Fight fans still hoping to see Kell Brook engage in a high-profile domestic clash with Amir Khan in the near future will have to wait a little longer as the reigning IBF welterweight champion closes in on a bout against formidable American contender Errol Spence Jr.
'The Truth' became the mandatory challenger for that 147 lbs strap by stopping Leonardo Bundu in a final eliminator last August, although he is yet to receive his maiden world title shot. Instead, Brook stepped up two divisions in September 2016 and underwent surgery on a fractured eye socket sustained while unsuccessfully challenging Gennady Golovkin for his middleweight belts.
A meeting with Khan has been the priority since then. However, ongoing negotiations appeared to reach a critical impasse last month when his bitter British rival declared during an interview with ITV's flagship daytime programme This Morning that Brook "doesn't want the fight" and had "just walked away from it". 'Special K' strenuously denied those claims and promoter Eddie Hearn insisted that they were unwilling to accept a 70-30 purse split.
There have also been suggestions that Brook could even choose to vacate the title he has held since beating Shawn Porter in 2014 and subsequently defended in straightforward fashion against Jo Jo Dan, Frankie Gavin and Kevin Bizier. Many are eager for him to make the permanent jump to light-middleweight, although the Sheffield native claims he has never been one to avoid a tough test.
"All that work just to give it up? Never ducked a challenge in my life," he wrote on Twitter. "Here to give the fans what they want @ErrolSpenceJr you are next."
Addressing the subject in a recent column for The Mail, Hearn, who has also held talks with Manny Pacquiao's camp and representatives of Miguel Cotto, said: "Social media is a funny thing. I was bemused to see comments on Twitter this week that Kell Brook wants to swerve a fight with Errol Spence – pretty odd as he just went toe-to-toe with Gennady Golovkin. You'd think that after going in for a fight like that, people would credit Kell with having some balls."
He added: "Kell does not want to vacate. In fact, he is desperate not to. Spence is his mandatory and it is Spence who he wants to fight. Now that fight is very close to being made. The only way we would not do it is if Amir Khan comes about, but he wants a tune-up fight first, so I'd hope to make the Spence fight in the next week."
Last week, the IBF granted a seven-day extension for the Brook vs Spence Jr purse bid following talks between Hearn and Tom Brown of TGB Promotions. Bids must now be submitted by 11.45 ET on Tuesday 14 February. Spence Jr, a former US amateur champion and Olympic quarter-finalist who boasts a 100% record and 18 knockouts from 21 professional fights, has indicated a willingness to travel across the Atlantic to realise his world title ambition.
Hearn, meanwhile, believes the fight would likely take place in late May and could be held either in the United States or the United Kingdom. Both Brook and Khan feature alongside Terence Crawford and Jeff Horn in a social media poll conducted by Pacquiao to help determine his next opponent for a contest in the United Arab Emirates.