middleweight terror Gennady Golovkin for Golovkin’s middleweight belts in September of 2016. It was some kind of fight. Brook not only held his own, he was truly in the bout. This proved to be all the more impressive when one considered the fact that Golovkin was arguably the most avoided name in boxing.
In the end, however, the night belonged to Golovkin. The Kazakh warrior simply proved to be too powerful for his admirably game and skilled opponent. Suffering from an eye injury, Brook ultimately took a beating from Golovkin until his corner wisely stopped the fight. He didn’t win the title, but Brook had earned considerable respect for challenging a fighter much naturally bigger men had little interest in facing. Yet Brook’s next opponent would be no soft touch, either. For rising American star Errol Spence Jr was a man on everyone’s radar – and for good reason.
Boasting a record of 21-0, Spence had mowed through his previous seven opponents in frightening fashion. None of the seven had made it to the final bell. Still, Brook was determined to once again prove just how good a fighter he was against a more popular and highly touted foe. And, once again, Brook looked terrific in the ring. He was, however, once more broken down as time went on. The fight was stopped in the 11th. After facing two of the most intimidating names in boxing, back to back, no less, Brook had performed well, but had come up short.
And then the sport seemed to forget about him. Even now, after over a year away from the ring, Brook remains essentially under the radar. Granted, Brook’s opponent in Sheffield this weekend, Mark DeLuca, is far from a household name. Still, one would expect, or hope, that Brook would get more love from fans for having dared to be great. For a fan base that constantly, and rightly, condemns fighters for avoiding challenges, for playing it safe, for cashing in over and over again, the disinterest in Brook is telling. Make no mistake – fans should call out individuals who avoid major challenges. They should also remember and respect those who have put it all on the line, even if they’ve come up short in the process.
Those who achieve greatness are deservedly lauded – but those who shoot for greatness and come up short in the process deserve some credit, as well.