When recently asked about the highlights of his illustrious boxing career, Floyd Mayweather gave an interesting answer amongst the staple titles and match ups he's hoovered up in the last decade. It was a statement that surprised the interviewer in the way his eyes lit up at the memory of it and the way it seemed to deviate away from his perceived personal narcissism. It didn't even belong on the inside of the ropes either, it belonged on the outside of them. Quite simply it was 'the noise Ricky Hatton's fans made at their fight in Vegas. I'll never forget that,' Floyd gushed.
That statement might seem an odd one to boxing fans on the other side of the Atlantic but to us it's a verification of what we've known for years: boxing is as much part of our sporting heritage as football, and maybe more so in echoing the aspirations of the working man. It's always been like that of course, from the halcyon days of Henry Cooper to the glorious eighties and those ITV boxing specials - the relationship between the sport and its audience in this country has had a spectacular duality. So much so in fact that even the influence of pay per view and satellite domination hasn't quite managed to remove the atmosphere and sense of participation in the sport the way it certainly has in America.
Plainly, if the over-riding sense of those big fight nights in Las Vegas is the clinking of ice cubes round bored corporate glasses, at least in Britain you can pick up on the fervour and excitement on the outside of the ropes. At least you get the feeling that they're into it.
A lot of credit for this in the modern era of course has to go to Eddie Hearn. There's no doubt he's a fantastic promoter who's had to manage a difficult balance between maintaining a relationship with the satellite masters and trying not to dilute and alienate the sports grass roots fan base. If the recent Joshua/Whyte fight was anything to go by he's managing it superbly. From a packed Arena to people scrambling to bars to catch the action, boxing has become a real social event these days but there's a downside to it too. Scratch beneath the surface and there's an emperors new clothes feel about these lauded, financially lucrative promotions. In truth Hearn' master stroke has always been in putting a brilliant undercard on at his events to mask the fragility of his top billing. Outside of the media hyperbole, it's undeniable that these main event fights have had little or no meaning in the business end of boxing. From Froch vs Groves to the sight of an overweight Dillian Whyte being pummelled through the ropes like an irate Saturday night punter, the cynical truth may well be that the purest talent may not be with the fighters themselves but those in the Armani pr suits being able to sell it so well.
There is a fight out there however which stands out a mile as being both homegrown and oozing with two fighters who belong in the elite world class of boxing. If you cast a wishful look to the camps of Kell Brook and Amir Khan in fact then basically you have a super fight waiting to happen that will match anything coming out of the States in the next 12 months (and yes that includes Canelo vs Golovkin ).
For a start they seem so closely matched. On the one hand the electric speed and experience of Khan versus the undoubted power Brook would bring to the ring. Technically that would provide a fascinating clash of styles that would be pretty hard to call. There probably hasn't been a top level fight on these shores that felt like that since Hatton defeated Kostya Tszyu and certainly not one with such an edge since Benn first went to war with Eubank. Brook and Khan genuinely do not like each other. They were sparring partners in their amateur days and regularly call each other out on social media as to who won the rounds in those sessions. If there's that level of resentment from their head guard days, imagine how much it would ramp up in the build up to a world title fight. Even before a punch was thrown, the media face offs would be priceless.
The main stumbling block to the fight unfortunately seems to be Amir Khan himself. Because of a couple of early defeats Khan has always had this obsession with being seen as an authentic fighter in the States. He's craved as being seen as a valid boxer, often taking on tougher fights than he has to just to prove it. He's also been pretty naive at times in the ring too. His defeat to Garcia and his war with Maidana basically came out of the same rhetoric, throwing away a winning game plan to try and put on a show. What his ex trainer Freddie Roach called 'standing in the pocket for too long.'
In Khan's eyes Brook simply hasn't served that sort of apprenticeship, but the point he's missing is one that stands out a mile. Khan has built himself up to a proposed super fight in the States which ironically by the time he gets it just won't be seen as cutting edge. With Mayweather stuttering towards retirement and Pacquiao now suffering with injuries, even if he defeated those fighters he'd still have people saying they were past his best. Even if Brook hasn't fought the same sort of elite fighters that Khan has, it seems masochistic for the Bolton fighter to keep on taking on dangerous, cutting edge fights on the flip side of the Atlantic when there's a huge, lucrative purse and a world title waiting on these shores for him.
Brook of course isn't stupid either. He knows a defeat of Khan would fast track his name in the States and that probably gets under Khan's skin as well. Brook without his nemesis however could well find himself in limbo too. Too dangerous a puncher for the big guys to want to fix sharp against and not really a household name to bring in the vast audiences into the outdoors, the Sheffield man could find himself living out of a permanent suitcase. Scrabbling for lesser purses and defending his title in small arenas his undoubted talents don't deserve
The potential match up therefore is perfect for both fighters and not least for British boxing itself. For as far as the appetite for the sport seems as healthier as ever in this country, what it really needs is a blue riband fight on the horizon to whet the appetite and cement itself worldwide into the consciousness of boxing. Khan versus Brook seems to tick every box on that level. Here's hoping to god that in 2016 it finally happens.