Posts Tagged ‘boxing’

By George Ogier

FloydWladSaturday night saw two genuinely modern greats of world boxing step into the ring, continents apart. Floyd Mayweather laced up the gloves for the 44th time as a professional whilst Wladimir Klitschko made his 63rd ring walk in the paid game.

The two men turned pro a little over a month apart after each winning medals at the 1996 Olympics and both have risen to the top of the sport. You could make a strong case that each man would have prospered in any era of boxing such are their gifts and yet people bend over backwards to disparage the achievements of Floyd and Wladimir.

You would struggle to find two more different sportsmen than Floyd Mayweather and Wladimir Klitschko. One is a loud-mouthed braggart with a chequered past and a taste for the overtly flashy. The other is a more thoughtful, reasoned man whose life away from boxing only strays into the public domain as a result of having an actress girlfriend.

However, when it comes to fighting, Floyd and Wlad are matched in their love for the sport and their dominance over those who have tried to topple them from the pinnacle of it. In spite of such imperious careers there is queue a mile long waiting to tell us that Wlad’s an imposter or that Floyd is a runner.

The root of scorn for each man is borne out of a very different set of circumstances. The main point of frustration with Wladimir appears to be that his peers just aren’t very good. It is a perfectly valid point but hardly Klitschko’s fault.

If Wladimir had avoided big names and just coasted to easy title defences then I could understand the anger but the truth isn’t that simple. Wladimir and his brother Vitali are the two best heavyweights on the planet. The only man who might come close is David Haye and Wladimir put such a beating on the Londoner that it left no doubt as to the identity of the world’s best big man.

Klitschko’s next opponent will probably be the unbeaten Russian, Alexander Povetkin in a fight that has been long talked about. Before people rush to suggest that Wlad has been avoiding Povetkin it is worth remembering that the Russian’s camp have shown little appetite for this contest in the past. It took the promise of a huge payday to make the bout a reality.

There is no denying that this a weak era for heavyweights. The two best won’t fight each other – and rightly so – because they are brothers. The challengers are often out of shape or blown up cruiserweights. Let’s be clear though, Wladimir Klitschko would have been a top ten fighter in any era.

Wlad is very good technically and accusations of his being robotic are wide of the mark. He rarely has to deviate from the one-two style that has served him so well but when called upon to do so the Ukrainian has varied his approach. Klitschko is also in great shape and clearly looks after himself between fights. The history of heavyweight boxing is littered with fighters who have taken a relaxed approach to fitness.

Wlad4It is obviously difficult to compare eras but the fighters from golden ages of the past would be dwarfed by “Dr Steelhammer”. As one writer pointed out, Rocky Marciano wouldn’t have been a heavyweight today. Wlad has also fought “fast” guys and few, if any have made it past his ramrod jab.

Wladimir Klitschko’s record has more than its fair share of mediocre fighters but as they say, a boxer can only beat what is put in front of him. Wlad struggled early on at the elite level but he has ironed out those faults and should now be recognised as an all time great of heavyweight boxing. sixty people have lost to Klitschko and only nine of those opponents have seen the final bell. That is greatness in any era.

The anger directed at Floyd Mayweather is of an altogether different nature. The public don’t often respond well to ostentatious displays of wealth, even less so from a man convicted of domestic violence. Once again though, the off-kilter moral compass of some boxing fans renders that argument useless.

The other big shadow hanging over Floyd is that of Manny Pacquiao. It is hard to escape the feeling that Mayweather avoided the Filipino great when Manny was at his peak. The window of opportunity for that fight has now gone with it being announced that Pacquiao is to fight Brandon Rios later this year.

Pacquiao aside, Floyd Mayweather has achieved some special things in boxing. World titles in five different weight classes is no mean feat. Especially when you consider that Floyd has gone from super featherweight all the way up to light middleweight.

Mayweather has fought many greats of modern boxing, Corrales, Castillo, Hatton, De La Hoya, Mosley and Cotto. There are other names on Floyd’s record not mentioned there who will also end up in the hall of fame yet plenty behave as though Mayweather has spent a life ducking tough opponents.

In recent times there have been people queueing up to claim that Mayweather’s next opponent would be the one to break the spell. De La Hoya would be too big, Hatton would be too rough, Cotto too powerful. In the end they all went the same way.

FM1Even Floyd’s most recent conquered foe, Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero said he’d have too much for Mayweather to handle. It is one thing to talk a big game but nobody has managed to live up to their pre fight promises against Floyd Mayweather.

