Kell Brook vs Mark DeLuca Preview

Brook will hope DeLuca proves to be nothing more than a tune-up to shake off the rust, before seeking the significant fights at either 147lbs or 154lbs. DeLuca has amassed a decent record of 24-1-0; however, it lacks a name of any significance. The New England man will hope to remedy this by causing an upset and bolstering his resume with Brook’s scalp.

To say former IBF welterweight world champion Brook (38-2-0) has had a stop-start career would be, to put it mildly.

Brook turned professional in 2004 and had a meteoric rise through the pro ranks. He won the British title outright and took impressive wins over the likes of Mick Jennings and Matthew Hatton, two former world title challengers. He also bested former world champion Lovemore Ndou. Amongst others, these victories preceded an impressive dismantling of the man who ruined Ricky Hatton’s comeback, Vyacheslav Senchenko. After blowing away Senchenko in the fourth, Brook’s crack at world honours became a formality; it was just a case of who and when.

His long-desired shot came in the shape of unbeaten American Shawn Porter when the two men locked horns in August 2014 in Carson, California. Brook, a betting underdog that night, travelled to Porter’s backyard and snatched the title from the Ohio man by way of a twelve round majority division. It was by far Brook’s best night in the ring.

Kell had finally achieved his lifelong dream of becoming a world champion. The world was at his feet, and the sky was the limit. The possibilities for his next fight were merely endless. In the following weeks, Brook’s name was mentioned with the elite names of the division. The likes of Mayweather, Pacquiao, Marquez and Garcia were mentioned, along with an all-British super-fight with Amir Khan, and a fight Brook had long called desired. Sadly, none of these super fights materialised.

Brook, who was stabbed once before in 2007, was sadly stabbed again in the leg when on holiday in Tenerife in September 2014 with his pregnant wife. The wretched incident happened just mere months after his title triumph against Porter. The extent of Kell’s injuries threatened both his life and his career. Fortunately, both endured.

A period of recovery followed, and Brook returned six months on in March 2015 with a comfortable triumph over JoJo Dan. Former elite amateur Frankie Gavin followed in 2015. Brook again prevailed comfortably. Brook was then due to fight Argentinian Diego Chaves, fresh from his draw against pound-for-pound star Tim Bradley. Infuriatingly, a rib injury left Brook side-lined and gave him no option but to withdraw from the bout. The Ingle charge eventually returned against Kevin Bizier in March 2016, when he blew away the Canadian in only the second innings. Brook, who by this point was 35-0-0, demanded the huge fight that had eluded him to this point, and yet again called out Amir Khan.

Talks of a unification fight with WBO champ Jessie Vargas followed, and a fight was allegedly close to being confirmed for September 2016, but disappointingly negotiations fell by the wayside. After the breakdown of dialogue between Eubank Jr and pound-for-pound king Gennady Golovkin, Brook spectacularly agreed to attempt to emulate the great Sugar Ray Leonard, by jumping up two divisions to middleweight to take on champion Kazakh.

Granted, Brook got a career-high payday in the Golovkin fight, but in reality, he had no business being in the ring with GGG that night. The other man was far too big and far too talented.

Brook did have some success early, landing clean shots on his opponent in the first and second, but they had no lasting effect on the champion. Golovkin marched through Brook’s artillery and began to dismantle Brook devastatingly. In the third Brook suffered a fractured eye socket, which left him seeing double, as if one Gennady Golovkin marching you down wasn’t enough. The Sheffield man was on the receiving end of substantial punishment, and to save him from further damage Dominic Ingle threw in the towel in the fifth.

With hindsight, it’s easy to say Brook should not have taken the fight, but fighters crave the most significant fights available. Also, Kell was rightly paid a considerable fee and had the opportunity to shock the planet by beating the world’s best active fighter. It was billed a win-win for Brook, as nobody expected him to beat GGG, and were in awe of his bravery to even take the fight. Sadly, the eye injury proved it that it certainly was not a win-win. Another lengthy spell away from the ring followed as Brook recuperated from surgery to his eye socket.

Over the subsequent months, much debate followed regarding which weight division Brook should return. After a long period of inactivity, many in boxing questioned whether Brook could make 147lbs anymore, and a move to 154 was on the cards. Yet, at 147lbs Brook still had the IBF title, and to his credit he decided to fight his mandatory to try and stay a champion rather than vacate. The only problem, however, was that his mandatory was rising star, Errol Spence.

