Top Rank promoter Bob Arum hopes to have welterweight world titlist Terence Crawford back in the ring in September or October and recently named four potential opponents in fellow titleholder Manny Pacquiao, former titleholders Shawn Porter and Kell Brook and longtime contender Yordenis Ugas.
Brook is anxious to land the fight.
“I am very interested in the Crawford fight as are my team,” Brook told BoxingScene.com on Wednesday. “It’s a genuine proper fight and will capture the imagination of the transatlantic audience. It’s been a testing time for all of us globally during the coronavirus pandemic and when (major) boxing does return, with the safety aspect being paramount, it’s big nights like these that the fans will crave and get the fans excited. I’m the strongest and best boxer he will have faced and once I beat him, he can have a rematch and we can always do it all over again in England.”
Brook (39-2, 27 KOs), 34, of England, who outpointed Porter to win his world title in 2014 in Carson, California, made three successful defenses before suffering back-to-back stoppage losses to Gennadiy Golovkin, for whom he moved up two divisions to challenge for the middleweight title in 2016, and Errol Spence Jr. in a 2017 fight that cost him his welterweight belt.
After a 10-month layoff to recover from a broken orbital bone, Brook has won three fights in a row at junior middleweight, most recently by seventh-round knockout of Mark DeLuca on Feb. 8 in Brook’s hometown of Sheffield. Brook faced DeLuca coming off a 14-month layoff.
He has not won a fight at welterweight since a March 2016 title defense against Kevin Bizier, but said he would gladly return to 147 pounds for a shot at Crawford, who has defended his title three times, including by stoppage against Brook rival Amir Khan in 2019.
“Making 147 is something Terence and all these American fighters seem to love to ask me to do when it’s put on their toes: ‘Would you fight Kell Brook?’ Tell Kell Brook to make weight,’” Brook said. “It’s fine though. It shows me they respect my ability and take some sort of comfort from convincing themselves it might not happen.
“I boxed in February. I’ve been ticking over during lockdown and I’m back in the boxing gym training. By the fall time, I’ll be more than ready. I will make the weight. Then I’ll make the wait worthwhile! 147 and strong on them scales and then stood right in front of Terence Crawford, in that center of the ring, ready to dance under all of them lights! Let’s get it done!”
Arum told BoxingScene that with Pacquiao probably out of the picture for a 2020 fight against Crawford (36-0, 27 KOs), 32, of Omaha, Nebraska, he views Brook as the No. 1 candidate as long as travel restrictions between the United States and United Kingdom imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic are eased so Brook could get into the country.
“The first choice, obviously, is for Crawford to fight Manny Pacquiao but that depends on money from a site abroad,” Arum said, noting that there is interest in the bout from sites in the Middle East. “I talked to Manny about the fight but a lot of these places overseas are reluctant now to do anything this year because of the pandemic. Next year? Different story. But this year it’s a big problem and I have no control over it, so it seems unlikely it would be Pacquiao this year and I want to get Crawford a fight this year.
“Kell Brook is a problem only because of the travel ban. I can’t book a fighter from the U.K. because (President Donald) Trump has shut down all travel for non U.S. residents. So how do I get Kell Brook over here? I don’t now how to do it. But if Kell Brook can tell me how he can get over here then he would go to the top of the list. Conversely, how can I get Crawford over to the U.K.? Kell Brook is certainly a very interesting opponent for Crawford.
“With Porter the problem is how do you raise the money for a fight like that? Ugas wouldn’t cost as much but that fight wouldn’t mean as much. Kell Brook, all things being equal, if there wasn’t a travel ban and Kell Brook could come over here he would be the leading guy.”
Arum was enamored enough with Brook as a potential challenger for Crawford that in mid-March, when Arum was supposed to go to New York to promote cards headlined by Shakur Stevenson and Michael Conlan, he had planned to meet with Brook in person to extend an offer for the fight.
They were supposed to meet on March 14 -- the day Stevenson was due to make his first featherweight title defense against Miguel Marriaga – but two days earlier both of Top Rank’s cards were canceled as the sports world began to shut down due to the coronavirus and Arum wound up not making the trip to New York.
“I was coming into New York and was going to meet with them before the Shakur fight,” Arum said. “We made a time and so forth to meet. I would have said to Kell Brook, ‘How much do you want to fight Terence and I’d like to do it in the U.S.’ But there was no travel ban then. Hopefully, by September/October we’ll be able to do fights with a limited number of spectators whether it’s in Las Vegas or Nebraska, and the travel ban will be lifted.”
Brook said he was looking forward to sitting down with Arum in March and was disappointed the meeting could not take place but that he still very much wants to challenge Crawford.
“Bob is absolutely right to be talking about (the fight),” Brook said. “He is an astute man and very few, if any, understand the sport and business of boxing like him. Me and my team want the fight. To make it very clear, it’s the very top of my wish list. I met Bob and Terence out in Vegas during (Deontay) Wilder-(Tyson) II fight week and told them both that I want it. My management team then got in touch with Bob and he invited us out to the Shakur Stevenson fight at Madison Square Garden in March. We flew into New York City the week international lockdown came into effect and the card got pulled the very day we landed.
“Whilst lockdown meant we didn’t get to see Bob, that very same evening I bumped into Terence and Shakur doing a bit of wrestling in the hotel lobby. We had a good chat for a good 15 minutes. Terence is a good guy, an excellent fighter and our styles will definitely gel to give the fans one hell of a fight. Switch hitters with impeccable timing and an ability to counter or be aggressive. We looked each other in the eye and he knows I want that fight. I told him the very same thing and he seemed up for it too. It makes perfect sense for him also, so let the lockdown situation relent, and as soon as the restrictions allow the travel, then of course I’ll go to fight him in the U.S.”
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.