“To stop, cease or discontinue”
By this very definition, Kell Brook quit last night. Whisper that to many in the boxing world and you’ve insulted one of the bravest individuals in the sport. Comparisons with different sports, different boxers and tragic circumstances are bombarded within seconds.
On Sky Sports’ post fight coverage, Tony Bellew made himself perfectly clear. This is a man who has made it known on many occasions, he is willing to die in the ring. He will lay it all on the line. It all makes for poetic viewing but you do get the hint that he means it.
“I’m disappointed. It’s tough to watch. It’s like the fight was beaten out of Kell Brook. He had enough. He took the knee and he had enough. I’m sorry and I love Kell to bits but you can’t do that. Kell chose to end the fight tonight. I know he’s saying he can’t see and stuff but I can’t have it. You have to bite down on the gumshield.”
That opinion has attracted a lot of criticism from fans and journalists alike. However, it was Bellew’s response when asked whether Brook had quit or not.
“I’m not saying he quit because that’s a harsh word. What I’m saying is he’s had the fight beaten out of him. You’ve got to remember he’s had a horrendous injury and in the back of his mind he has got the Golovkin fight there. He’s probably thinking I could go blind if I do this but you have to expel all them [sic] things from your mind. We’re fighters, we’re warriors, whatever you want to call us, we’re freaks, we’re sideshow acts but we have to fight until we have no fight left”
Let’s be clear, all boxers have a choice whether to get in the ring or not. By doing so, at a professional level, against dangerous opponents they separate themselves from 99% of the population. For this reason, I don’t understand comparisons between them and us, either by boxers or fans. Boxers often revert to the defence of “If you haven’t boxed you can’t criticise”. The problem with this is that if punters pay their money, then they are surely entitled to give an opinion. It might be a ludicrous opinion that most disagree with but that’s up to them. If it was only those brave enough to box who could comment (and watch) then all boxers would be a hell of a lot worse off financially.
Yet, as pros approach the elite level, they get even more risk (and more reward) but more scrutiny. The men across the ring are more talented, their every move is analysed and they are put into the public glare indefinitely. In the build up to this mandatory defence, Kell Brook claimed he took the fight because he hadn’t worked all his life to give up his IBF strap. In reality, that is excactly what happened. Obviously, the skillset and power of Spence had a lot to do with that. Only Brook knows what he had left. As Bellew alluded to, it didn’t look like he had much left to give. What I feel though, is that there should be no shame in quitting. Giving up, choosing to end it, reaching your limit, however you want to define it.
So, with that in mind, what was left for Brook to do? Yes, again as Bellew said, Kell has the power to trouble any welterweight and could feasibly have caught Spence with the perfect punch to end it. If the Sheffield star didn’t feel he could do that, or he was thinking about his future then who is anyone to criticise his decision? So what if Spence had beaten the fight out of him? Having got in the ring to face a dangerous, unbeaten American, it’s up to Brook to know when he’s had enough. If, in the moment, Kell had blurred vision, or couldn’t see, then who are we to tell him he should’ve fought on? If his thoughts turned to his family or long-term health then why should there be shame in that?
As fans of the sport we expect that boxers give their all. It’s a violent sport so most of those watching aren’t too fazed by seeing injuries or knockouts. However, most of us probably aren’t thinking about the long-term health of those in the ring. Or the wellbeing of their families in years to come. It’s worth noting that Brook didn’t decided to withdraw as soon as things got tough. Spence had been on top for several rounds in my opinion and laid on an onslaught to drop Brook in the tenth. After hitting the canvas, Brook responded brilliantly and landed a few shots of his own. In truth, the decision to end the fight came when one man felt he could take no more. Whether you are brave enough to take punches for a living (or brave enough to use the “q” word) or not, that’s not your decision to make.