“When I lay my vengeance upon thee,” the final words of Ezekiel 25:17, a verse that was emblazoned on the backs of Dominic Ingle and the rest of team Brook. Born under the name Ezekiel, the man now known as Kell ‘The Special One’ Brook gained vengeance for what he saw as over a decade of disrespect, blowing away Amir ‘King’ Khan in the sixth round of this long awaited all-British showdown in Manchester.
As far back as 2015, Brook accused Khan of avoiding him in favor of chasing Floyd Mayweather Jr and two years later the pair negotiations broke down as the pair failed to agree on financial detais. In 2018, Eddie Hearn came close to making the match before Khan backed out to face Terence Crawford in New York City.
With the pair now finally facing off, heavy handed Brook dished out a beating that settled the long simmering rivalry in convincing fashion.
IN THE RED CORNER – AMIR KHAN (England: 34-5, 21KO)
Rising star Khan shot to fame in 2004 by winning a silver medal at the Athens Olympics as a 17-year old before embarking on his high profile professional career. Khan reeled off an 18 fight win streak to open his career before being knocked out by underdog Breidis Prescott in the first round of a 2008 clash, the nature of the defeat would be the start of Khan being perceived as vulnerable to power punchers throughout his storied career.
Khan rebounded by beating up aged legend Marco Antonio Barrera and winning the WBA junior welterweight world title with a unanimous decision win over Andreas Kotelnik in the summer of 2009.
Impressive world title defenses against Paulie Malignaggi and Marcos Maidana followed before Khan unified the WBA and IBF world titles with a 5th round knockout of Zab Judah. Khan lost his belt via split decision to Lamont Peterson and a loss to Danny Garcia followed before a five fight win streak that included a quality points win over Devon Alexander.
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez knocked Khan out cold in a showdown for the WBC world middleweight title and Khan was stopped again in a championship bid in the sixth round by WBO world welterweight champion Terence Crawford. A fourth round stoppage of Billy Dib in Dubai last time out ran Khan’s record to 34-5 with this fight coming on the back of over two and a half years of inactivity.
Both fighters were aged 35, but big hitting Brook would have been encouraged by Khan’s long spell out of action as well as the fact that four of Khan’s five defeats came by way of knockout.
IN THE BLUE CORNER – KELL BROOK (England: 39-3, 27KO)
While Khan made his professional debut on national television with 4.5 million viewers, Brook made his bow in relative obscurity as he outpointed journeyman Peter Buckley (31-189-10) at Don Valley Stadium.
Brook was defending his British welterweight title in 2009 as Khan won world championship gold at junior welterweight. In 2012, Brook won a domestic showdown with Matthew Hatton at Sheffield Arena while Khan battled Danny Garcia and Carlos Molina in the more glamorous surroundings of Las Vegas and Los Angeles respectively.
It always seemed that Khan was a step ahead in terms of level of opposition and exposure, but in 2014 Brook would break into the big time by defeating Shawn ‘Showtime’ Porter via majority decision to win the IBF world welterweight title.
The pair would then begin a years long dance of negotiating without ever facing off as both pursued glamorous opposition. Khan fell to Canelo while Brook was beaten by Gennadiy Golovkin and Errol Spence Jr. in world championship bouts. In his last fight, Brook challenged Crawford for the WBO world welterweight crown but suffered the same fate as Khan, being stopped in the fourth round.
Now at last, the two former world champions would face off to write what would be a significant chapter in each of their storied careers, a battle for domestic bragging rights and the settling of a long held grudge.
The electric crowd at the Manchester Arena and two British rivals settling a bitter rivalry brought back memories of the famed battles between Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn in the 1990’s, with the second of those epic battles taking place just down the road at the Old Trafford Soccer stadium.
A mixture of boos and cheers echoed around the arena as Kell Brook was announced, with a piano solo under the spotlight calming the crowd before The Special One’ appeared and skipped to the ring to the tune of ‘All of the Lights’ by Kanye West.
Due to a last minute dispute backstage, the crowd were presented with the unusual sight of Brook changing and lacing his gloves inside the ring before Khan made his appearance.
To raucous cheers and a smattering of boos, Khan walked to the ring in intense fashion as the lyrics ‘ain’t nobody does it better’ by Chaka Khan blared over the speakers. It will have been a familiar tune for Brook, with Crawford, now a training partner of Khan having used the same entrance music before his 2020 victory over The Special One.
Despite exchanging heated words in the pre-fight press conference, trainers Brian ‘Bomac’ McIntyre and Ingle exchanged a respectful handshake as referee Victor Loughlin issued instructions to the fighters. Khan and Brook gave only a glancing touch of the gloves after a second request from Loughlin before returning to the corners in anticipation of the long awaited opening bell.
Khan circled the ring on his toes in the opening stages of the fight, connecting with a rapid left hook before ducking under a Brook punch and initiating a clinch. Referee Loughlin separated the pair before Khan displayed his hand speed by feinting and then scoring with a high and low jab followed by an offensive flurry.
