Unsavoury remarks overshadowed news conference for grudge match which has been over a decade in the making
Disgraceful. Shameful. And Amir Khan and Kell Brook, two of British boxing’s biggest stars, should have known better. They weighed in on Friday ahead of their long-awaited showdown and were only allowed momentary remarks to each other, yet they face the ignominy of their grudge fight overshadowed and tainted due to a row over homophobic slurs and racist abuse made to each other in Thursday’s news conference.
They may intensely dislike each other, and will settle their rivalry on the ring bringing the experience of 17 world title championships between them, but both have clearly brought themselves and the sport of boxing into disrepute. It was both unacceptable and disgraceful.
The talk between them had to be halted as two of the country’s most famous boxers traded ugly insults. The long-running feud between the two former world champions descended into controversy as both indulged in comments clearly below the belt, beyond sport, and beyond decency.
Khan and Brook made homophobic remarks which began when Khan said that he wouldn’t share a room with Brook. Khan had called his foe “a fanboy who would get his comeuppance” after an ugly altercation in which Brook’s homophobic slur was met with claims by Khan that they had never shared a room as amateurs. “Listen, I haven’t shared a room with you, don’t be saying that. That isn’t right, Kell, especially with the stuff I’ve heard.” Khan insisted he was not disclosing secrets when the Sheffield fighter asked his foe to elaborate, but then Brook aimed fire at Khan by saying: “It’s you who was on gay sites w—— yourself off.”
Khan then went on the attack, accusing Brook of alleged racism. “You know I saw a video where you said that you were going to smash that poppadom chin in. You said that, didn’t you? The way you said that was really sad. You shouldn’t have said that.”
Brook explained his comment as: “Everyone knows they’re very fragile, like your chin,” and later pointed out after the news conference that there was “absolutely zero” intent for the comment to be construed as racist. Yet the back and forth was utterly unnecessary. It matters not what was intended, but rather, what was said, and the message it sends out about an inherently dangerous and influential sport.
Many things which are unacceptable are often said by combatants in the hours leading up to a fight, but that does not excuse them. Last week, middleweight boxer Liam Williams said that he wanted to “kill” opponent Chris Eubank Jr in the ring. Williams was merely “spoken to” by the British Boxing Board of Control. But matters are getting out of hand. Action should be taken by the authorities in charge of the sport.
Adam Smith, the head of boxing development at Sky Sports, who sat between the two fighters and chaired the news conference, said it was “uncomfortable and unsavoury” and was ultimately “disgraceful”. It was. It was neither funny, nor sold a fight that saw the Manchester Arena sold out anyway in under 10 minutes for a fight which has been over a decade in the making.
What makes it worse is that between them, the two British boxing stars, who are both 35, have been here many times before. Robert Smith, general secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control, told Telegraph Sport it was “totally unacceptable” and “stupid” and that action will be taken with a report being sent on to the Board’s stewards. At the very least, the two fighters ought to be fined or suspended, although it is unclear whether either man will box again after this contest. Sensibly, they were kept apart after a brief weigh in on Friday, both fighters under the 149lbs limit in a battle for bragging rights.