Another weekend and we seemingly have yet another British card with yet another British fighter right on the verge of world title contention.
This week’s contestant is Kell “Special K” Brook, an undefeated 27 year old from Sheffield with a 30-0 record. I sort of have a love/hate relationship with Brook as a fan, much of which is out of his control. He’s clearly a talented boxer but as a fans we’ve been told by his promoters (originally Frank Warren and now Matchroom) that he’s “the next” world title holder for at least the last three (if not four… if not five…) years… and yet here we are, years later and she’s still not a world champion and still not had his title shot. Fairly or unfairly that tends to build a level of resentment… Nathan Cleverly went through the same thing as a match with Hopkins was constantly mentioned only for us to instead get Robin Krasniqi. Perhaps most frustratingly of all, Brook could have already had a title shot but a series of injuries meant that the hapless Lee Purdy replaced him and while the Colchester man was brave, he was utterly outclassed by Devon Alexander. A win here and Brook is, supposedly, guaranteed a title shot early next year.
Kell Brook has been at the peak of the domestic welterweight scene for a while now, having picked up the British title back in 2008, won it ouright shortly after and defeated his most notable domestic challengers in Michael Jennings and Matthew Hatton. Over that period he’s also dipped his toe into the international scenes, beating some lightly regarded foes such as Krzysztof Bienias, Philip Kotey, Rafal Jackiewicz, Luis Galarza and Hector David Saldivia as well as faded contender Lovemore Ndou. Perhaps his most notable bouts are his two contests with American hardman Carson Jones, with Brook somewhat lucky to win the first but then dominating the rematch.
Brook is a product of the famous Ingle gym and it is easy to see that from watching him. A good athlete at his best Brook is a smooth boxer, comfortably on either the front or back foot, equipped with a good jab, and a solid right hand (which he’s not afraid to lead with). He tends to limit his combinations to 1-2’s unless he has an opponent hurt, although the right that follows the jab and be either a straight or an uppercut. He’s got fairly high accuracy and a little touch of class which is hard to quantify. Brook tends to land his most effective shots by catching his opponents by surprise, either with a counter hook or by coming over the top with a right hand.
That said, it must also be noted that he has shown some weaknesses in bouts. His defence could so with some work… he was hit with leaping shots from Mathhew Hatton that boxer of Brook’s class shouldn’t be… largely because his head movements tends to fade away during a bout. His inside work is poor; Ingle boxers are rarely noted for their good work in close quarters, instead preferring to latch onto an opponent and spoil (the so called “Ingle Octopus”)… and Brook is no exception… and he’s not that good at spoiling, often leaving himself open to further shots. While Brook sets a relatively high pace and keeps it up comfortably, that’s when he’s been in control of the tempo of a bout. When the opponent starts to set a fast tempo and gain momentum, Brook can struggle to keep up, his fitness seemingly fading and his work becoming ragged.
Both the good and the bad of Brook were viewable in his first bout with Jones, a veteran contender who was on a good run of form but not a man anyone expected to move much beyond gatekeeper level. Early on Brook boxed circles around him as Jones appeared to plod forward aimlessly but as the rounds wore on Jones started to get close and closer till he was eventually cleanly catching Brook with clean shots and roughing him up on the inside. Brook still had his moments but his stamina seemed to fade away completely and what offence he could muster generally consisted of one 30 second burst a round. I narrowly edged the decision to Jones and while Brook picked up the narrow win it was his most challenging bout as a pro.
It’s not clear that Brook will face any of those issues in his upcoming bout with Vyacheslav Senchenko. On paper, Senchenko looks to be a very solid test… 34-1, a former WBA title holder and with a recent win over Ricky Hatton. However Senchenko’s world title was the sort of world title people complain about… a paper title which was in essence awarded to him and which he defended against boxers who had pretty records but no depth. I doubt there were many boxing fans outside Eastern Europe who had heard of Senchenko prior to his bout with Paul Malignaggi being announced and even less who had seen him box. His bout with Malignaggi was meant to be a coming out part for both him and domestic Ukranian boxing in general… instead he was outclassed and broken down by the normally light-hitting Malignaggi. And while it is true Senchenko holds a victory over Hatton, the Hatton he faced was a retired Hitman who had seen his life fall apart through addiction and depression who looked that night like a man doing a mediocre impersonation of the Ricky Hatton we all knew. I’m very reluctant to put much weight behind that victory.
Senchenko has a fairly stereotypical European style, working primarily behind the jab and waiting for that to be established before bringing his other punches into play. He’s not a poor athlete by any means but neither is he a particularly inspiring one and it was immediately noticeable how much quicker and more fluid Malignaggi was with his shots. 23 stoppages in 34 wins indicated a decent level of power, albeit more from wearing opponents out than single shots and in the Hatton bout at least he showed enough ring intelligence to target the body of a fading Hitman. Mentally, he looked fragile in the Malignaggi bout and appeared to quit but in contrast he survived the cauldron of rampant Hatton fans fairly well. My reading is that he’s a boxer who will do well when in control of a bout (or it is at least competitive) but seemingly lacks the ability to adapt or step-up if a bout turns against him.
And I think it turns against him here.
Brook isn’t a faded Hatton. Stylistically he’s closer to Malignaggi and while he may not throw as many combinations or shots as the fast-talking manliest man in boxing, he is just as adapt as slashing opponents apart and he carries more power in his shots. I think Brook wins the battle of the jabs and from there wins the battle, being too good, too quick and too effective to let Senchenko get back into it. With Brook controlling the tempo his stamina should hold up and he alternates between picking Senchenko off with single shots and going after him with a more sustained attack, a combination which eventually leads to a stoppage in the latter rounds.
Kell Brook to win by (T)KO in ten.