The two squared off in May 2017 at the home of Sheffield United, Bramall Lane. Despite Kell having the home advantage, it was common consensus the upcoming American superstar would triumph, particularly with Brook now coming back to welterweight after his time out and jump to middleweight. Tragically for Kell, the common consensus was right.

Brook started superbly to his credit. He backed up Spence on several occasions and landed clean shots, but the more the fight went on, the more the Texan came back. He began to bully Brook and began to unload big and powerful shots. Freakishly, Brook suffered the same injury he experienced against GGG, and again he fractured his eye socket. Spence beat him down into submission, and the home fighter failed to rise for the referee’s count. Despite suggestions that Brook quit, he did fight valiantly until that point, meeting Spence head-on. The American was just too good. Brook could have avoided Spence and made excuses about weight, but he didn’t. He took the toughest fight available and wasn’t quite good enough.

Yet another lengthy period of inactivity followed, and once more Brook’s future was up in the air. Talks of a showdown with Khan followed again. Khan stated he needed a comeback fight before fighting Brook at 147lbs, the only weight at which he would meet Kell. Brook was insistent he would only fight at that weight for Khan, and Khan only. Following Amir’s stint in the jungle, he signed with Matchroom, and for once the fight between the Bolton and Sheffield men looked as though it may finally happen, albeit two years too late.

Both returned in early 2018 with comfortable wins. Khan over Le Greco and Brook took a solid victory over Belarusian Siarhei Rabchanka. After Khan beat Samuel Vargas with a dodgy performance in Birmingham, it looked as though the fight was going to happen.

It did not.

Khan instead opted for a tilt at superstar Terence Crawford in New York, which he lost. Brook, on the other hand, was in an excellent position to challenge Jarrett Hurd for the 154lbs titles, as he was top of the WBA rankings. For some reason, this fight never came close to happening. Things went quiet for an extended period for Kell, and the boxing world began to speculate that he may never fight again.

After another period of dormancy, Brook left the Ingles to train with John Fewkes for a return to the ring. He re-emerged with a below the bar display in December 2018, when he struggled to a victory against Australian Michael Zerafa. That win, however, looks a little more respectable given Zerafa’s brutal dismantling of former WBO welterweight champion Jeff Horn, and their subsequent razor-tight rematch, which on that occasion was taken by the former Pacquaio-conquerer.

After Brook’s less than impressive display, he returned to Wincobank and hooked up once more with Dominic Ingle. Fast forward fourteen months and here we are today.

Brook should take a routine win come Saturday, but his subsequent fight should be nothing but a meaningful contest. And it’s not like he doesn’t have options. A battle with the ex-world champion and 154lb contender Liam Smith has long been discussed, with the two having sparred before. Both are tidy come forward fighters, and I am confident a contest between the two former world champions would confidently be nothing but a barnstormer and could undoubtedly headline any arena in the UK.

The Khan fight is still there; however, one would think if that were going to happen, it would have by now, and the interest in that contest has much faded. It would still be a good fight but would surely not be the stadium fight it could have been when both were in their prime. In reality, I think Amir is to blame for that bout not coming to fruition when it could have on countless occasions before. There are also champions at 154lbs Brook could face, and the division is wide open with the belts in that weight-class changing hands at a surprising frequency.

Whatever happens, what Brook has achieved cannot be sneered at by anybody. He won and defended his world title, won the British outright, challenged two pound-for-pound superstars and made some decent money to boot. However, you could forgive someone for thinking he has not quite achieved all he is or perhaps was, capable of producing. Injuries and a reported lack of dedication between camps have left Brook unable to capitalise on his world title triumph way back in 2014.

Some issues have been his fault, but most have not. Khan has chased mega-money fights with Mayweather and Pacquiao and despite saying he would no longer pursue them; he still calls them out frequently. His interests seem to lay beyond Kell Brook. Whatever happens, Brook simply cannot afford to waste any more time. His best years could well be behind him. It’s hard not to look at his record and think what if, and any more injuries or spells of inactivity could leave that to be his legacy in boxing. I hope that is not the case.

For Saturday’s bout, however, I predict a resounding Brook victory in his hometown, even if he has half of his abilities left, they should suffice for DeLuca, but this is boxing, anything really can happen. I pray a victory for Brook will precede an all-British showdown against either Liam Smith or Amir Khan.

By Aaron Ludford for SimBoxx

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