The raw emotions a fighter experiences prior to his first world title bout are unimaginable but when Britain’s Kell Brook challenges Shawn Porter for the IBF welterweight championship on Saturday in Carson, Calif., those feelings are likely to be multiplied several times over.
During the past 18 months, Brook has looked on helplessly as three championship bouts with Devon Alexander fell through due to injury. Both fighters pulled out (Brook twice) but the Sheffield star suffered most and critics were merciless in questioning his ambition and fighting heart.
Still, despite the physical and mental anguish of those setbacks, Brook is loaded with confidence ahead of his long awaited title shot against Alexander’s conqueror Shawn Porter.
“I completed part of my training in Fuerteventura (one of the Canary Islands),” said Brook, who is THE RING No. 5-rated welterweight. “It was really good to put the work in over there because of the heat. The StubHub is an outdoor venue and California can be hot, so Spain was ideal preparation. On the last day we did a 40-mile bike ride in 31-degree (Celsius) heat. [Editor’s note: that’s the equivalent to about 88-degrees Fahrenheit.]
“I’ve been going to war and I’ve been technical in the gym. We’ve been doing everything in this training camp and the guys I’m sparring with made me feel uncomfortable, which is what we wanted. Sometimes you can finish sparring and go shopping or hang out. These guys made me want to go home, eat and get to bed. They’ve pushed me to the limit and you’ll see the benefits of that come fight night.”
In the modern era it has become customary for fighters to study opponents and Brook acknowledges that he’s had a look, albeit briefly, at Porter during the buildup. However, one got the feeling that the challenger knows what to expect from the relentless Ohio hitter and overdoing the reconnaissance would be futile.
“I’ve watched two or three rounds from a few of Porter’s fights,” said Brook, with a sigh. “To be honest I’ve not watched very much but, as the fight nears, we’ll focus on him a bit more and pin point certain things that he does wrong. It’s important to make him pay for the mistakes he makes.
“We know Porter is tough and I’ve responded by training my body for the toughest fight possible. At this level there isn’t a massive margin between fighters. A lot of people have written me off, but I’m going over there to prove a point. The name is ‘Special’ and that’s the name I intend to live up to in this fight.”
The vast majority of fans and media were favoring Porter heavily when this contest was announced, but that perception seems to have changed slightly as the date nears. The challenger has also felt a subtle shift and offered his own opinions on why this might be the case.
Brook said, “I think there a lot of fans who are reluctant to buy into the Porter hype. Sure it was a shock the way he beat (Paulie) Malignaggi but people are still a bit unsure. They will have heard about my capabilities and how seriously I’m taking this fight, and they know I’m in the U.S. to put it all on the line.
“I’m no joke and although Porter is the favorite there are a lot of experts on the fence, and a lot who feel that I will win this fight. That’s why we need to get it on. If the fans and media do their revision they’ll see that I’m a big strong welterweight who, at 28 years old, is at the peak of his powers.”
At this stage of camp the challenger is unquestionably more comfortable throwing punches than he is conducting interviews, but his passion remains visceral. When I mentioned the peaks and troughs of his professional journey, which started almost 10 years ago, the line of questioning seemed to strike an emotional cord.
“With everything I’ve been through I won’t believe my title shot has finally come until Porter stands across from me,” said Brook, in earnest. “This is the way it’s meant to be and this is my time. I’m so excited but it’ll really hit home when I climb those ring steps.
“Mentally I’m stronger because of my past experiences. I know what lies ahead and I’m too wise to be messed around by mind games. Physically I’ve pushed myself beyond the pain barrier and I can’t wait to lace up the gloves and show everyone what I’m made of.
Brook continued, “Recently I visited family members who can’t make it to the States and my passion couldn’t be higher. This fight is it for me. I’ve waited on it since I was a kid, from that first day I walked into the gym and smelt the leather. This is what it comes down to – a huge fight with a world title on the line.”
Two confident young stars with dynamite in both hands could very well be the formula for a quick knockout but although Brook believes in his own punching power, the challenger doesn’t rule out a long destructive war.
“I’m ready for a long fight but I punch with mean intentions and if I land properly then I can knock this guy out,” said Brook. “Don’t get me wrong I’ve trained really hard for a long exhausting fight, so whatever comes my way I’m prepared for it.”
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing