It looked like an easy night but it certainly wasn’t.
Former IBF welterweight titleholder Kell Brook scored a 12-round unanimous decision over Australian Michael Zerafa at the Sheffield Arena in Sheffield, England, on Saturday. The official scores were 119-109, 118-110 and 117-111, but those big numbers do not tell the story.
For the majority of the fight, Brook, who is currently rated No. 8 by The Ring at 154 pounds, looked sloppy, listless and a shell of his former self. It wasn’t that Zerafa was a world-beater, Brook just couldn’t produce the work needed to dispose of what he knew was an inferior opponent.
“I don’t know if I tried too hard, but I was just a bit flat tonight,” said Brook during his post-fight interview with Sky Sports. “If you’d seen me in training, I’ve been exceptional. But I got the win and now I’ll go back to the drawing board and polish up where we left off.
“Next year, I’m coming from the big boys. I will go to welterweight (for Amir Khan), I will do the rehydration (clause which Khan demanded). It’s not my fault the fight’s not happening, it’s that pussy boy, Khan. He doesn’t want it and I do want it. It’s now or never.”
Khan may have renewed motivation after what he saw tonight.
Zerafa was stunned on multiple occasions in the opening round and Brook may have been guilty of seeing the finishing line prematurely. However, the plucky visitor hadn’t travelled thousands of miles for nothing and slowly warmed into the fight. Zerafa couldn’t put a dent in Brook, but he exploited serious defensive flaws from the second round on.
Brook did break through with some solid power shots in the sixth and the Australian looked to be feeling very sorry for himself as that session ended. The home fighter attempted to follow up on that advantage in the seventh but, despite scoring heavily, Zerafa continued to fire back and kept himself alive.
The ninth produced the first moments of real drama. Brook was driven backwards toward the ropes and Zerafa unloaded with a steady stream of sharp one-twos. The Englishman wasn’t hurt, but a seasoned world-level fighter would have had a field day with such an easy target.
A big shot from Brook landed in the 12th, but Zerafa answered back immediately and taunted the pre-fight favorite. There would be no spectacular finish to make up for what was a very disappointing showing from “The Special One”.
The 32-year-old Brook is undoubtedly world class, but the Sheffield man needs to capitalize now. If the ever-elusive domestic dustup with Khan doesn’t come to fruition, then Brook must look for alternate options. With his willingness to fight between 147 and 154 pounds, he will certainly not be short on options.
“If I was Amir Khan, I would be on the phone to take this fight,” said Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn. “Kell knows that was below par. Every time (Khan and Brook) fight, one becomes the favorite and one becomes the underdog. After Khan boxed (Samuel) Vargas, Kell became the favorite. If you check with the bookmakers tonight, Khan will be the favorite.
“But (Kell) will make his own decisions, and we can’t just wait on (the Khan fight). Kell’s got a big future, he’s now mandatory for (IBF and WBA titleholder) Jarrett Hurd, if he wants to stay at 154 pounds. But he has to be a lot better than that, and he will be.”
In an all-southpaw junior lightweight collision, Jono Carroll and Guillaume Frenois duked it out to a 12-round split decision draw. Both fighters were awarded a 115-113 tally, but the tie was confirmed by a 114-114 scorecard.
The second round was eventful as a clash of heads opened a cut over Carroll’s left eye. The Irishman responded well, however, rocking Frenois with a left hand, and he also evened up the facial damage when a sharp flurry cut the Frenchman over the right eye in the third. There was plenty of ebb and flow and some of the action as terrific, but Carroll got lazy defensively as the rounds progressed and absorbed a steady stream of left hand shots down the stretch. This fight was an eliminator for the IBF title which is held by talented American Tevin Farmer. A Carroll-Frenois rematch is a distinct possibility.
Former British, Commonwealth and European champion Kid Galahad picked up an eight-round decision over Nicaraguan journeyman Bryan Mairena. The official score from referee John Latham was an 80-72 shutout.
From the opening bell, the Sheffield-based switch-hitter marched forward and landed blows to head and body at will. Mairena landed the odd single shot in return, but he was completely out of his depth against a vastly more experienced and accomplished opponent. Galahad is mandatory challenger for the IBF featherweight title which is being contested by champion Josh Warrington and challenger Carl Frampton on Dec. 22.
Rising junior middleweight prospect Anthony Fowler made short work of Jose Carlos Paz, knocking out the Argentinian with a single left hand to the solar plexus in the opening round. The official time was 1:33.
Fowler did the job two rounds quicker than reigning WBO 154-pound titleholder Jaime Munguia who knocked out Paz in three earlier this year. This was Fowler’s first scheduled 10-rounder.
Tom Gray is Associate Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing
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