By the time you read this Eddie Hearn’s 48-hour deadline for Amir Khan to accept a fight with his IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook at Wembley Stadium in June will probably have dwindled out of sight, with no winners.
Let’s look from both sides at a fight everyone in Britain wants but almost certainly will not happen until 2016, if at all. If either of them lose there is a chance we will not the see a fight with the potential to be as big domestically as was Carl Froch v George Groves; remember how the careers of Ricky Hatton and Junior Witter passed each other by because of boxing politics as much as jarring fighting styles.
Khan has no world title but a considerably bigger US profile having fought there eight times over five years, and he clings to hopes of challenging either Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao. Who could blame him?
Brook has a world title, an unbeaten record and the connections at Sky to make lots of money in stadium fights here, or he could go to the United States, schmooze the fight game’s No 1 powerbroker, Al Haymon, and try to build on what was a hugely impressive debut there when he took the IBF title from Shawn Porter seven months ago.
A cool, heavy-handed defence in four rounds over the ordinary southpaw Jo Jo Dan in Sheffield at the weekend reassured his supporters Brook had fully recovered from the knife-attack in Tenerife just after he became champion, and confirmed he can be a major player in the 10st 7lb division.
Brook desperately wants the fight because he thinks he has a great chance of winning and victory would be the calling card he needs to properly break the US.
Khan, one of the game’s bravest competitors, is certainly not shy of the challenge but as when he believed Mayweather and turned down Devon Alexander the first time because he thought he had been guaranteed a crack at the biggest prize in boxing, he does not want to risk what is so tantalisingly in reach for him. I think he is naïve to trust Haymon or Mayweather – although his chances of a Pacquaio fight are considerably better, given their history, and who knows what will happen on 2 May? (Khan thinks Mayweather wins).
For now, Brook looks headed for a second defence against Juan Manuel Márquez, still a saleable legend, although he was knocked down in his last fight nearly a year ago, against Mike Alvarado. It is a reasonably safe, lucrative option. When the after-glow of Márquez’s 2012 one-punch knockout of Pacquiao faded, he lost on points to Timothy Bradley nearly a year later. At 41 with 64 bouts on the clock, “Dinamita” is eminently beatable.
Khan? He is talking about a younger marquee name at catchweight in Miguel Cotto, which strikes me as madness. The WBC middleweight champion is 34 but way too big for Khan, at any weight. We have waited six years for Mayweather-Pacquaio. It could be another two years at least before we see Brook-Khan – not a surprise to anyone, but still a shame.
Farewell for now, Audley
Audley Harrison’s journey is done, 15 years after he won Olympic gold in Sydney. It wasn’t the springboard to a paid career he had hoped, mainly because his skills and natural caution were more suited to the amateur game, and opponents in big fights invariably detected a reluctance to engage, from David Haye to Deontay Wilder.
He will, never the less, be missed as much for his personality as his performances and although he says he might have to file for bankruptcy in the UK because of some failed business adventures, he hopes to train fighters in California where he and his charming wife have lived for several years. If he does get back into the fight game, we will hear him coming.
The Olympics, which once were an assured ticket to professional recognition (Pete Rademacher, who won heavyweight gold at Melbourne in 1956, famously fought for the world title in his first professional bout, losing to Floyd Patterson), have lost their lustre.
The finest amateur of recent years, Vasyl Lomachenko, challenged for a world title in only his second pro fight, losing a tight points decision to Orlando Salido in March last year. However, he restored his reputation with a convincing win over Gary Russell Jr to win the WBO’s vacant featherweight belt three months later.
On Saturday night Russell, also a garlanded amateur, made up for that loss and his own Olympic disappointment (he collapsed, weight-drained, as a bantamweight, in Beijing and was withdrawn from the tournament), by stopping the seriously shopworn WBC featherweight champion Jhonny González in four rounds in Las Vegas.
Russell – billed as having “the fastest hands in boxing” – looked good but González, 33, was awful. It was good to see Russell back. However, what of the other bright young star who failed to make weight in Beijing?
Frankie Gavin was going to be the British star of those Olympics but living up to his nickname, Funtime, he couldn’t stick to the regime after winning the world amateur title in Chicago a year earlier.
Since turning professional Gavin has often looked brilliant, the purest boxing talent in the country. But he has struggled to fully switch to the pro-game mentality, where power and intensity matter more than in the amateurs, where slickness wins points and rounds but not necessarily a ticket-buying following.
After several years on BoxNation he returned to Sky on Saturday night and was honest enough to admit that he could have stepped it up against the former amateur standout, Bogdan Mitic, who did no more than survive the 10-round distance.
Gavin is out again on 9 May in front of his hometown fans, contesting the IBF International welterweight title against the California-based South African Chris van Heerden, who outpointed Matthew Hatton to win the IBO title two years ago.
It is as much his own fault as anyone else’s that Gavin’s name is not mentioned more often in welterweight discussions. He is every bit as talented as Brook and Khan – and is now in the IBF mix. If Khan sidesteps Brook, could Frankie step up and finally fulfil his potential? It’s a match Eddie Hearn will have thought seriously about.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010