By George Ogier
The career progression of a talented young boxer is a tricky path to navigate. The danger of over-matching a promising prospect is at the forefront of any promoter’s mind. Conversely, if a fighter is given a string of easy opponents there is a risk of inflated egos and poorly honed ring craft.
This unfortunate situation was played out in front of a Staples Centre crowd two weeks ago when “Vicious” Victor Ortiz lost to Josesito Lopez. Ortiz failed to come out for the tenth round after suffering a broken jaw.
Victor Ortiz has been criticised and empathised with in equal measures but the answer to one question was in high demand. Had Golden Boy Promotions (GBP), Victor’s managers created a scenario whereby their fighter was under-prepared?
At one point Ortiz was very much GBP’s “next big thing”. When Victor quit against Marcos Maidana in 2009 people began to suspect his mental toughness. This continued after a bizarre stoppage and post match interview in the fight with Floyd Mayweather.
There was a suspicion that in hyping Ortiz to the rafters and then matching him against easy opponents GBP had not prepared their fighter properly. Ortiz just wasn’t ready to deal with the pressure of being in trouble during a big fight. It is important for a boxer’s career progression that their opponents improve fight after fight and Victor Ortiz had never been tested in this way.
As Sheffield’s Kell Brook prepares for his next bout this Saturday it is very easy to draw parallels between his rise and that of Ortiz. In those comparisons it is a logical step to then wonder if Brook’s promoter Eddie Hearn is unwittingly setting his man up for a similar fall.
Kell Brook has been lauded by many as the one of the finest British boxers of his generation. Sky Sports have continually trumpeted the idea that Brook is destined to be a world champion. Commentator Nick Halling has even gone as far as to label Brook “world class”.
The is no doubt whatsoever that Kell Brook is a talented boxer. However, he has yet to be tested by anyone at the elite level of world welterweights. The biggest name on Brook’s record so far is Matthew Hatton, a durable European level fighter at best.
Firstly, under the management of Frank Warren and now with Hearn, Brook has been inactive and under-matched at almost every turn. There is a chance that Kell could challenge for a world title but at this point he woefully prepared to do so.
Brook’s latest opponent, Carson Jones is a case in both points. Jones is almost four months younger than Kell Brook but comparing their career statistics you would never know. Jones has fought forty-six times to Brook’s twenty-seven. Jones has also boxed nearly twice as many rounds as Kell, 237 to 120. It is worth noting too that Carson Jones made his professional debut one month after Brook.
Some observers think this fight will be a real test of Kell Brook’s abilities but I am not entirely convinced by this claim. Eddie Hearn has been quick to inform the press and fans alike that Jones is an elite fighter. The American is ranked no. 3 in the world by the IBF but that is where his international recognition begins and ends.
Not ranked in the top 10 by any other sanctioning body, Jones has an even poorer record in terms of opponents than Brook. The man from Oklahoma appears to be durable enough and would seem to have a reasonable punch with twenty-four stoppages. There is however an inescapable feeling that we will learn very little about Brook from this contest.
Unfortunately for Kell, he exists in the insular bubble that is British boxing. The scene in the UK is thriving enough that our own fighters rarely feel the need to test themselves abroad. The media in the UK are too quick to proclaim British boxers as “world level” operators without ever having proof.
This parochial attitude from British promoters means that fighters from these shores often have virtually no profile outside Great Britain. Eventually this will prove problematic for Kell Brook. The current welterweight champions will be aware of the Sheffield fighter but he is an unknown quantity at this stage.
The upshot of this mystery surrounding Brook means he is unlikely to get a title shot any time soon. No champion will want to fight Kell as the situation stands. He is too good to be considered as an opponent in a “ticking over” contest. The other side of this coin means that Brook is not enough of a “name” to warrant a PPV show on a big network like HBO. This creates little financial incentive to box him.
Until Kell Brook fights a genuine world title contender he is very much a member of the “who needs him?” club. He is too talented for a champion to take a risk on but he is yet to beat anyone of the quality that demands he gets a title shot. Brook is at the stage of his career where he needs to be noticed. He needs to bang on the collective doors of world title holders. Thanks to Eddie Hearn, Brook hasn’t even pulled into the driveway yet.