Amir Khan and Kell Brook’s hatred for each other seems complicated but in reality their disdain is tied together by disrespect.
On February 19, they will finally face off in the brawl to settle it all. Years of bad blood, sparring claims, snide comments and bold predictions will be of no use to them when they step through the ropes. Only actions – not words – will matter.
Both fighters know they didn’t need to take this fight. In truth, the showdown fans should have got passed them by. Neither man is in their prime and no belts are on the line, so this is for pride. So both fighters can end their career with no what ifs.
Amir Khan (L) and Kell Brook (R) will square off in the brawl to settle it all on February 19
There is a mutual loathing of each other so deep and passionate that they could not retire – could not live – without hashing things out once and for all. To finally put things right, to prove they were right about the other. The prize is a lifetime of bragging rights.
This will likely be the final fight for both Khan and Brook. There is a rematch clause in place, but they both agree it won’t be needed – confident that one will suffer a beatdown so humiliating they won’t want to do it again. That is the ferocity we are dealing with here. But how did it get to this?
The Olympic camps is where their feud was born. Both were budding welterweight fighters in their teens, both competing for a place at the Athens Games in 2004.
It was Khan – not Brook – who was selected, and with that came overnight fame and recognition that the Sheffield man has always claimed he has lacked. Khan would go on to win silver at the Games before a high-profile career that saw him reign as world champion from 2009 until 2012.
Their rivalry originates from the 2004 Olympics camp, where Khan (L) was picked to represent Team GB at the Games instead of him
Khan went on to win silver in Athens, and won overnight fame – recognition Brook feels he never had in his career
An infamous encounter on Sky Sports in 2012 brought everything to the surface as the pair were fortuitously placed next to each other on a show called Ringside, with Khan jumping at the opportunity to add insult to injury over their Olympic fortunes, claiming he ‘schooled’ Brook when they sparred at the camps.
‘We had great sparring sessions – you know what happened Kell,’ Khan began.
‘I used to box Kell all around the ring. I was training for the Olympic games at the time and Kell was a junior and I used to school Kell in the ring.’
‘I’ve never been schooled ever,’ Kell responded.
In the following years Khan added more claims about that fateful sparring session, saying Brook was ‘padded up like a pillow’ in protective gear
Khan and Brook were on Ringside on Sky Sports together in 2012 and their rivalry has been heating up over a decade despite the fact that they’ve never fought as professionals
‘He used to come in with is dad Terry, bouncing around. And after the first spar he never bounced around again.
‘Kell used to wear head guards and body protectors, and small gloves. I used to wear the big gloves so I didn’t hurt him and no head guard so that way he had a chance. He was all padded-up from head to toe, just so he doesn’t get beat. And I’d still get them shots in.
‘So that’s like why when we sit there and he talks about it like he used to beat me up in sparring I just think, “what are you talking about?!”. I should’ve recorded that, I should’ve recorded those videos when he was padded up like a pillow.’
A decade later the touchpaper has been lit and we will see who really has the better skills at the Manchester Arena. But it has taken far too long to secure this fight and the frustrations over failed negotiations has only added fuel to the fire.
Brook has fiercely dismissed claims from Khan that he ‘schooled’ him in the amateurs
Brook promised to ‘shatter his chin’ if they got in the ring and dubbed Khan ‘Bambi on ice’
In 2015, with talks still not making progress, Brook goaded Khan for chasing a fight with Floyd Mayweather.
‘He’s been bugging Mayweather for the fight for years, he hasn’t got the fight, so what’s the next fight that’s bigger – me and Khan,’ he said.
‘I’ve said it from day one. I’ve said it that his whiskers are delicate and when this brownie hits his chin, it’s going to shatter and he’s going to do that dance that he likes to do. He’s brittle. He’s Bambi on ice…. all rolled into one.’
The big moment was 2017. At the time, Brook was the IBF welterweight world champion, while Khan was looking to get back in the mix following a KO defeat against Canelo Alvarez.
Promoter Eddie Hearn (L) tried in vain to set up the grudge match, but could not get the fighters to agree terms – even when both were in his stable in 2018
Despite Khan’s position as a world champion, Khan had still demanded a 70-30 split in his favour rather than a 50-50, forcing Eddie Hearn’s matchroom and Brook’s father Terry to walk away from the negotiating table. Khan’s advisor Asif Vali gave the lowdown of how the talks went a few years later.
