Gus Devlin previews this weekend's Kell Brook vs Mark DeLuca title fight:
Brook returns to the ring for the first time in 14 months, as he bids to relaunch his career once more in his 16th year as a pro.
Kell Brook (38-2, 26KO) will take on WBA #7 Mark De Luca (24-1, 13KO) at the FlyDSA Arena in Sheffield in a 12-round WBO Inter-Continental super-welterweight contest, live on Sky Sports.
The WBO Inter-Continental strap has only just been confirmed on fight week, it’s a title that Brook has won previously at welterweight back in 2010, shortly after becoming an outright winner of the Lonsdale belt, which he won and defended three times in 13 months between June 2008 to July 2009.
‘Special K’, who has not boxed in over a year, has crept into the shadows of anonymity. At one time, a showdown with bitter rival with Amir Khan was deemed the most wanted fight in the country by many, but now any talk of Brook-Khan is shrugged off in indifference and even annoyance, as seemingly no one really wants to see it anymore now that both boxers are now past their prime in their twilight years – Brook is 34 and Khan seven months younger at 33.
The highly talked about clash with ‘King’ Khan has plummeted in stock because of the extended duration since discussions began, the argument over splits, the blaming, the excuses, the egos… because of all this, boxing fans have fallen out of favour with the ‘The Special One’.
Since back to back defeats to pound for pound superstars, both unbeaten bogeymen at the time, Gennadiy Golovkin (35-0) and Errol Spence Jr (21-0) in 2016 and 2017 respectively, Brook has only fought twice since, both times in 2018.
But can he rekindle the love with a special performance on February 8th?
The former IBF welterweight champion defeated Sergey Rabchenko (29-2) and Michael Zerafa (25-2) in his previous two showings and will be looking for an explosive act against DeLuca to elevate his name back into the contention for big fights once again, in what will be his last roll of the dice.
‘Bazooka’ DeLuca will be no easy task with only one defeat in his career, a points loss to Walter Wright, which he avenged immediately after in his next fight.
However, despite starting boxing at the age of three-years-old, encouraged by his police officer father who ran the local police boxing gym in Massachusetts, he has only ever fought at domestic level.
The two-time American super-welterweight champion was still doing six-rounders against insignificant opponents while Kell Brook was celebrating a career-best IBF world title win over ‘Showtime’ Shawn Porter.
The former world champion has declared that this fight will be win or retire, when speaking on the Bunce and Costello 5Live podcast, “If I get beaten by DeLuca, I’ll announce my retirement in the ring”, he avowed, making a rod for his own back.
A bold statement by Brook, perhaps fair though considering, which speaks either volumes of his confidence in winning this upcoming bout or an uncertainty if he still has what it takes to mix it at the very top levels.
The consecutive defeats to Golovkin and Spence Jr sent Brook spiraling downwards into a state of depression in May 2017 after losing his International Boxing Federation welterweight title. Since then, the Sheffield hero has been highly inactive, gracing the ring just three times in three years.
A motivated, fully fit Brook timing his punches with precision and power should be able to deal with the 41st opponent of his career with little problem. The American’s alias suggests he can dig but his record and recent history tells otherwise. He stands in that awkward southpaw stance, but a man of Brook’s caliber and experience has seen it all before.
He doesn’t have anything spectacular in his style; a decent backhand, perhaps. He moves his head well, but not enough to be considered elusive, he’s there to be hit. He is tough, he can take a shot and has never been knocked down or stopped.
Kell Brook, with the home support of Sheffield behind him, will come out fast and sharp and, although DeLuca counts this as his ‘make or break’ fight, one that he will be treating as a world title fight, will not be ready or prepared for the step up in class.
Brook is fit and energetic and always comes into his contests in incredible shape. He has a fantastic jab and is always busy with his volume of punches and activity in the ring. His aggression is pleasing to the eye, as he likes to keep close to his counterpart, applying pressure on the front foot and throws a variety of shots. His right uppercut has surprised a lot of his foes, including ‘GGG’, and his straight right has taken many people down before. He should be a class above the visitor.
Mark DeLuca and his Italian-American family were big fans of world champions Rocky Marciano and Tony ‘Boston Bomber’ DeMarco, as well as local fighter, Marvin Hagler. However, DeLuca is no Marciano or DeMarco, nor is he ‘Marvelous’, and I fully expect to see Brook win inside the distance.
After his valiant effort against IBF featherweight king Josh Warrington, IBF #4 Kid Galahad (26-1, 15KO) has been given another final eliminator with IBF #5 Claudio Marrero (24-3, 17KO), a former WBA interim featherweight champion.
Local Sheffield star, Galahad, who only has one loss on his impressive record, a contentious points defeat in his last fight to current rival Warrington, he will be looking to force the rematch should he win on February 8th.
Rising female talent Terri Harper (9-0, 5KO) aims to add to her IBO world female super-featherweight title as she takes on Eva Wahlstrom (23-1-2, 3KO) for the WBC female world super-featherweight title.
The 39-year-old Finnish boxer was former holder of the WBC belt in 2015 and defended it successfully four times over three years. She relinquished the belt when she stepped up to lightweight to face Irish royalty Katie Taylor, but was widely outpointed in their WBA and IBF world lightweight title fight.
Wahlstrom has a chance to become a two-time WBC world champion, but Denaby’s Harper, managed by Stefy Bull, will look to make history as the first female British fighter to win this green and gold belt at 130lbs in what is only her 1oth professional contest.
Seven months since Dave Allen (17-5-2, 13KO) suffered a grueling points defeat to Liverpool heavyweight hero David Price (24-6), the charismatic heavyweight, known as the ‘White Rhino’, makes his return in a six round contest against an opponent yet to be confirmed.
The 27-year-old has outlined his plans to win the coveted Lonsdale belt, allegedly swapping big money fights for chasing titles in this new stage of his career.
The British heavyweight title is currently in the hands of Greenwich powerhouse Daniel Dubois, however, he won’t be in possession of it for long, as he continues his claim to collect every belt he can on the way to a world title.
Former British, Commonwealth and European super-featherweight champion Martin J Ward (23-1-2, 11KO) takes on WBC FECOMBOX featherweight champion Jesus Amparan (16-1, 14KO) in a 10-round non-title bout.
‘Wardy’ has won four in row since suffering his first and only defeat to WBA international lightweight titleholder James Tennyson (21-2).
Sheffield born, Anthony ‘The Truth’ Tomlinson (11-0, 6KO), 28 from Sheffield, takes on Scottish Area champion Stewart Burt (13-1-1, 1KO) in a 10-round eliminator for the British and Commonwealth welterweight titles, with the winner due to meet champion Chris Jenkins (22-3-3) next.
A prospect in the 168lbs division to keep an eye out for is John Docherty (7-0, 5KO), as he looks to extend his unbeaten record to eight wins in a six-round clash with Czech Republic’s Stansislav Eschner (12-14-1, 6KO).
Super-bantamweight prospect Hopey Price (2-0, 1KO) and Billy Joe Saunders’ super-featherweight protege, Donte Dixon (2-0, 1KO) both aim for a third successive win in the paid ranks.
The 175lbs division welcomes a potential star as Callum Beardow (1-0) looks to make it two wins from two bouts as he fights Pawel Martyniuk (1-3, 1KO).