By George Ogier
As the old saying goes, never meet your heroes because they’re bound to disappoint. The cliché was at the forefront of my thoughts as I watched Kell Brook beat Carson Jones at the weekend. Barry McGuigan is one of my heroes and whilst I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him he left me feeling rather disappointed on Saturday night.
In what is fast becoming a sea of sycophants McGuigan has been a shining beacon of rationality on Sky Sports’ boxing coverage. Many presenters and commentators on the broadcaster’s boxing team seem contractually obliged to blindly praise British fighters. Conversely, if a boxer is not from these shores and has little or no public profile the same people are quick to dismiss their capabilities.
It is reaching embarrassing levels of ineptitude in and out of the commentary box. Barry McGuigan has been one of the few Sky employees to rise above this parapet of jingoism and actually talk sense. However, it appeared on Saturday night that he is finally accepting the Sky Sports blinkers with five fateful words “Kell Brook is world-class”.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I have a slight bee in my bonnet about Kell Brook and Matchroom Promotions. Brook has been far too inactive and under-matched throughout his career to date. In spite of this, Eddie Hearn tells us at every opportunity that Kell Brook is a world-class fighter.
Head of Sky Boxing and regular Ringside anchor, Adam Smith recently made moves to ensure that only Matchroom bills appeared on Sky’s domestic coverage of the sport. As a result it would seem that Sky have bought into the world of Hearn’s murky delusions concerning Brook.
Beyond the claims of Kell Brook’s ability, fans were told in no uncertain terms that Brook v Jones was an IBF world title eliminator. Indeed, MC for the Sheffield bill John McDonald announced the victor in the contest “the winner who will challenge for a coveted world title”. Surprisingly, the next day Sky was reporting that Brook now faced a “final eliminator” against Hector Saldivia.
I understand that promoters need to exalt their fighters in order to interest audiences. What I don’t like is Sky’s complicity in toeing the Matchroom party line. Brook is not world-class (yet) and that fight was not a title eliminator. I expect such talk from a boxer’s management team but not from a broadcaster in Smith who clearly loves the sport.
Perhaps I am being unfair on Kell Brook, after all none of this is his fault. He fights the opponents that Eddie Hearn puts in front of him but Brook appears to be buying into his own hype. The young man from Sheffield is a very accomplished boxer, one of the best in Britain in fact. However, in praising Brook to the heavens we’re in danger of harming his career.
Kell Brook has a reputation as a slick operator with excellent speed and heavy hands. Brook might have looked this way in his early career against journeymen opponents but against better fighters all three claims are patently untrue.
Brook lacks the power to keep an experienced and durable boxer off him. He didn’t discourage Matthew Hatton during their fight and he certainly wasn’t worrying Carson Jones on Saturday. The fact that both Hatton and Jones hit Brook, sometimes at will would suggest that his cat-like reflexes are perhaps a myth too.
Kell Brook might well go on to win multiple world titles and dominate the welterweight division. I’d be very happy to see him do so too. Unfortunately though, the people around Kell are telling him that he can run before he has even started walking. Saturday was Brook’s 28th professional contest and it was the first time he has been genuinely tested.
Some might claim that the lack of tests have been more about Brook’s skill than the ability of opponents. I am not entirely sure that I would agree with such an argument. One of the biggest fallacies about Saturday was Hearn’s claim that Carson Jones was a world level adversary for Brook.
Jones may well have been ranked no. 3 by the IBF but he is not in any other top ten. The WBC have the American ranked as low as 31 in the world. Rankings put out by sanctioning bodies are no indicator of ability. After all the WBO have seen fit to rate Frankie Gavin at no. 9 in their welterweight standings. These lists mean virtually nothing.
Looking beyond the nonsense generated by Sky Sports and Eddie Hearn on Saturday, what are we left with? A talented young fighter slowly realising that boxing might well be harder than he once thought. Brook looked lost in his post fight interview, like his aura of invincibility had been shattered. It was an aura built up by the likes of Hearn and Adam Smith and in doing so they have done Kell no favours whatsoever.