That one man scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage.
To fight the unbeatable foe.
To reach the unreachable star.
The Impossible Dream, Andy Williams
There is a thread that ran through the careers of those that soared highest from the Winconbank Gym in Sheffield within which Kell Brook learned his trade. A course, irritating interloper in an otherwise beautiful, if unconventional, fabric. Woven in to Naseem’s robe of almost greatness, the elusive silk of Herol nearly man cape and the off-beat otherness of Junior, that thread, of the ‘if only’, cannot be unpicked.
In careers that brought so much joy, reward and acclaim, this type of judgement can seem unjust. A burden the retired trio and their collection of World titles, European and domestic belts should pardon them from. But all completed their careers with the whisper of ‘what if’ persisting as they departed. Whether Barrera, a world title never won or an unrequited Hatton rivalry, their achievements remain dimmed by an omission of one type or another.
On Saturday night, Kell Brook, perhaps the last student to progress from boy to man, kid to champion, beneath the late, great Brendan Ingle’s tailoring, will dip between the ropes for the 42nd time in a 16-year career. He will be in pursuit of more than the chin and torso of his opponent Terence Crawford, a ruthless and avoided viper in a strong Welterweight era. In Brook’s sights are ghosts from his Christmases yet to come. Those quiet reflective moments when his career is finally over, when he must ask himself if he achieved all that his talent suggested he could. A world title belt, won against a world class fighter, away from home doesn’t fulfil it, not entirely. Such is the depth of his ability.
Sadly, like the Prince, Bomber Graham and Witter who came before him, there remain ‘couldas and shouldas’ his career really ought to have long since vanquished.
At 34, periods of distraction and drama along the way, plateaus, dips and insufficient crescendos in a decade at, or close to world level, Brook has secured one last chance to clamber a peak befitting of that accepted and luxurious potential.
It is true his rival is but a year behind him, aged 33, but their respective trajectories are different. The damage accumulated in the journey to the meeting point wholly diverse. Brook will need to overcome the demons of injuries inflicted by Golovkin and Spence, low key opposition between those two knockout defeats, patchy form and a divergence from the tried and tested coaching team of his greatest nights.
He will also need to prove that the corset of Welterweight will not steal his breath, his power and his punch resistance. All three of which will need to be at a career zenith if he is to overcome arguably the best pound for pound fighter in the sport today.
For all the frustrations of his past and the admiration for the skills of his opponent, I will be urging him to fulfil his seemingly impossible dream.