PREVIEWS

El­liot Worsell con­sid­ers what Brook must do against Zer­afa

Boxing News - - Contents -

Kell Brook in Sh­effield, Lo­machenko pre­dic­tion and world­wide round-up

IF, FOR Kell Brook, 2016 and 2017 are to be re­mem­bered as the years in which he dared to be great and paid the cost with fa­cial dis­fig­ure­ment and stop­page de­feats, it’s fair to say 2018 is ei­ther go­ing to be re­mem­bered as the year he was re­vived and mol­ly­cod­dled back to rel­e­vance or, in­stead, a year we won’t re­mem­ber at all.

So far in 2018, Brook, now a su­per­wel­ter­weight, has beaten Sergey Rabchenko in­side two rounds to ex­pe­ri­ence the win­ning feel­ing again, and is booked to fight Aus­tralia’s Michael Zer­afa this Satur­day (De­cem­ber 8) in Sh­effield, in­tent on ex­pe­ri­enc­ing that feel­ing for a sec­ond time.

What a dif­fer­ence four years make. Back in 2014, Brook trav­elled to Car­son, Cal­i­for­nia as a slight un­der­dog and ex­pertly con­trolled Shawn Porter for 12 rounds, grab­bing the Amer­i­can’s IBF wel­ter­weight ti­tle in the process. He was, on that break­out night, as spe­cial as ad­ver­tised. There was sub­se­quent talk of uni­fy­ing, of global dom­i­na­tion and of bash­ing up a well-known do­mes­tic ri­val. Give it time, they said, and he would surely be­come Bri­tish box­ing’s next big thing.

In the end, though, Brook’s reign as IBF wel­ter­weight cham­pion, which stretched to May 2017 but lacked big wins ( Jo Jo Dan, Frankie Gavin and Kevin Bizier), was one of er­ror rather than ter­ror. The ba­ton he so im­pres­sively nabbed from Porter was even­tu­ally taken from him by Er­rol Spence Jnr, the true fu­ture star of the divi­sion, and with it went Brook’s right to claim he was the best 147-pound fighter in the world, as well as any de­signs on climb­ing the pound-for-pound rank­ings.

A re­al­ity check of sorts, that 11th round loss to Spence was as painful as the shat­tered or­bital bone he suf­fered in the process – an in­jury Brook first en­coun­tered dur­ing a hare-brained 2016 trip to mid­dleweight to fight Gen­nady Golovkin. It cut short a ti­tle reign and nearly cut short a ca­reer.

Those two so-called ‘dare to be great’ de­feats left Brook bro­ken in more ways than one. They left the rest of us, mean­while, ques­tion­ing the method be­hind the plan – es­pe­cially that ill-fated Golovkin dal­liance – and won­der­ing what might have been.

Now, chances are, all roads again lead to Amir Khan, Brook’s main do­mes­tic ri­val, as has been the case for years. To fi­nally bring that fight to fruition, Brook, 37-2 (26), must first get past Michael Zer­afa, 25-2 (14), this week­end and look good – but not too good – in do­ing so.

Im­press­ing shouldn’t be all that dif­fi­cult. Un­her­alded Zer­afa, after all, is a step down, on pa­per at least, from even the men against whom Brook de­fended his IBF ti­tle. Known as “Pretty

Boy,” he has fought all but two of his 27 pro­fes­sional fights in his home­land and, omi­nously, came up short both times he ven­tured fur­ther afield. His first pro de­feat oc­curred in Rus­sian in 2014, when widely out­pointed by Arif Magome­dov over 10 rounds, while his sec­ond, a year later in Amer­ica, saw him stopped in five by Peter Quillin, the former WBO mid­dleweight cham­pion.

On the plus side, how­ever, while Brook was dawdling at wel­ter­weight, game Zer­afa was com­pet­ing against full-blown mid­dleweights, like Quillin and Magome­dov, and should at least be phys­i­cally im­pos­ing. That’s not to say he’ll be stronger than Brook, some­one whose phys­i­cal­ity re­mains a ma­jor as­set, but sim­ply sug­gests he can make up for tech­ni­cal lim­i­ta­tions with a bit of stur­di­ness and pre­sum­ably won’t be over­whelmed by the Sh­effield fighter’s power.

