By Blair Newman
In boxing, nothing is certain. Even attaching the word “mandatory” to a world title defence does not necessarily mean said fight will occur. The word ‘mandatory’ is defined as “required by rule or law” by Merriem-Webster, but rules and laws have a tendency to dissolve when dipped in the alphabet soup that is modern boxing.
In the specific case of Shawn Porter and Kell Brook, we have yet another instance of a ‘mandatory’ world title defence falling subject to endless whispers of potential pullouts and contention regarding whether the fight will take place or not. It’s a shame. This fight should be a no-brainer, for both men.
Porter has recently emerged amongst the barrage of welterweight hopefuls into the light of world titleholder status, soundly out-pointing the tricky Devon Alexander for his IBF belt before defending it by mercilessly mangling Paulie Malignaggi in a manner never seen before. Brook, meanwhile, has made his name in the UK with a mixture of performances that range from the stunning to the underwhelming, but retains an undefeated record and is a bona fide ‘contender’ if ever there was one.
The welterweight division has of late resembled a better version of today’s heavyweights, mainly due to the inequality in the class of its combatants. There is a clear gulf in talent between the divison’s golden egg – Floyd Mayweather, and the rest of the weight class.
With Mayweather’s current promotional deal with Showtime having three fights left to run, the chase is on for the aforementioned Porter and Brook, as well as Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia and Marcos Maidana (again) to get a crack at boxing’s biggest money-maker. The result is a predictable degree of anxiety and self-preservation as fighters – or at least their representatives, clamour to make the best case possible for their sacrificing at the altar of Mayweather.
This hasn’t yet led to a gravy train comparable to that of the heavyweight division; where over the years prospects and contenders have often avoided one another in order to safely ensure their eventual passage to a fight with either Klitschko brother, but the failure of Porter and Brook to fight could lead us all down a similarly treacherous path.
The fight is a risk for both men. Porter is a new champion and fighting Brook represents a real high-risk low-reward scenario, whereby the end may not justify the means. On the other hand, Brook is yet to fight at Porter’s level and defeat here would leave him between a rock and a hard place. Fortunately, though, there are innumerable valid reasons for this fight to take place.
Brook can finally break out
At times last year Brook cut a frustrated figure as a shot at what was then Devon Alexander’s IBF title fell through on three separate occasions, twice due to his own injury difficulties.
Since he blew away Kevin McIntrye for the British belt in 2008 he has been viewed as a precocious talent, but too often something has gotten in the way of his progress. Now he has a chance to not only fully rejuvenate a stalled career, but announce himself loudly on the world stage. Were he merely to compete with Porter in gallant defeat, Brook would gain respect. Were he to win, far bigger fights would lie in wait.
Porter could enhance his growing reputation
Prior to his shock victory over Alexander last year, Porter seemed destined for perpetual fringe contender status. Now, just two fights down the line, he is being talked of as one of the brightest up and coming talents in his division.
He may already own a world title, but no-one in their right mind would call Porter the best at 147 lbs at this juncture in his career. There would be no harm in Porter taking on like-minded undefeated souls in order to further that claim, however. Beating Brook would give him another weighty scalp on the resume, something that would come in handy were his name be listed as a future Mayweather opponent.
Styles clash to produce great entertainment
Great fights can be likened to dances; it takes two to tango. Whether it’s two similarly powerful sluggers or a clash of separate styles, there are varying ways to create a fight of real potency. When distilled down to its most basic appearance, Porter versus Brook would present the beautiful narrative of pitting the strong-armed swarmer up against the pure boxer.
There are complications to that narrative of course, but good ones. Porter is probably more a hybrid of swarmer and slugger, while Brook has power to test the most steadfast of chins, but these only add to the possibilities for excitement upon the day these two men meet in a ring.
The winner takes it all
As I mentioned earlier, for both men this fight resembles a serious risk of some kind. There is arguably more on the line for Brook here, given that he is the less proven of the pair, but this is a fight neither man would contemplate losing.
Such match-ups tend to produce one of two things. Sometimes in such scenarios, aware of the danger they face, each man will summon every last drop of courage to offer up a memorable back-and-forth fight. Other times, one of combatants will excel in the circumstances, putting on a performance worthy of marking him down as one of new stars of the sport. Either way fights like these, more often than not, produce something worthy of note.
As time runs out for this fight to be signed, sealed and delivered, many of us will be casting our minds back not too far at all to remember the last time a supposedly ‘mandatory’ fight did not take place. Countless quality fights have been lost amidst the sea of boxing bureaucracy; let us all hope this is not one of them.