New IBF welterweight titleholder Kell Brook has been praised for his physical skill, which was instrumental in dethroning the feared Shawn Porter in Carson, California, on Saturday night. The talented boxer puncher was quicker, sharper and more effective against the American powerhouse but what was even more impressive, at least to this reporter, was the winner’s mental toughness.
For almost two years Brook, THE RING No. 4-rated welterweight, has been in a perpetual slump. Injuries, postponements and cancellations poisoned his reputation and that venom spread to fight fans, many of whom questioned the British star’s desire and thirst for combat. Still, despite that burden, Brook was focus personified when it mattered most and there is no antidote quite like success.
The unbeaten Porter was a sizeable favorite coming into this second title defense. In December of last year the Ohio native ripped the IBF strap from Devon Alexander’s grasp and then ripped Paulie Malignaggi to pieces four months later. Brook had never mixed at that level and many within the trade believed he was in over his head.
“Showtime” Shawn vowed to eat Brook for breakfast but, as it turned out, he had bitten off more than he could chew against an opponent who matched him for strength and trumped him for skill.
RingTV.com caught up with Brook (33-0, 22 knockouts) only hours after he had arrived back on home soil.
RingTV.com: What have you been doing since you won the title?
Kell Brook:It’s been chaos and my feet haven’t touched the ground. Over the last few days I’ve spent time in Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills and just enjoyed my family. I only got back to the UK a few hours ago, so I’m still trying to take it all in. Right now the only champions at 147 pounds are Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and Kell Brook and that’s massive to me. Welterweight is the hottest division in the sport right now, so I just want to be involved in huge fights. I have to keep pinching myself because it’s just unbelievable. I’m world champion and that’s been a long time coming.
RTV:What were those moments like leading up to the decision being announced?
KB: It was torture because I was away from home and I wanted that title so bad. When the announcer said “and the new” it was an incredible feeling and my legs just went from under me.
RTV:How were you able to combat Porter’s relentless assault?
KB: I had to make subtle adjustments. Porter was well out of range on the outside but he would leap in suddenly and try to smother me. He was rough up close but I was smart and boxed well on the outside. I had him on the end of the jab and the right hand. My defense also had to be spot on, because Porter was being hailed as this welterweight Mike Tyson.
RTV:The game plan worked very well and your corner was composed throughout. I would assume you give a lot of credit to Dominic Ingle and your team?
KB: I’m proud of my team and that was definitely a team effort. We were calm throughout, the occasion didn’t get the better of us and at the end of the day I’m the new world champion.
RTV:Your goal since you were a child was to win a world title and you’ve achieved that. Talk to me about the goals you have now set for yourself moving forward?
KB: I welcome all comers for mega fights. Domestically we’ve got Amir Khan and internationally you still have the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. I want to defend my title against the top fighters and give the fans what they want to see. These match ups bring excitement to the sport.
RTV:Floyd Mayweather, if his timetable is to be trusted, has two more fights left after the Marcos Maidana rematch. What are your thoughts on mixing with Mayweather, should he prevail next month?
KB: That’s what I’m in the sport for. I want to test myself against the very best and I’m an unbeaten fighter who doesn’t know how to lose. I’m young, huge at the weight and passionate about securing my legacy. As I’ve said all along, I’m a force to be reckoned with.
RTV:What are your feelings on a fight with Amir Khan? There has been a lot of talk of this fight going to Wembley Stadium in London.
KB: There is animosity between us and it’s huge. It’s an all-British fight that everyone wants to see. Most importantly he wants it and I want it. This could be as big as Froch versus Groves, if not bigger, so let’s do it. We need to make it happen because we’re looking at another record breaking fight, with over 70,000 fans and a world title on the line.
RTV:You lost three opportunities to fight for a world title. Your career stalled through injury and you received unending criticism, with many critics questioning your hunger. You’re now the IBF welterweight champion. What have you got to say to the critics who wrote you off?
KB: It’s all been worth it and I stuck in there when the going got tough. All the hard work and the sacrifice paid off and I am the champion of the world. Everyone wants my belt now and I’m just so happy to have reached the top.
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing