• Steve Bunce

Kell still can't conquer Khan

Steve Bunce March 20, 2012
Kell Brook won a wide unanimous points decision against Matthew Hatton © PA Photos

Kell Brook passed his first genuine test against Matthew Hatton on Saturday, and did so with flying colours - but we didn't see anything we hadn't seen before from him. He's been world class for a while now.

What we saw was more or less what he showed a couple of bouts ago against Lovemore N'dou: he controlled his emotions, picked the sensible route to victory, and stuck to the gameplan - even though many in the venue were willing him to step on the gas.

He is a fighter that likes to perform well inside his abilities, and that's great, but at some point he needs to step outside his comfort zone. By his own admission, he hasn't got out of first gear - and maybe in second or third he'd be stopping guys he's so easily dominated thus far.

Yes, he's proved he belongs in elite company - but being mentioned alongside celebrated names does not put you on the same level as them, or make you better. You've got to get in the ring and fight top-quality opposition.

If he does, that we'll get rid of some of the question marks hovering over his head: what happens if the fight's hanging in the balance after eight rounds? What if he gets clipped with a good shot? What if he's forced to dig deep in a hostile environment?

With Naseem Hamed, another Sheffield boy, we came to know what would happen in those scenarios. If he got knocked down, he would get back up and spark his opponent out in the next round. In hostile environments - like the one he faced against Kevin Kelley in 1997 - he was wild, powerful and quite brilliant in the end.

We saw Naz in the trenches, battling his way to victory against some really good fighters - and we saw the same from Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton. We haven't seen Kell do that. All those comparing him to Naz and saying he would knock out Amir Khan… It's all a bit empty for me. Too much noise.

Kell and his promoters need to look hard and dig out one or two really testing fighters. If I were them, I'd rule nothing out for his next fight: either a big name or a world title shot. I know one name that's being thrown around is Antonio Margarito, a failed and fallen former champion. He's the sort of guy who fits the bill.

Marcos Maidana is another good shout because it gives Kell the chance to prove his pedigree against a pressure fighter, and because Maidana is a guy who's fought Khan in the past.

Brook's promoter Eddie Hearn, who by the way put on a terrific show with Brook v Hatton, a real event, has been talking boldly about stadium fights with Khan, and I agree with him: that is a monster of a fight.

As things stand, I think Khan would beat him, even conceding a bit of weight. People forget with Khan just how good a fighter he is - he got things wrong against Peterson but he's going to put that right in May. He's one who has gone into the trenches, and he's come back from a crushing one-minute KO. He's not a baby, he's a very good fighter.

Would he take the bout? Well, I think Khan will probably be a bit annoyed at how disrespectful Brook and his people have been towards him. Brook's promoter called Khan a fraud, Brook's promised to smash him.

But then Khan's a major HBO fighter and being linked with multi-million dollar fights, whereas Brook is fighting for a lot less money in domestic showdowns.

It's far from cut and dried - but I'd love to see it.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.