On Saturday night, the fight game crowned two new champions: England’s Kell Brook and Philadelphia native Gabriel Rosado. Brook fought for the IBF boxing welterweight title, while Rosado fought for the Big-Knockout Boxing (BKB) middleweight championship.
At first blush, it might seem that the ugly, clinch-filled performance put on by Brook is exactly why BKB was created — to speed up and electrify traditional boxing. Looking closer at both fights, however, you realize that they were more the result of an old truism in boxing, "Styles make fights," than the differences between the rules of boxing and BKB.
Kell Brook crossed the pond for the second time in his career to face relentless pressure fighter Shawn Porter. Brook likely hoped that he’d come to the StubHub Center in Carson, California, to wow fans with a spectacular knockout, ringing him in as not just a credible fighter, but a man, that like Porter, who could be mentioned in conversations about Floyd Mayweather’s future opponents. Instead, he and Porter put on an unpalatable contest filled with more clinches than clean punches.
Porter was his usually busy self, often smothering Brook, who surprisingly hardly used his jab, making it easier for Porter to land his body blows. As time went on, however, it became clear that Porter either could not or would not change his tactics even though he failed to discourage Brook or land cleanly on him. For his part, Brook kept a relatively even and measured pace throughout the fight. It was so measured that Brook often seemed disinterested. For a man who had flown so many miles to step in the ring, he didn’t seem like he wanted to fight much.
Instead, Brook clinched every chance he got, holding on to the ropes when he could, and even smothered his own punches by refusing to create distance from Porter. While Brook arguably landed more clean punches, he did not land many more of them. In fact, few clean punches landed at all in this fight. It was ugly from the opening bell to the final bell, filled with too many lapses in action. Added to the equally disappointing matchup between Sakio Bika and Anthony Dirrell, it was a rough night for fans at the StubHub Center. Oscar De La Hoya captured the night in a single tweet:
Thank you Omar for saving the night and giving us a great fight. #2muchholding congrats to Direlle and Brook
— Oscar De La Hoya (@OscarDeLaHoya) August 17, 2014
In stark contrast, the BKB championship bout was filled with hard shots that landed flush, leading to knockdowns, excitement and, eventually, a knockout. Gabriel Rosado fought the gutsy and always game Bryan Vera. Both men were coming off losses, Rosado to Jermell Charlo and Vera to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
From the opening round, both men landed clean, hard punches. As the short rounds (only two minutes under BKB rules, unlike the three minutes in boxing) progressed, there were moments when the more mobile Rosado found space to use his feet for defense, although mostly he used his offense as defense, especially after Vera sent him to the ground in round 3. After that, Rosado continuously found a home for his overhand right, which softened Vera up for the short counter right that ended the night.
The excitement of the fight was palpable. Was it necessarily due to the BKB rules and smaller ring? Not likely. These fighters fought in a style that they are both accustomed to. Their fight would likely have been very similar in a boxing ring because they often self-selectively limit their movement to increase punching power by planting their feet firmly on the ground. Rosado has shown a greater ability than Vera to employ the sweeter side of boxing, but even his best has shown itself in closer quarters.
Would BKB’s new arena and rules improve the Porter vs. Brook fight? Maybe. The shortened time might have given Brook a greater sense of urgency, and the smaller space may have helped Porter stay on the inside. Then again, there were plenty of clinches between Porter and Brook in the middle of the ring, so perhaps being closer would have only increased the wrestling. With a single-minded, come-forward style like Porter’s, which sometimes seems like he’s tackling more than weaving to get on the inside, maybe the fighters would have just ended up falling numerous times onto the inclined walls of the BKB arena.
For the new IBF welterweight champion, big-money fights against Amir Khan, Keith Thurman and Juan Manuel Marquez have all gotten serious buzz. With talk like that, unless Porter had a rematch clause, it’s unlikely we’ll see Porter and Brook share a ring in the near future. That’s something to be thankful for.
The road is less clear for Rosado. He may choose to defend his BKB title. The $90,000 purse he received for the fight was an improvement on his not-too-long-ago fight on the Mayweather-Guerrero undercard where he fought against J’Leon Love for $60,000. But it’s a long way from the $200,000 Rosado took home for his fight against Gennady Golovkin. Maybe Rosado can turn his performance against Vera into a bigger payday in boxing. The middleweight division is stacked, so there isn’t a shortage of possibilities.
Whichever way he goes, before testing out the new rules and arena on awkward matchups like Porter vs. Brook, BKB would be wise to continue to find fighters who enjoy a hard scrap. Although limited in scope, at least there’s a greater likelihood that fans will get what they think they’re paying for. There’s definitely something to be said for that.
A former college wrestler, Taekwondo black-belt, and wannabe boxer, Paul Navarro (aka Fight Like Sugar) is now a full-time lawyer, part-time fight scribe, and high school wrestling coach.