By Nick Halling
The clock is ticking on the proposed IBF welterweight title fight between champion Shawn Porter and his British mandatory, Kell Brook. Under the terms of the deal which allowed Paulie Malignaggi to face Porter last month, the winner had to agree to face Brook by 19 July. That’s just eight weeks away and, realistically, it’s not going to happen within that timeframe.
There are strange noises emanating from Porter’s camp. A logical spot for the fight to take place was in Vegas on Golden Boy’s July 12 show, as chief support to Saul Alvarez v Erislandy Lara (Porter is a Golden Boy client). That discussion went nowhere. Instead, Porter was encouraged to talk up the prospect of an all-American affair against the recent WBA Interim winner, Keith Thurman.
That would have been a major revenue earner all round, but Thurman is now going in a different direction – which could bring Brook right back into play.
Brook’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, is believed to be negotiating for more time to get a deal done. He also has a binding contract for Porter-Brook which acts as a significant bargaining chip. While America remains a likely venue for the contest, the prospect of Porter defending in the UK is not out of the question.
Brook, meanwhile, is keeping a low profile himself, but word out of the Ingle gym is that he is training with intensity and has been for a number of weeks. If he’s given short notice, he’ll be prepared. He’ll be ready by 19 July, and quite possibly a little earlier.
Given that Brook is not a big name superstar in America, Porter also has the option of vacating the title so as not to jeopardise a future moneyspinner of his own. Given the prospect of big fights within the division, that’s not be as implausible as it might sound. But the pressure on Porter to do something soon is growing. Sitting on the belt indefinitely is not an option. Avoiding Brook doesn’t look much of an option either.
Expect some significant movement on this one soon – but which way it goes is, right now, anyone’s guess. And it will probably be decided by the people looking after Porter’s interests.
Big plans ahead for one-time IBF bantamweight boss Jamie McDonnell. Doncaster’s first-ever world champion was stripped of his belt last year, but looks to become a two-time belt holder next week when he faces tongue-twisting Thai Tabtimdaeng Na Rachawat for the WBA title on the Froch-Groves undercard.
It’s a winnable fight for McDonnell, and if he comes through safely, it will mark just the first step of the ambitious Yorkshireman’s aspirations. He’ll be looking for a unification fight at bantamweight next, and then plans to step up a division to super bantam – where the big fights and marquee names are to be found.
McDonnell is no fool, and he’s certainly had a crash course in boxing politics over the last 12 months to further broaden his knowledge. Having won his world crown last May against Julio Ceja, McDonnell was stripped without making a defence.
In the ensuing blizzard of finger pointing, the only facts which emerged with complete certainty are that McDonnell parted company with his then manager, Dennis Hobson, and that another Hobson-connected fighter, Stuart Hall, was subsequently offered a shot at the now-vacant IBF belt. Hall duly seized his opportunity, and is set to defend the IBF crown for a second time against fellow-Brit Paul Butler next month.
Should Hall and McDonnell come through their next fights unscathed, the two fighters would both be keen on a rematch (they first met in 2011 with British, Commonwealth and European titles on the line, McDonnell winning a unanimous decision). There is no animosity between the two boxers: they have risen above the political machinations and respect each other.
McDonnell doesn’t begrudge Hall his opportunity, and probably accepts that if the situation had been reversed, he’d have done the same. For his part Hall admits that he got a lucky break, but sees no need to apologise for capitalising on it so successfully.
McDonnell is confident of a repeat of their 2011 contest, while Hall quite correctly observes that he has improved considerably from where he was three years ago. They’d both love a unification fight – and the purse that would go with one – but achieving that will take the diplomatic skills of a UN Special Ambassador. Getting Hobson to agree to such a contest will probably be a tough sell, and that might be understating the case considerably.
So McDonnell is already looking to a future further afield – and a potential move up to super bantam. It’s not exactly a giant leap for mankind. His twin brother, Gavin, currently campaigns at the weight as reigning British champion, and while Jamie is currently comfortable at bantam, the step up would be unlikely to diminish his power or speed.
Scott Quigg would be a preferred opponent: word out of the McDonnell camp is that the WBA boss would be a good matchup in terms of style. They think they can beat him. McDonnell’s people also fancy their man’s chances against Leo Santa Cruz, the WBC holder.
More importantly, they are looking at the kind of purses on offer at bantam, and the much greater financial incentives swirling around at super bantam. Financially, it’s a no-brainer. After what he’s been through over the past few months, there aren’t many who would begrudge the likeable McDonnell a couple of big paydays. If the last year has been difficult for him, the next 12 months could potentially be career-changing.
Nick Halling is a commentator for Sky Sports.