One of Robert Guerrero’s main bugbears ahead of the fight appeared to be Floyd’s entourage. Guerrero referred to them as mere cheerleaders, there to chant Mayweather’s mantra of “Hard work. Dedication”. Guerrero misses the point. That chant is not just something repeated offhand. Few people in boxing train harder than Floyd. There’s a reason he makes great fighters look silly and it isn’t simply natural talent.

I understand the nature of people’s attitudes towards Floyd Mayweather. He can be unpleasant at times and the talk of wealth grates a little after a while. Nevertheless, I’m of the opinion that Mayweather is one of the greatest fighters to ever set foot in a ring. You might not like the man but he has done more than enough to earn your respect.

Boxing is one of the few sports where those involved have their achievements measured by those they beat rather than the achievements themselves. In a sport where the best don’t always fight the best that is a fair judgement. However, fans should avoid letting that taint their perspective of two strikingly different but equally remarkable athletes. Floyd and Wladimir won’t be around forever, I suggest we make the most of them while they are.

A latecomer to the pros

A latecomer to the pros

By George Ogier 

On Saturday night in Sheffield one of British amateur boxing’s most famous names takes what could be his last swing at professional success. The former Olympic champion Audley Harrison faces American puncher Deontay Wilder on the undercard of Amir Khan’s fight with Julio Diaz.

Plenty of column inches and internet forums have been devoted to the subject of Harrison’s failure to convert successfully to the pro game. In the city that is the home of GB amateur boxing it really is Audley’s final opportunity to make a dent in the rankings of the paid world.

Another boxer who is no stranger to Sheffield and the GB set up is London 2012’s boxing team captain Thomas Stalker. After failing to win a medal in the summer games Stalker took the decision to hang up the head guard and sign with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom team. However, three fights into his professional journey and many are starting to question whether Stalker has what it takes to fulfil his ambition and become a world champion.

Tom Stalker came to boxing late, only entering a gym at the age of 18. In spite of these tardy beginnings Stalker became one of the most successful amateur fighters this country has ever seen. ABA, European and Commonwealth titles were added to his CV as the Liverpudlian chased the big one, gold at a home Olympic games.

Stalker went into the Olympics as the AIBA ranked no. 1 light welterweight in the world. Controversy dogged Tom’s time at London 2012 with him being on both ends of disputed decisions. Some people felt that Stalker had been the benefactor of some generous judging in his round of 16 contest against Manoj Kumar. Conversely Stalker’s fans were furious when in the resulting quarter-final it was decided that Tom had lost a close fight to Mongolia’s Munkh-Erdene Uranchimeg.

The disappointment of London 2012 gave Stalker little appetite to put in another four years of preparation for Rio 2016. The opportunity to turn pro was there and cashing in on fame generated by the games was too big an offer to turn down.

In the past, decorated amateurs have turned professional in a blaze of publicity but for Tom Stalker the switch has been reasonably low-key. In an interesting twist Stalker made his professional debut at York Hall, fighting just before Audley Harrison’s recent Prizefighter triumph.

That night Stalker’s fans turned a corner of East London into a Liverpudlian enclave, all for just twelve minutes of action. Support will not be hard to come by for the popular Stalker but as a flat performance progressed the crowd matched it with a deflated atmosphere.

Stalker’s less-than-stellar showing against Kristian Laight was understandable. A first professional fight in front of a raucous crowd would make even the hardiest of souls nervous. The general feeling was that “The Captain” would improve, he just needed rounds.

Team Captain

Team Captain

Since that night in Bethnal Green Stalker has fought twice more in a short space of time. Points decision victories over Andrew Harris and Gyorgy Mizsei Jr have kept the former amateur busy but there is now a rumble of discontent from some fans over Stalker’s potential as a pro.

I watched Tom Stalker’s debut at York Hall from ringside and to be frank it was rather underwhelming. More worrying though is the fact that he doesn’t appear to have learnt anything from that experience. In Harris he faced a three fight novice with no wins and yet Harris was able to draw one round.

Mizsei Jr had lost a third of his fights against Eastern Europeans who would struggle to be recognised in their own homes and yet at times he made Stalker look silly. It is worth remembering that Tom himself is also a three fight professional novice. However, with the amateur pedigree that Stalker possesses his technical ability should be way beyond what we have seen so far.

Are we being too critical of Tom Stalker? Steve Bunce wrote recently in Boxing Monthly “It is not the job of Robert McCracken, his team and the GB funding system to prepare boxers for the professional business.” This is undoubtedly true and whilst there is often a chasm between the two codes many of the skills are clearly transferable.

