Brook to go the distance
Our Simon Crawford previews Kell Brook's world title challenge against Shawn Porter in California this weekend.
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It's been a long and frustrating wait, but finally on Saturday night Sheffield's Kell Brook has the chance to become a world champion.
The 28-year-old challenges reigning IBF welterweight belt holder Shawn Porter in Carson, California hoping that his time has finally come.
Brook saw three projected title tilts at former champion Devon Alexander fall through - and was then forced to curse his bad luck as 26-year-old Porter (24-0-1 15KOs) got there first and dethroned Alexander over 12 rounds last April.
Porter's subsequent four-round win over Paulie Malignaggi in April underlined the size of task facing Brook who heads into the bout with a 32-fight unbeaten record.
It is well documented how notoriously difficult it is for an "away" fighter to get a decision in America - but it can be done.
Porter may be a champion and a deserving one, but he's not an outstanding champion like a Floyd Mayweather. His reign at the top is likely to be shortlived and there is no reason why Brook cannot be the man to end it.
The American's win over a lacklustre Alexander was unconvincing and scrappy, while Malignaggi is not the force he once was so I would advise caution in reading too much into either of them.
Brook has had the longest training camp of his career so there can be excuses about preparation or fitness, it all boils down to whether he can be at his best for what promises to be 12 hard rounds.
Porter has genuine power, but I feel the Yorkshireman is the better all-round technician in the ring - he has spite in his punches, a ram-rod jab, a slick defence and, like all fighters schooled at the Wincobank gym, he throws shots from unorthodox angles.
The big question mark is whether nerves will get the better of him and if the frustration of having to wait so long for this title opportunity will have a negative affect on him.
But a confident Brook said: "This has been a long time coming but I've finally arrived at the big stage now.
"It's every fighter's dream to win a world title and it's all I've been thinking about through training and waiting.
"I know Shawn Porter is a very tough customer and a very worthy champion, but this is my time. I'm very well prepared mentally and physically and Saturday night cannot come quick enough for me."
While Brook has designs on a domestic super-fight against Amir Khan, Porter believes another headline win could put him in the frame for a meeting with Mayweather.
"I am one of the quickest and strongest guys in my weight class and I'm probably the most confident too," he said.
"I've done enough homework to know I can beat him. You're going to see it all - aggression, intelligence, power and quickness. The whole nine yards."
If this fight was in Sheffield, or anywhere in the UK for that matter, then I would have no hesitation is going after a Brook win by decision.
But the fact it is taking place across the Atlantic gives Porter a big advantage and that has been reflected in the prices which sees the American a general 4/9, while Brook is a stand-out 21/10 with Boylesports.
For me, this is a hugely hard fight to call as I think both fighters will enjoy periods of success and it will boil down to whose work-rate will stand up over 12 hard rounds - Brook having gone the distance three times, Porter only once.
The champion claims he will knock Brook out, but I don't see that happening so there is some interest in Porter to win by decision at 10/3 (Totesport) while Brook is a general 5/1.
I don't like sitting on the fence but this really is a 50/50 affair so with that in mind I'm taking the standout 11/8 being offered by Betfred for the fight to go the distance.
On the undercard in California, veteran WBC super-middleweight champion Sakio Bika defends his title against Anthony Dirrell with the winner a possible next opponent for Carl Froch.
The two battled to a disputed draw last December when many had Bika, a Cameroonian who lives in Sydney, a narrow winner despite being down in the fifth and having a point deducted in the 11th for a low blow.
Bika is a brawler who pushes the referee's patience and the rules to the limits, while Dirrell is more skillful but faded badly in the closing stages of the first encounter after a positive start.
I expect more of the same this weekend and I think Bika's sheer toughness will see him run out a narrow points winner which is a general 4/1.