Exclusive interview: Former welterweight world champion says boxing saved his life and he is ‘at peace’ following duel with rival Amir Khan
Kell Brook has announced his retirement from boxing, revealing that “my heart’s no longer in it, I’ve got nothing left to prove.”
Eleven weeks after his stirring triumph over arch-rival Amir Khan, Brook, who turned 36 last Tuesday, brings his long and decorated prize-fighting career draws to a close following 43 contests and three losses to modern masters: middleweight Gennady Golovkin, and pound for pound welterweight stars Terence Crawford and Errol Spence.
But former welterweight world champion Brook will be remembered as a skilled practitioner in the ring, physically powerful, with a clean and efficient punching style, and command of range and timing. Brook’s victory to claim the IBF welterweight crown over Shawn Porter in 2014, in Carson, California, made him the first British boxer to take a world title from an unbeaten American on US soil since Lloyd Honeyghan against Donald Curry in 1986.
“I’ve had a long chat with my family and my parents, and it’s over for me. I’ll never box again,” revealed Brook in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Telegraph. “It’s a little emotional to be actually saying this out loud. My mam [Julie] is relieved. I think everyone around me is pleased. Truth is, boxing is a very very tough, dangerous sport, one in which you can be legally killed in the ring, and I’ve finished now with all my faculties intact.”
Easier said than done, however. So many boxers have been lured back. Will that be the case for ‘Special K’ ?
“I just don’t see it. It’s not there any more,” explained the Sheffield fighter, who grew up in Shirecliffe, and then Hillsborough. As a nine-year-old boy he attended Brendan Ingle’s famous gym in Wincobank, which spawned the likes of Herol Graham, Naseem Hamed, Johnny Nelson, Ryan Rhodes and Kid Galahad.
“If I hadn’t boxed, I would have ended up in real trouble, my life might have gone off the rails, given where I was from,” Brook said. “I’ll always be grateful to Brendan Ingle and his sons Dominic and John for helping me to find the discipline and the structure in my life.”
No grand press conference, no huge media round to announce his retirement. Just a quiet announcement that enough is enough. It typifies the fighter and the man. No angel, but a very tough man, who has earned his respect in the sport the hard way, winning the British title outright and heading on a run of 36 successive victories until his first defeat, to Golovkin, a modern great, having climbed two weight divisions in search of a legacy moment.
Brook insisted he is “at peace” with himself after his duel with long-time rival Khan – a feat he reveals has given him “a release from many dark days needing the fight” – after a stirring night in Manchester in which he dominated a man he developed a hatred for over almost a decade. Now he reveals he would “happily sit down and have a chat and
“I needed the Khan fight, I needed to settle the grudge, the feud. There is no dark feeling left in me now, I think when you have been in the ring with someone it passes, it leaves you,” explained Brook. “Me and Amir said some words which were hateful in the build-up, but that’s what happens in boxing. But I respect him after the fight. He showed real heart in there.”
In making the decision to retire now, Brook has also eschewed lucrative multi-million pound offers to fight Conor Benn, Chris Eubank Jr, Josh Taylor and others, but has chosen – wisely, you might say – that enough is enough. Brook’s resume is as impressive as his timing to call an end to a 26-year “rollercoaster” in the sport, he says, he “has loved and hated” at various turns.
Just 20 days after winning the world title in the USA in 2014, there was the life-threatening machete attack in Tenerife, the broken orbital sockets against Golovkin and Spence, and the ignominy of not reaching his potential against Crawford in Las Vegas in November 2020.
But Brook was always a survivor. Even after the life-threatening, potentially career-ending attack and subsequent surgery to the gory leg wound which required 60 staples and pins both inside and outside the flesh, he promised a comeback. Indeed, doctors had told Brook that if he had not got to the hospital in time, he would have bled to death.
“I did think my career was over, and it was a scary moment, scarier than any opponent, but God had bigger plans for me, and I feel lucky,” Brook said. “But I knew I would be back. The desire was there in me.”
And he was back, seven months later, defending the IBF title against Jo Jo Dan in Sheffield, followed by three defences of the title in the following 12 months, as the mega-fight with Khan was on and off with both teams at loggerheads. Then, suddenly, Brook was thrust into an even bigger fight – with Triple GGG, in 2016. In 2017, Brook was still ranked the No 1 active welterweight in the world by The Ring Magazine.
“Like I said, highs and lows, a rollercoaster, it’s been a long journey and all I’ve known,” explained Brook. “I’ve been a world champion, and that night against Shawn Porter in California will live with me forever. As will my last fight with Amir. It’s not going to get better than that walk to the ring.”
“It was my dream since I started boxing at the age of nine to be a world champion. It was a special night. I’ve been in the ring with Golovkin, Spence, Crawford, and I finally got my fight with Amir Khan. After that, I don’t think I needed to go on anymore. I’m one of the lucky boxers who has earned enough not to have to work, but I am going to give something back again, and I’d like to train or manage young fighters. I’d just like to be remembered as a fighter who would go in with anyone, feared no one, and who gave the fans what they wanted.”