Brook responded with a left hook that stumbled Khan and another battery of scoring blows before the former Olympian circled away and gestured to Brook that he was unphased. It was impossible for Khan to keep up that act less than a minute later when another hook from Brook wobbled the legs of Khan and the Special One closed in swinging vicious blows.
Khan moved his feet to stay out of range as Brook stalked forward, smiling at his opponent before throwing one more big blow to end the round.
Round two opened with Brook tagging the chin of Khan before the pride of Bolton gained a foothold in the fight with good movement and bursts of punches thrown at lightning speed. The advancing Brook was throwing powerful blows but was unable to pin his opponent down, the Sheffield fighter did display his superior strength by pushing his foe effortlessly onto the ropes only for Khan to skip out of harm’s way.
In the corner between rounds, smiling trainer Ingle advised Brook to stay calm and expressed his belief that Khan would tire, also advising Brook to feint punches downwards before going over the top with heavier, more telling blows.
Khan fenced out with a triple jab to open round three and fought well at range, also scoring with another three punch salvo to slow the forward motion of Brook.
With his senses raised from the first round onslaught, Khan kept his guard high and circled the ring before being stunned with a hook late in the round, Brook sensed blood in the water and closed in aggressively, wrestling Khan to the ground as the bell rang.
“You can’t stay in front of him,” implored Khan’s trainer McIntyre between rounds, advising his charge to stay in motion and fight behind the jab.
The first half of round four saw Khan throw a greater volume of punches while Brook threw the heavier blows and landed the most telling shot with a flush left hand to the jaw. Brook continued to launch attacks but Khan ducked under one big punch and held on, forcing a separation from referee Loughlin.
“Remember, six to eight round fight,” said Ingle to Brook in the corner after round four, foretelling an upcoming stoppage in what turned out to be prophetic fashion.
Khan appeared to be less aggressive with his jab in round five, allowing Brook to close the distance with ease and tee off with hooks and body blows that were taking a visible toll. Khan smiled in a hollow gesture of being comfortable before having his guard split with a vicious uppercut. Brook was now winding up with heavy blows and lost his own balance after missing with a windmilling right hand in the later stages of the round.
The opening punch of round six rocked back Khan before Brook closed in with heavy handed hooks. Twice, Brook leaned into a clinch and taunted a fading Khan as he sensed the end was near. Brook continued to walk down Khan and throw powerful shots without reply before referee Loughlin stepped in to wave off the contest and save Khan from what was becoming a one sided beating.
A euphoric Brook mounted the shoulders of trainer Ingle in celebration after the fight while a stunned Khan was consoled by his team in the corner of the ring.
The dominance of Brook showed through in CompuBox statistics posted by ESPN after the fight, with Brook having landed 79 total punches in contrast to 34 from Khan. The pattern of the fight had been Khan fighting behind the jab while Brook looked for heavier, more damaging blows and that showed through with Khan throwing 151 total punches while Brook launched 154 power punches among his total of 224.
Despite the heated buildup, the pair exchanged a respectful handshake after the result was officially announced and posed together for a photograph with Ben Shalom, the man who had finally made this fight happen after so many years of waiting.
WHAT THEY SAID
Speaking to Sky Sports after the fight, a victorious Brook displayed the mantra “I told ya” that was inscribed on his hand wraps before professing his belief that he would win all along. “I knew that was gonna happen, it was just a matter of time before I got him out of there.”
Brook also gave an insight into just how long the desire to face Khan had gone back. “I always knew from when I was 18-years old I was a better fighter than him. He had the push and the promoters behind him because he won silver at the Olympics but I’ve always known that and the fans got to see.”
Khan was living on the other end of scale when speaking backstage, “I’m very upset,” admitted Khan before describing Brook as “the best man” on the night.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE WINNER
Another all-British showdown could loom on the horizon for the victorious Brook, with Conor Benn and Chris Eubank Jr. among potential opponents touted. “I don’t like Eubank,” said Brook in his post-fight interview, setting the tabe for a potential showdown with the highly ranked middleweight who recently beat Liam Williams in convincing fashion.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE LOSER
The star power of Khan carries far and wide both in and out of the ring, and if he was to step back between the ropes it is a fight that would generate interest. After six career lossesand five coming by way of knockout, Khan sounded post-fight like he may be pondering hanging up his gloves.
“I need to sit down with my family, but it is more towards the end of my career now,” Khan told Sky Sports. “That love of the sport is not there anymore, like it was before.”
If this is to be the end, former world champion Khan has an impressive resume that includes victories over world level fighters such as Barrera, Maidana, Maliganaggi and Alexander, placing him alongside some of the best in British Boxing history.
Author’s Scorecard (round by round)
Stewart Flaherty is a freelance boxing journalist who can be followed on twitter @graniteboxing1