One of the most disturbing things about Stalker’s time as a paid fighter is how easy he has been to hit. On Saturday it felt like every time Tom tried to move inside Mizsei Jr’s guard he was getting clipped. It all feels like it’s a bit rushed and perhaps that is at the root of the problem.

Tom Stalker is almost 29 years old and 95% of his boxing experience has been centred around the amateur sport. The cliché of “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is a well-worn one but it’s well-worn for a reason. Can Stalker learn the skills he needs to be a success in the pros? There is a feeling that the likeable Scouser may well have left it too late.

There is a counter argument that age is no barrier success. It was a mantra espoused by George Foreman as he made his comeback in the late 1980s. However Foreman was already an experienced professional and the only issue he really had was one of ring rust (and perhaps diet rust).

Stalker needs to learn and learn fast. However, the two or three years it might normally take a novice to get to domestic title level isn’t really an option here. The problem is that during Stalker’s three fights so far we have learnt that he isn’t going to slip naturally into this change of career.

In his desire to please the fans with eye-catching performances it seems like Stalker is forgetting the fundamentals that served him so well in the world of head guards and vests. It isn’t just fight to fight that Tom is forgetting these rules, it is during contests too. On Saturday Stalker’s trainer was becoming frustrated with the Liverpudlian’s seeming inability to stick to the game plan.

Another difficulty is Stalker’s apparent lack of power. You could forgive him for eating a punch or two if he was getting inside to land a knockout blow but that simply isn’t the case. Tom appears to be chasing a shot that will never come. At 28 it will be difficult to add a power game to Stalker’s armoury so he needs to box smart, something that seems like a distant dream at times.

Nobody can begrudge Tom Stalker’s desire to box in an Olympics held in his own country. Especially not when he was the world ranked no. 1 in his weight class and the team captain. Sacrifices had to be made by every fighter on the GB squad and Stalker was no difference. However, the sacrifice Stalker made to appear at those games might just be the dream of professional success.

There was huge anticipation for this fight

There was huge anticipation for this fight

By George Ogier

Another hotly anticipated title fight comes and goes and once again some fans are left feeling slightly flat. The hype surrounding Saturday’s contest between Nonito Donaire and Guillermo Rigondeaux had reached almost fever pitch but for many the event itself was a damp squib.

In the end Rigondeaux triumphed by unanimous decision and it was a result that most observers agreed with. Donaire struggled to deal with the Cuban’s cagey approach, finding himself on the receiving end of sharp counters for much of the night. Whilst the bout was far from a fight of the year contender are fans right to feel let down by the lack of action on such a big stage?

If you’re not going to even try to entertain, people won’t watch, won’t buy tickets and the TV nets won’t put you on”. ESPN’s Dan Rafael on Twitter

We live in an era where like never before, sport is big business. When rolling news channels became the norm sport got caught up in the need to provide constant dialogue. As a result the television networks now give us every possible news angle relating to the pastimes we love. To make this information overload palatable the networks tried to convince us all that sport is the most important thing on the planet.

One of the side effects of this change is that sport is no longer “just a game”. The win at all costs mentality filters down to the participants and it isn’t enough just to give a good account of yourself on the field or in the ring. As Tiger Woods’ latest adverts (misguidedly) tell us, winning takes care of everything.

Winning ugly has always been acceptable but now, with the huge sums of money on offer to certain teams and individuals, it has become far more prevalent. How many cup finals do we see where the teams are so terrified of making a mistake that the spectacle is thrown by the wayside? As fans we have bought into the “winning is everything” mantra peddled by the media and it now makes it difficult to complain when a sports event doesn’t live up to the hype around it. We want guaranteed victory from those we support but perhaps conversely we want to be entertained at the same time.

However, in spite of all this, was Guillermo Rigondeaux’s performance so bad? I don’t think so. El Chacal didn’t break the rules, he didn’t use spoiling tactics. In Nonito Donaire, the Cuban faced one of the biggest punchers in any weight division. Can we blame Rigondeaux for not opening up? It was simply a case of Rigondeaux out-thinking Donaire. Nonito himself said, “He played a beautiful boxing game, it was my mistake for not changing up”.

This seems to be the real problem at the heart of many gripes about the fight. What we saw on Saturday was boxing, what people wanted to see was fighting. There is a reason that Hagler – Hearns and the Gatti – Ward fights top many lists of the greatest contests of all time. They were wars with real heart on the sleeve action. They were also just one facet of what I think is the greatest sport in the world.

