It is not too hard to pinpoint the moment Amir Khan v Kell Brook should have happened. It was 2016 and after months of rumours about a 55-45 split, or “60-40, we’re close”, a big announcement was made. Khan was going to fight… Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
From the start it was a seemingly crazy fight. Khan was blessed with perhaps the fastest hands in boxing, but a weak chin. Alvarez’s reputation was still on the rise. It was Oscar De La Hoya - Alvarez’s then promoter and the former promoter of Khan – who bypassed normal procedure and texted an offer direct to Khan, who had been frustrated in his attempts to get a fight with Floyd Mayweather. Khan’s ego would not let him refuse.
Back in 2016, Khan v Brook would have filled Wembley Stadium. British boxing was flying and that fight would have got the country talking, far beyond boxing circles.
But when Khan was knocked out cold by Canelo and Brook - who at the time was unbeaten and held the IBF welterweight title - then took an equally barmy fight against Gennady Golovkin, which ended with him suffering a fractured eye socket, both were damaged goods. The moment was gone. A fight that had been on the boil already for four years would never be the same again.
On Monday, at a central London hotel, BOXXER and Sky have promised a “major announcement”. This time there will be no surprises, as Ben Shalom, the head of BOXXER, blurted out that it was Khan v Brook when interviewed on TalkSport on Saturday night. The likely date and venue if February 19 in Manchester.
The fight ticks a lot of boxes. From the point of view of both boxers, neither is going to get another big payday fighting anyone else and for Sky Sports – involved in something of a Cold War with Eddie Hearn since he jumped ship to DAZN - and BOXXER it gives them a high-profile fight that they can put on its pay-per-view channel and crank their massive marketing operation back into business.
Yes, people will complain, many will say they are no longer interested, but if Jake Paul v Tommy Fury, a fight between a novice who is best known as a YouTuber and a novice who appeared on Love Island is considered worthy of pay-per-view, no one is in a position to complain about Khan v Brook.
This fight is not about legacy, it is merely a footnote to two careers. But when all is said and done, they were both fine careers.
It will certainly not be the first big fight not to happen when it should have. Winston Churchill once remarked how Americans will always do the right thing “having first exhausted all possible alternatives”. Boxing is like that. You only need to look at Lewis v Tyson, or Mayweather v Pacquiao to know that.
The opportunity has come for Khan and Brook when all other options are gone. Khan, 34, has not boxed since the summer of 2019, when he beat Billy Dib, an overmatched Australian, in Saudi Arabia, three months after his last unsuccessful world title fight against Terence Crawford. Brook, 35, has been out of action since losing to Crawford 12 months ago.
But the time was right because, at a moment when Britain is short on star talent, there are numerous outlets desperate to screen it. Sky have been keen to show that they can do just as well without Hearn and have been left frustrated that their biggest two planned domestic fights – Josh Taylor v Jack Catterall and Chris Eubank Jr v Liam Williams – have both been bumped back to 2022 because of injury.
Neither Khan nor Brook are likely to ever box for a world title again – that bird has flown. But one thing that has been the case in boxing and showbusiness for all of time is that a bit of name recognition will go an awfully long way.
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.