- Impressive Brook wobbles his rival twice in first round
- Referee stops fight in sixth with Khan in trouble on ropes
- Khan hints at retirement in post-fight interview
Final. Settled. Bragging rights to Kell Brook who produced a one-sided beatdown of Amir Khan over six rounds before referee Victor Loughlin stopped the contest. It was the right decision from the official.
Former world champions Khan and Brook collided in a fight which was well overdue, but the two 35-year-olds kept to their styles and it was Brook’s that was clearly the superior.
Khan was in trouble twice in the opening round on wobbly legs, but fought on to survive a torrid first stanza. Then the Bolton fighter came out aggressively in the second round, as Brook stalked forward, picking his punches.
Khan’s spirit was undaunted from the second round onwards but Brook patiently rebuffed his flurries of fast hands. They grinned at each other at the end of the round.
Khan was hurt again at the end of the third round, a round he was winning, and although downed by Brook’s bodyweight, referee Loughlin ruled it a push. Khan endured a brutal fifth round from his rival, and was under even more pressure in the sixth and hurt and, rightly, referee Laughlin stepped in to halt the contest.
It was always Khan’s speed against Brook’s timing. Brook kept his focus, picked his shots brilliantly, landing the heavier blows and covered up skilfully.
The bad blood evaporated afterwards, as Brook went to Khan’s corner, to check on him. But there was controversy before the fight.
Even to the last moments, minutes before the walk-ins to the sold-out, raucous Manchester Arena, there was a dispute over gloves, with Khan’s team complaining about the horse-hair gloves being worn by Brook in his dressing room.
The Sheffield man had to change gloves and have new ones, the brand ‘Grant’, re-taped in the ring. Mind games to the last. Brook had walked in first. Khan several minutes later.
It should have taken place six years ago; yet the Manchester Arena was sold out for this ‘car crash’ fight, with both fighters well past their best. It was still compelling as a match-up, as Khan and Brook indulged in a score-settling contest, in a bragging rights brawl of the highest order, two prize fighters not interested in titles but full of desire for the championship of each other.
For both, it was a legacy fight, a chance to put to bed a long, long rivalry. For the record, they both received million of pounds for doing it, but the money will just ease the pain a little for the loser.
There have been other significant grudge fights in British boxing history – such as the pairings of Frank Bruno and Lennox Lewis and David Haye and Dereck Chisora at heavyweight, and the protagonists have later become friends.
Brook wanted to earn some legacy respect out of Khan to end their 20-year grudge. Khan wanted to prove once and for all that he was “levels above” his foe, who has hounded and harried him since they both claimed world titles, respectively, 10 years and eight years ago, in the Sheffield fighter’s case. He got it.
It has grown more and more personal since the fight was announced in November last year. Away they went to camp, Khan with his nemesis, the three-weight undefeated world champion Terence Crawford and his trainer Brian McIntyre, and Brook to The Canaries, reunited with Dominic Ingle, who has known him since he walked in as a tearaway nine-year-old from a Sheffield council estate.
The pair first sparred as schoolboys in 2002, creating a rivalry that over the years turned into a sour hatred of the other. Now they have settled the score once and for all. And Brook can now call himself Khan’s nemesis.
Natasha Jonas moved up three weight classes and made it third time lucky with a spectacular second-round stoppage of Uruguayan Chris Namus as the 37-year-old from Liverpool became a world champion by lifting the vacant WBO light middleweight crown.
Mobility and elusiveness from the opening salvos was always going to be key against the naturally bigger woman, but in the opening round Jonas knocked Namus flat on her back with a perfectly timed one-two, which left her rival on unsteady legs by the end of the first stanza.
Jonas put Namus down again with a left in the second, staggering backwards and down, to be counted out by referee Howard Foster. Namus’s corner were also poised with the towel.
“People think I’m exaggerating when I say it means everything, but they honestly don’t know the sacrifices, not just boxers, but every athlete goes through,” Jonas said afterwards.
Earlier, heavyweight Frazer Clarke, the Tokyo Olympic Games bronze medallist, made his professional debut against Jake Darnell, of Blackpool, also making his first paid bow in the ring.
In what was scheduled as a six-round contest, Clarke finished his opponent in the opening exchanges, going hard to body and head before the towel came in from Darnell’s corner.
Clarke, understudy to Anthony Joshua and then Joe Joyce across the Olympic Games of London and Rio de Janeiro on the GB amateur scene, has come to the professional game as a Commonwealth gold medallist and is expected to move through the ranks quickly.