Rigondeaux simply out-boxed Donaire

Rigondeaux simply out-boxed Donaire

Boxing is ostensibly about the art of hitting your opponent and not getting hit. Guillermo Rigondeaux displayed both skills excellently on Saturday night. He came out on top in all the CompuBox stats against Donaire and deserved to win. In total, Rigondeaux landed 129 of 396 punches thrown while Donaire connected with just 82 of 352.

If we compare these statistics with a fight like Brandon Rios – Mike Alvarado II there’s a huge difference. Rios landed 241 of 823 punches and Alvarado managed 261 of 860. Obviously the punches thrown vary enormously but success percentages are comparable with Alvarado emerging victorious at 30% and Rigondeaux doing likewise with 33%. Most fans will say Rios – Alvarado was the better fight but I found Rigondeaux – Donaire no less compelling.

In reality it comes down to one question, should sport be viewed as entertainment? If people are going to make money selling a sporting event as a spectacle then yes. However, the entertainment should come from the struggle to succeed and not necessarily from the participants competing in a way that will please the fans. Often enough the former will result in the latter but I’m not convinced that the people involved should be held hostage to the art of entertainment.

When Guillermo Rigondeaux was growing up in Cuba I suspect that he had dreams of becoming a world champion. I am not convinced that he had dreams of getting Dan Rafael excited (that shouldn’t be anyone’s life goal). On Saturday night Rigondeaux cemented that wish. I can’t help but feel that anyone struggling to enjoy that doesn’t really like boxing, they just enjoy fighting.

By Martin ‘The Brain’ Potter @theboxingbrain

AHDHThe tripod throwin’, trash talkin’, toe breakin’, thunderous punchin’ typhoon – otherwise known as David ‘Hayemaker’ Haye – is, seemingly, set to return to boxing this summer. And I, for one, am delighted.

Although not the best heavyweight (that honour belongs to his conqueror Wladimir Klitschko) or the biggest, David Haye is the most intriguing, charismatic big man out there; he is also the one British fighter, in any weight class, still capable of bringing casual fans to the table. Whilst world (and former world) champions Froch, Khan and Burns have struggled at times to fill indoor arenas, connect with fans or secure quality TV and mainstream press coverage (although, thankfully and rightly, Froch now seems to have broken through), Haye can sell out football stadiums in non-title bouts and provide copious amounts of copy for hungry hacks.

David’s detractors (Haye-ters?!) will point to his crass antics and arrogant attitude. Severed heads on t-shirts and broken bottles were not particularly endearing to the general public. But the truth is that they served their purpose, made Haye (and others) a lot of money and put boxing back in the spotlight. Boxing – more than any other sport – has always had, and needs, pantomime villains, good guys and bad guys. For straight-laced Klitschko, the flip side is ‘wild’ Haye, for respectful Pacquiao we have arrogant showman Mayweather; opposing characters, as well as opposing fighting styles are what draws fans to the fight game.

The other thing – the most important thing – that excites me about Haye’s comeback is the fact that the boy can fight. Has he actually proved it at heavyweight? Well, he has KO’d every heavyweight opponent he has faced bar two. One of these men was over seven feet tall (to former cruiserweight Hayes six feet, three inches) and an undefeated world champion – Haye won on points and shook him to his boots in the process. The other was the best heavyweight on the planet, whom Haye lost on points to. Yes Haye was disappointing in that bout and yes his excuses were a little lame (as was he, big broken toe an’ all), but he still pushed Klitschko harder than many others have in recent years – despite a huge size disadvantage.

Haye held three belts at cruiserweight, was a world amateur silver medallist and held the WBA heavyweight title. He has proven pedigree at the very top-level. Also he is not old for a heavyweight and is certainly not shop-worn, having had fewer than thirty fights. In my opinion Haye has the tools to beat any heavyweight out there; speed, power, athleticism and ability – a rare combination in the current climate.

The biggest issue will be Haye himself and how much he really wants it. One fight a year and a few TV appearances do not a truly great heavyweight make. Haye will do himself and his abilities a disservice if he doesn’t make a serious run, and some serious cash, through the current crop of heavyweights – just imagine the hype surrounding a Tyson Fury stadium fight.

The Hayemaker is ‘bad’ in some people’s eyes, he is good for British boxing in others. Ultimately though, whether you like him or hate him, you will watch David Haye. And if we all watch David Haye, well, that can only be good for boxing.

