It's one of the fights of the year and BoxNation's Alex Steedman is on hand with his thoughts.
Last season Amir Khan took on Saul Alvarez and next week Liam Smith lines up against the same Mexican star but when it comes to Brits biting off more than they’re (perhaps) able, Kell Brook’s assignment against Gennady Golovkin this weekend surely tops the lot.
Beyond the steel perimeter of a small, loyal band, there are few who give Brook (5/1 PP/Betbright) a chance of toppling GGG (1/5 Betfair X, 1/6 general) at the O2 Arena on Saturday night. That is not so much an insult to the unbeaten IBF Welterweight champion Brook as a towering compliment to the man who faces him come high noon. Golovkin, in the eyes of many, is that good.
I’ve seen it for myself from ringside, just three rows back at Madison Square Garden last October when Golovkin dismantled and demolished the crude but powerful David Lemieux. Contrary to some of his previous fights where he took chances and therefore punches against opponents he felt comfortable with, Golovkin was clever, calculated and destructive behind the jab against Lemieux. In fact, the Canadian could hardly land a punch. I expect a similar, ruthless approach from Golovkin here.
Certainly Brook is a better boxer than Lemieux, his timing is excellent and he can whack (25 KO’s in 36 fights) but Kell likes space to work and Golovkin simply suffocates opponents. It’s true that Brook won his world title in America in the face of relentless Shawn Porter pressure but Porter is a wooden toffee hammer to Golovkin’s chisel and mallet.
Much has been made of the double jump in weight for Brook as a significant disadvantage though he fought the Carson Jones rematch at 151lbs and has probably always been more naturally inclined to light-middleweight rather than his home at 147 or 160lbs where he faces GGG. I’d rather look at it like this; which of the headline boxers or champions at the weights above would you fancy Brook to beat? Liam Smith? Probably. Lara? No. Alvarez? Definitely no. Danny Jacobs? No. Billy Joe Saunders? I’d say no. Golovkin would be at least 1/3 to beat Alvarez and much shorter the rest. Forget any other talk, the perspective is right there.
Brook has, by international standards and common consent, had three gimme defences of his title since the terrific win over Porter in 2014 while surviving a career and life-threatening knife attack in between. Meanwhile Golovkin has been downing opponents like a Record Breakers domino sequence extending his tally to 32 KO’s in 35 fights. GGG has won his last 22 contests by stoppage stretching back to the summer of 2008; the name Amar Amari (the last man to hear the final bell against Golovkin) will be a quiz question in years to come.
The list of recent Golovkin stoppages reads round 2/8/6/11/2/3/7/8/3/3 with the scalps of Mathew Macklin (body shot round three) and Martin Murray (brave but beaten up in 11) in there too. I feel that GGG tends to bludgeon rather than upend classier opponents and that could be the case here with Brook who has the skills to endure the opening exchanges.
I think the spread lies somewhere between the 4th and the 9th with the dilemma as to how to play that. You could back Golovkin rounds 7-9 (11/4 Skybet) with a half stake saver on round 4-6 (9/4 Skybet) or perhaps better to take the (15/8 Skybet) rounds 5-8 and include a small percentage of your stake on round 4 (10/1 Coral) and round 9 (14/1 lads,BV,PP,Betfred,SJ,Betfair). Credit Brook for staring up the mountain but defeat should be as conclusive as that suffered by his sworn enemy Amir Khan previously.
It ought to be a different fight entirely when Lee Haskins (1/3 Sky, PP, Lads) defends his IBF Bantamweight title in a rematch against Stuart Hall (3/1 365,Betfred). The pair met four years ago for the European belt and Haskins won by a wide margin. Both have improved and become world champions since but it could be Haskins will always have the style to frustrate and beat Hall.
Haskins’ story is one of perseverance and talent for his style is not necessarily TV friendly. A skillful, elusive eel between the ropes, Haskins is opposite to Hall who wades forward, heart on sleeve. It’s possible Hall can force a close fight, particularly if his strength and stamina can come to bear down the stretch but the likelihood is Haskins builds up a lead and outboxes Hall throughout. This looks sure to be a long fight (only 4/11 over 9.5 rounds) with Haskins by DEC/TD a solid bet (5/6 Lads).
*If you’re reading this before the early hours of Saturday morning, I’ve had a few quid on the unheralded Ghanaian Richard Commey (7/2 365/Hills/BV) to beat Robert Easter.