Brook is hot as Kell among welterweights

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images


IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook, 33-0 (22), will defend his title against No. 1 mandatory challenger Jo Jo Dan, 34-2 (18) on March 28 at the Motorpoint Arena in his hometown of Sheffield, England. The unbeaten, 28-year-old Brook will make the first defence of his title on a card billed “Unbreakable” that will be broadcast on Showtime in the United States and carried on the Sky Sports network in Europe.


Brook knows an impressive showing against Dan could lead to bigger fights. Perhaps a victory might even lead to a shot at the winner of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao blockbuster fight coming up on May 2?


Brook took the belt off then-champion Shawn Porter last August in a very impressive, career-best performance that turned heads and brought Brook’s profile to mass appeal among fight fans. Unfortunately after the title-winning effort, in a terrifying incident, Brook was stabbed with a machete while on vacation in Tenerife. After the life-threatening scare, Brook spoke to the press.


“Blood was spurting everywhere, panicking, thinking I was going to die. The attack was unprovoked. One minute we were chatting, the next I was being macheted up. There was blood squirting out of my leg. I could see death, my life flashing in front of me. [The attacker] stood over me shouting and swearing and I scrambled away. All I remember is thinking about my daughter and that I needed to get away from this. There was so much blood; I was covered in it. I really feared for my life.”


Now miraculously recovered and rejuvenated, Brook is confident heading into the ring for his first defence after seeing his life, much less his career, flash before his eyes. In recent interviews, he expressed gratification about his recovery and excitement as he anticipated his hometown title defence.


“I feel so emotional right now,” said Brook. “I laid in the hospital thinking I might not walk again – now I am defending my belt at home. I am looking to get my mandatory out the way and get the big fights.” But as the old saying goes, “Winning the belt is hard; keeping it is harder.” And Brook knows Dan is looking at the opportunity of a lifetime. As a result, Brook is not taking his opponent lightly.


“[Dan] has worked hard to get his shot and he’ll give it his all. I am not looking past him; I was a mandatory too like he is. But I am going to work even harder to keep the belt that I earned.”


Former light welterweight champion and British star Ricky Hatton also spoke recently about Brook. And it is clear; Hatton, one of boxing’s biggest stars in his heyday, certainly likes what he sees in Brook. “I was very impressed with the way Kell won his world title,” said Hatton. “I know as well as anyone how hard it is to go to America and beat one of their champions. A lot of people might not know much about his opponent but you don’t get to be a mandatory challenger without being a world-class fighter and he’ll give his all. That said, I think Kell will shine and then move on to those big fights he’s chasing for later in the year,” said the “Hitman.”


Dan earned his shot by defeating Kevin Bizier at the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada last December. It was the second time Dan got by Bizier by split decision having bested him back in Nov. of 2013 (the previously undefeated Bizier’s only two losses have come at the hands of Dan).


The Romania-born, Quebec resident Dan will have to bring the very best he has on fight night as Brook looked very sharp against Porter. However, the task at hand didn’t seem to faze the quietly confident Dan. In speaking to the press, Jo Jo, born Ionut Dan Ion, seemed both confident and excited about the biggest fight of his career.


“I am going there to get the belt,” he said. “I will be in the best shape. [Brook] is a well-deserved champion but his reign stops March 28. Kell has not fought anyone like me.  I believe in myself and I don’t think he can bring anything I can’t deal with on fight night. I saw his last fight where he won the world title and it was a great performance but I just let my team study him in depth and come up with a winning strategy. I have waited a long time to get a world title shot so I am determined to take advantage of this opportunity.  My prediction for the fight is simple: Jo Jo Dan becomes the new IBF welterweight world champion.”


Brook, thrilled to be punching the clock in front of his hometown fans, is equally excited to defend his title and move on to bigger and better things. “After everything that’s happened over the last six months, it feels incredible knowing I will be defending my world title in Sheffield. I’m not looking past Jo Jo. I know he will bring the heat but I want to get this mandatory defence done and then target those mega-fights that are out there in the division,” Brook said. “I know he feels he worked so hard to get into the mandatory position just like I did but I will be working twice as hard to keep the belt that I earned. After May 2nd, there will only be two champions in the division – myself and Floyd or Manny. I want to unify this division in style.”


It sounds like Brook and Dan both have their eyes on a prize.


Brook wants to position himself for a shot at Manny or Floyd, the elite mega-stars of the division. Dan wants to head home to North America, back to boxing-crazed Quebec, as their newest world champion.


The world waits on Floyd vs. Manny – the welterweight championship fight everyone is talking about – but with Brook and Dan, two very motivated fighters, don’t catch yourself sleeping. This South Yorkshire slugfest has the ingredients to be the other welterweight championship fight everyone is talking about.



Boxing notes and quotes from this past week…


* Former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback free agent Tim Tebow spent three hours at the Wild Card Boxing Club watching Manny Pacquiao train this past Saturday. Afterward, Tebow described the session as “phenomenal and inspiring.”


* Michael Buffer will be calling the introduction in Sheffield, England for Brook vs. Dan and the legendary, Hall of Fame announcer is pumped. “Sheffield has a proven record of supporting its fighting heroes. Saturday night, March 28 will be electric! I can’t wait!”


* WBA “regular” welterweight champion Keith Thurman on Manny vs. Floyd: “If Floyd wants to win hands-down, he’s gonna win hands-down. If Floyd wants to make it controversial, he’ll make it controversial. If Floyd wants to not get touched, he won’t get touched. He’s not gonna be on the ropes; he’s not gonna give Manny Pacquiao a shot. Manny’s gonna have to work for everything come May 2nd.”


* Hot, new fighter. Old-school schedule: Unbeaten middleweight and Golden Boy Promotions prospect Jason Quigley is staying busy as he’s set to go again on April 30 in Indio, Calif. That’ll be his third bout in less than eight weeks.


* Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach on the report that Floyd Mayweather Jr. had hired a personal chef at $1,000 per meal: “Whatever it is, it sure sounds expensive. I hope she knows how to make crow and soft foods palatable because after he faces Manny, that is all Mayweather will be eating…thousand-dollar meals. Give me a break.”


*WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson on WBA/IBF/WBO titlist Sergey Kovalev: “To be honest, his performance versus Jean Pascal did not impress me at all.”


* Just can’t stay away: Brazilian former two-division world champion Acelino “Popo” Freitas returns on June 6 at Arena Santos in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Freitas, 39, retired in 2007, then returned for one bout in 2012.


*R.I.P. popular Australian featherweight (and aspiring law student) Braydon Smith, who passed away at 23 in a Brisbane hospital after losing a ten round decision to Filipino John Vincent Moralde in Queensland, Australia last weekend.



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