IBF World welterweight champion Kell Brook meets mandatory challenger Jo Jo Dan this Saturday at Sheffield’s vibrant Motorpoint Arena in front 10,000 fans eager to welcome home their favourite son in style.
It will be Brook’s first defence of his crown, won in hostile territory when outpointing the feared American Shawn Porter in August of 2014.
Yorkshire above most, if not all, UK regions embodies the Ricky Hatton-esque spirit of the British boxing fan. You know what I’m talking about, that intangible connection between fan and fighter, which remains the envy of world boxing.
It’s hard to imagine a replication of the atmosphere generated recently by Josh Warrington in Leeds when demolishing Davide Dieli to claim the EBU featherweight title anywhere else.
Riotous doesn’t go close to describing the scenes.
How such a bond is explained is a point of debate, but one assertion beyond the realms of doubt is that in Sheffield it took root in the St Thomas’ Gym in Wincobank at the hands of Brendon Ingle, the home of so many of the Steel City’s greats including Kell Brook.
Disruptive youths harnessed and educated in the unmistakable Ingle philosophy to produce domestic, European and World champions for a community to be proud of throughout some difficult times for the working class stronghold.
Brook will defend his IBF strap a little over 7 months after his tremendous majority decision victory over Porter in front of adoring fans cultivated by his contemporaries Herol Graham, Ryan Rhodes, Junior Witter, Johnny Nelson and Prince Naseem Hamed in the belief that he has the ability to surpass them all.
The Porter performance was a supreme display of patience, poise and technique that would suggest that is very much a possibility. A performance the champion was worthy of higher recognition within the wider boxing community.
“I don’t think that I got enough credit for the win,” said Brook.
“Before the fight people were saying that I hadn’t been in with anyone and I said that after I beat Shawn Porter, ‘the Mike Tyson of the 147lb division’, give me the respect that I deserve.
“Everybody agreed but I still don’t really feel I have had the respect for going into the guy’s backyard and doing what people said I couldn’t do and beat him, school him.” He continued.
Sadly for Kell, his career defining performance was over shadowed by an horrific machete attack whilst on holiday, which almost cost him his life in a cruel twist that only fate would appear to be capable of.
“Winning the title was an unbelievable buzz and for two weeks I was flying but after the attack, I was down in the gutter,” He said.
Instead of the credence the champion feel’s he deserves, he was faced with questions over his capability to reach the levels previously achieved this side of such a traumatic experience.
Understandable some might say, but Kell Brook is no stranger to the despairing feeling that your career is getting away from you. On two occasions the Yorkshireman saw his World title aspirations drift into the distance in the wake of injury and multiple cancellations of his mandatory date with then champion Devon Alexander.
Kell Brook has passed the character test with flying colours on numerous occasions, so his ability to do it again is beyond question.
“I’ve come a long way from the injury, not knowing where I would be with the leg. I’ve put it under severe stress in a full camp and I have had no problems with it. It was hard at the beginning but we took baby steps and slowly but surely we got up to full speed and the night couldn’t come quick enough to defend the title in my hometown – it’s going to be so emotional.
“The leg is fine, I do everything that I used to do, there’s no pain and it’s not holding me back at all.” Brook concluded.
Well-travelled Romanian-born Dan has earned his shot at Kell’s crown and will come with ambition. Sadly for him, he is a league below Brook who belongs at the pinnacle of the elite division in boxing.
His come forward style will suit Brook, whose ability to negate and punish such a style was evident against the best bull in the division last time out. I expect the Brit to display his ice-cold composure once more, dissecting the reckless challenger to stop him inside 8 rounds.
It’s time for Brook to put despair to one side and begin to enjoy his hard earned success and what better way to do that than celebrating with a victory in front of his adoring public.