AMIR KHAN and Kell Brook, two of the best British fighters in boxing history, are set to collide on February 19 in a Manchester grudge match-cum-swansong showdown.

This bout, which will be broadcast by Sky Sports, is many years in the making. In truth, too many. Five years ago, when a scrap between the two was one of the most anticipated in the entire sport, Khan, chasing greatness, piled on the pounds to challenge Canelo Alvarez in a May 2016 catchweight (155lbs) contest. The following month, Brook also made a brief stop at middleweight to take on the fearsome Gennady Golovkin. Both Britons suffered courageous but damaging stoppage defeats; Khan was knocked out of consciousness in round six and Brook’s right eye socket was broken before he was rescued in the fifth. 

Both ended their missions in hospital. Neither has been the same since. Khan didn’t fight for the next two years. Following wins over Phil Lo Greco and Samuel Vargas in 2018, Khan was stopped in the sixth round by Terence Crawford in April 2019. His only subsequent action was a farcical win in Dubai over Billy Dib that July. Brook, meanwhile, returned to 147lbs in 2017 when his left eye socket was fractured in a gruelling loss to Errol Spence Jnr. The Sheffield star next fought in 2018, beating Sergey Rabchenko and Michael Zerafa. He knocked out Mark De Luca in July last year before the aforementioned Crawford underlined Kell’s decline with a vicious fourth round stoppage in December.

Some will say the contest is better late than never. Others believe better never than too late. It would be unfair to criticise the fighters for taking it and earning well in the process, however. One can argue it’s the least they deserve. Khan and Brook have given so much of themselves to boxing. Any concern expressed here is born of huge respect for them both.

Promoter Ben Shalom told TalkSport: “I think it’s a fight that every boxing fan has wanted for years and years and there’s been a lot of competition – every promoter has wanted it, no matter what’s being said and what isn’t being said.”

The bout seems certain to generate a lot of interest. It will be sold as a can’t-miss attraction. Plenty of fans will likely find it too difficult to resist. But whether boxing, the most brutal and unforgiving of all sports, really needs this high-profile fight between two war-torn heroes is another debate entirely. A debate that is likely futile.

Because for 34-year-old Khan and 35-year-old Brook, two fearless fighters who will soon be forced to come to terms with the end of their careers, this last battle is their need and want.