‘Terry stood up, shook my hand, said, “We are not doing business”, and walked out.’
Khan then hit out at both Brook and his promoter Hearn on Twitter, declaring himself ‘the A side’ out of the two.
‘Eddie I’m the A side and you and Kell know he will make more then he did against [Gennady Golovin],’ Khan wrote. ‘I offered more as a guarantee so forget the percentage.’
Instead Brook took on the mandatory challenge of Errol Spence – who would end his reign as IBF champion – as Khan insisted his rival ‘didn’t want the fight’.
Khan had made eye-watering demands in negotiations before leaving talks to face Terrence Crawford instead – only heightening tensions between the pair
‘My team sat down with Brook and his manager, we tried to make the fight and Brook said he doesn’t want the fight, so it’s not happening,’ Khan said, speaking about the talks on ITV’s This Morning.
‘I want the fight and Brook has just walked away from it; he doesn’t want it.
‘I was getting the blame for not taking the fight, and now when I’ve said “yes, I’ll take the fight”, Brook has stepped back and made excuses.’
Even when Hearn signed Khan to his Matchoom stable alongside Brook, their egos could not be taken out of the equation. The promoter thought he had finally agreed a sensational deal to get them both in the ring in 2018, before Khan threw a spanner into the works by opting for a money-spinning bout with Terrence Crawford instead.
All hope seemed to be lost when both fighters left Matchroom, before BOXXER’s Ben Shalom resurrected the fight in 2021 – allowing Khan and Brook to finally come face to face at their first press conference. The trash talk was back.
‘King Khan’ claims he was told to use one hand while sparring Brook after their fight was finally arranged for February 2022
A heated press conference saw a back-and-forth exchange with both promising a stoppage
‘I don’t know if I hate him – that’s a strong word – but I’m close to the hate side,’ Brook explained. ‘I really dislike the man and I really can’t wait to punch his face in.
‘I can’t wait to get my knuckles to the nearest point of the gloves and drill it straight into his face.’
Khan brought up the Olympic sparring story again – going further by claiming he was told to use one hand against Brook and still managed to outclass him.
‘The trainers used to say “just go in and use one hand against him today!'”
‘You will see on February 19 how I school and play with this guy, just like the early days. Why is it I got picked for the Olympic team? Because I was schooling Kell Brook with one hand.
‘I’d ask, “do you want the jab, left-hook or uppercut” and they’d say “just throw the jab”.
Khan has never respected the skills of Brook and believes he will ‘destroy’ him on the night
‘You’re delusional’, Brook interjected. ‘I want to hit him right now. He’s lied about why he kept me ducking me so long. I would have gone to my grave irritated and angry if I’d not smashed him to the ground.’
So when looking for a reason of why these two don’t like each other, it becomes clear it is based around Khan’s refusal to acknowledge Brook’s achievements and skill as a fighter, while frustrated he has never had the same recognition as his rival.
And still Khan insists Brook’s talent is nothing to write home about.
‘Honestly speaking, I don’t think Kell has a good chin or can take a shot,” he told the BBC last month. ‘I think his punch resistance is gone. I honestly believe he’s just doing the fight for the payday.
‘I’m doing this for the public, because it’s what they want. If I don’t take this fight, people will always say to me “but you didn’t fight Kell”.
Ben Shalom (C) resurrected the fight between two bitter rivals on a night primed for ‘fireworks’
‘He says he’s going to beat me and do this and that. I hope he tries to. But I just don’t see him doing anything. The bad blood between us, I think it’s pure jealousy from him. I’m going to destroy him. It’s going to be a masterclass.
‘I think he will need to retire after that; this will be his last fight.’
Brook says he only wanted mutual respect from Khan. Now it’s personal as he vowed to deliver ‘fireworks’ on Feburary 19 to get his revenge. And he promised their rivalry ‘isn’t just hype’.
‘There’s no love lost, we don’t like each other. This isn’t just hype, this is as real as it comes. I don’t like him, he doesn’t like me. And I want to punch him hard. He’s never given me any respect, or acknowledged me as a great fighter,’ he said.
‘I’ve always acknowledged him; I think he’s done great in his career and I’ve never dissed him in that way.
‘All the years and spite between us, it means everything to both of us. There’s definitely fireworks in this fight, make no mistake.’
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