Groves v DeGale

By George Ogier

At the height of the build up to George Groves’ fight with James DeGale in May last year I was asked who had the better long-term prospects. I was convinced, as were many others that it was DeGale. The Olympic gold medallist had disposed of Paul Smith Jr with ease and many were backing DeGale to defeat his amateur nemesis Groves in similar fashion

At the same point in time, George Groves had struggled to beat Kenny Anderson and previous to that had looked mediocre against a clearly past-it Charles Adamu. Fourteen months on from Groves’ surprise (to me at least) defeat of James DeGale if I were to be asked about the two men and their futures I might have to reassess my opinion.

James DeGale is currently the European super middleweight champion but he is also locked in contract dispute with current promoter, Frank Warren. It is believed that the root of DeGale’s displeasure is the fact that Warren signed George Groves to a promotional deal in August last year.

At the time it was thought that the Groves deal would facilitate a much-anticipated rematch between DeGale and the new arrival. DeGale however saw the signing as a show of disloyalty from Warren and has been angling to break away from the promoter who paid James handsomely to turn pro after the Olympics.

As a result of the contract wrangling there has been an air of stagnation about DeGale’s career. In fairness to the Harlesden boxer he has fought more rounds than Groves since the two men met but it has been done with much less fanfare.

Both of DeGale’s bouts since the Groves fight have been overshadowed by other cards or contests. When James won the European title it was on the undercard of Nathan Cleverly’s huge match with Tony Bellew. Similarly, when DeGale made his first defence of the title it was on the same night that Derry Mathews shocked British boxing by knocking out Anthony Crolla.

Both performances from James DeGale were worthy of more attention but sadly they were swallowed up in the maelstrom of domestic boxing. As it stands James is still contracted to Frank Warren although a deal is on the verge of being struck whereby DeGale can fight for another promoter, he just has to give Warren 15% of his purse.

It would be reasonable to assume that becoming European champion would have given James DeGale a profile boost. However, it is George Groves that has taken the media spotlight in the last year. A highly publicised spat with Kenny Anderson regarding their on/off rematch plus an aborted world title shot against Robert Stieglitz has kept Groves very much in the pages of the boxing press.

Like DeGale, Groves has boxed twice since the clash at the O2. You could argue that Groves has fought easier opponents than DeGale in that time but it is the nature of the Hammersmith fighter’s victories that have stuck in the mind.

It took all of a round and change for Groves to knockout former British champion Paul Smith Jr. I was convinced that Smith would give Groves real problems that night but George was utterly clinical in his triumph.

The real talking point in Groves’ career progression came last weekend in California. I have, for a long time railed against the insular nature of British boxing. Far too often we see fighters from these shores lauded by our own press as world-class. As soon as fighters step outside of that bubble it can be a real culture shock, as we saw when Kell Brook faced Carson Jones recently.

Groves downs Sierra

It is therefore heartening to see that Groves was prepared to fight in the US against a live opponent. Not for George the Tommy Karpencys and Luis Galarzas of this world. Groves took on Francisco Sierra, a man who is the same age as Groves but who has fought world title challengers and has a superb KO percentage.

Sierra took Groves into somewhat uncharted territory at the weekend. The Mexican showed tremendous punch resistance for the first five rounds and also punished Groves repeatedly for carrying his left hand too low.

Groves hadn’t fought for eight months before Saturday’s outing. He was keen to get rounds under his belt ahead of a bill topping appearance at Wembley in September against an as yet unnamed opponent. Both the experience and the September card were thrown into doubt when Groves was cut badly over his right eye in the third round.

However, excellent work from his corner meant that George could keep a cool head in the face of a possible stoppage. As a result he was able to wear Sierra down and victory came soon after a fabulous four punch combination put the Mexican on the canvas.

The cut that Groves suffered from a clash of heads in the Sierra fight should have healed in time for September 14th. It is thought that George will face Scot, Kenny Anderson for the British and Commonwealth titles, a contest that has been put out to purse bids.

George Groves will hope that a dominant showing in September will secure him another world title shot. Groves had been due to fight Robert Stieglitz for the WBO title but had to pull out due to injury. George has even mentioned his dream of fighting at the home of his beloved Chelsea Football Club, Stamford Bridge.

What a difference a year makes. 12 months ago people were still in shock that Groves had triumphed over DeGale. Talk of an immediate rematch was still swirling around and Groves was thought to be on the verge of signing up with Eddie Hearn at Matchroom.

One year on and James DeGale has almost become the forgotten man of British boxing. Caught in a contract dispute and no fights on the horizon you could forgive the Olympic champion for looking slightly bewildered. George Groves on the other hand seems to have built on his success against DeGale and now seems equipped to challenge for a world title sooner rather than later.

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.

By George Ogier

Victor Ortiz ices his broken jaw.

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 and Jones.

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.