An­other plus is Zer­afa’s age. Granted, be­ing the younger man at 26 won’t win him the fight, but it does in­di­cate the Mel­bourne na­tive, though 27 fights deep, should carry some am­bi­tion with him to Sh­effield.

In ad­di­tion to this, 32-year-old Brook, with­out long-time trainer Do­minic In­gle in his cor­ner, might have aged sig­nif­i­cantly as a re­sult of those stop­page losses to Spence and Golovkin and could be in dan­ger of be­com­ing ‘old’ overnight. If in any way strug­gling, ei­ther for mo­ti­va­tion, good health, or form, the last thing he’ll want to face is a phys­i­cally strong op­po­nent four years his ju­nior in­tent on caus­ing a scene.

In the­ory, that is. In re­al­ity, of course, it would take a brave man – a man who knows some­thing the rest of us don’t – to back Michael Zer­afa to take rounds off Kell Brook, much less upset him in front of his home fans.

More likely, as with the fight against Rabchenko, Brook’s pre­vi­ous out­ing, this one con­cludes rel­a­tively early and will, like that one, have even the “Spe­cial One’s” most ar­dent fans try­ing to fathom the point to it all.

A much bet­ter fight is the wel­ter­weight 10-rounder be­tween an­other “Pretty Boy,”

Josh Kelly, and former WBA In­terim cham­pion David Avanesyan.

This, Kelly’s ninth pro bout, will be his tough­est test to date and has been timed to per­fec­tion, both in terms of the 24-year-old’s ca­reer pro­gres­sion and its ap­peal as a com­pet­i­tive con­test.

Avanesyan, a Rus­sian based in Not­ting­hamshire, will be fa­mil­iar to UK fans fol­low­ing wins against the likes of Dean Byrne and Char­lie Navarro, both of whom he stopped, as well as the great “Sugar” Shane Mosley, whom he out­pointed to to win the WBA In­terim wel­ter­weight ti­tle in 2016. He lost a WBA world ti­tle shot against La­mont Peter­son last Fe­bru­ary, which showed his level, but still pushed the Amer­i­can all the way and made the 12-rounder close.

On the fringes of world class, Avanesyan, at 30, ap­pears hun­gry enough to pose Kelly new ques­tions to an­swer and should pro­vide him with rounds the Sun­der­land man missed out on thanks to a one-round dis­missal of Wal­ter Castillo last month. Note, too, that while a sixth-round stop­page de­feat to heavy­handed Lithua­nian Egidi­jus Kavali­auskas in Fe­bru­ary in­di­cates Avanesyan, 23-3-1 (11), may be soft­ened up, if not washed up, that was the Lithua­nian’s 19th pro fight, and this, on the other hand, is just Kelly’s ninth.

All in all, in a fight as well-timed as it is am­bi­tious, Kelly, 8-0 (6), likely pre­vails on points. Also on the Sh­effield card, Jono

Car­roll, the ex­cit­ing south­paw from Dublin, meets Guil­laume Frenois of France over 12 rounds.

Twenty-six-year-old Car­roll, 16-0 (3), was last seen slug­ging it out with De­clan Ger­aghty in June, tri­umph­ing in nine rounds, and has quickly be­come a fan favourite due to his all-ac­tion style.

His op­po­nent, Frenois, mean­while, pos­sesses an eye-catch­ing if slightly mis­lead­ing pro­fes­sional record – 46-1 (14) – and is a former Euro­pean su­per­feath­er­weight cham­pion.

Now 35, Frenois, a fel­low lefty, de­fended his EBU ti­tle twice, hasn’t lost in over five years (his sole de­feat was against De­vis Boschiero in his first Euro­pean ti­tle shot), and should be solid and ex­pe­ri­enced enough to give Car­roll prob­lems in a dis­tance fight.

Photo: AC­TION IM­AGES/ED SYKES

FO­CUS: But Brook must be look­ing to­wards the do­mes­tic ri­val he’s al­ways wanted to ght, Amir Khan

Photo: PREMIER BOX­ING CHAM­PI­ONS

STERN CHAL­LENGE: Zer­afa takes on former WBO mid­dleweight champ Quillin

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