Boxing: Amir Khan & Kell Brook should fight each other or quit the sport

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The fiercest of rivalries are really based on similarities rather than differences.

A few minor distinctions may become the major bones of contention but it is the familiarity that truly creates the contempt.

Amir Khan and Kell Brook are very alike. They are both slick, fast-fisted, 34-year-old fighters from northern England who have won world titles within a few pounds of each other.

In recent years both have been left damaged by sickening defeats after moving up to take on global stars and are now fading fast as they look to scoop one last pay-day in the final few rounds of their careers.

Despite some spiteful verbal sparring, they have danced around the possibility of meeting in the last few years. So will they finally ‘get it on’ in 2021 or, like Lennox Lewis v Riddick Bowe and Ricky Hatton v Junior Witter, become the grudge matches that might have been? As ever in boxing, we need to follow the money. But their recent careers provide the financial context.

Having won the IBF welterweight title in 2014 with a superb and often underrated road victory against high-quality brawler Shawn Porter, Brook consolidated with three defences against very beatable opponents.

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Then he took a huge gamble, treading the thin line between bravery and stupidity by moving up two divisions to take on Gennady Golovkin in late 2016. His superior speed gave him early success but he was stopped in the fifth after sustaining serious eye damage, something that also affected his dismal defeat to Errol Spence the following year.

Brook has not held a world title since and showed a worrying lack of punch resistance in succumbing to Terence Crawford in November.

After his Olympic silver medal in 2004, Khan became a star and he has never really stepped out of the limelight since then. Yet he has been far from sure-footed. He won a world light-welterweight title in 2009 and quickly unified the division with a series of exhilarating defences.

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However, he has not held a global belt since his disputed, split-decision defeat to Lamont Peterson in December 2011. His always-susceptible chin was then exposed by Danny Garcia and, in 2016, when Canelo Alvarez left him flat out and motionless on the canvas after he, too, moved up to challenge for middleweight honours.

His last meaningful fight was also a straightforward defeat to Crawford in April 2019 after which he was accused of quitting in the ring.

With such clear declines in both fighters, there must be question marks as to whether their meeting would be a pay-per-view event. And, one presumes, the bout would not generate enough as a regular bout to entice both boxers to sign on the dotted line.

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That is the paradox of this entire story. It is a fight for the casual fan, not the purest, and yet the former are much less likely to stump up the fees to watch it.

Of course the same can be said of Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr yet their recent ‘contest’ garnered so many pay-per-view buys that, sadly, more ‘legends’ are likely to haul their aching bodies back into the ring.

Had this fight happened five years ago, it would have been a major stadium event like Froch v Groves or any of those outdoor Anthony Joshua bouts.

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Had they fought two years ago when it appeared to be close before Khan chose to take on Crawford, then it might have been a massive indoor fight. Now, who knows?

The solution may be simple.

Take the fight to the Middle East. Khan pocketed a reported £7m for disposing of the lightly-regarded Billy Dib in Saudi Arabia in July 2019.

A few months later, after taking the heavyweight title rematch between Joshua and Andy Ruiz to the same place, Matchroom CEO Eddie Hearn hailed the region as the future of boxing.

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Khan has been based in Dubai for some time and, at the start of 2021, confirmed his “gloves were still on” and he was looking to fight around Easter time. 

Meanwhile, Brook has always blamed Khan for the fact they have not fought yet.

With Hearn leading the negotiations, both fighters seemingly on board and the overseas location solving the financial issues, it seems we might finally see this bout. And then, of course, there is the last and perhaps decisive factor - neither boxer would seem to have another moneyed and meaningful option left in their careers.

Fight each other or quit the sport, that is the real choice for Khan and Brook in 2021.

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