Sheffield’s former IBF world welterweight champion Kell Brook returns from a 14-month ring absence to face Whitman, Massachusetts super-welterweight Mark ‘The Bazooka’ DeLuca (24-1-0, 13 Ko’s) at The Sheffield Arena on Saturday, 2nd February. The Matchroom Boxing card includes Kid Galahad in an IBF featherweight eliminator against Dominican Claudio Marrero and Yorkshire lass Teri Harper the IBO female world super-featherweight titleholder in a unification fight against Finland’s WBC champion Eva Wahlstrom and will be streamed in the USA by DAZN and shown on Sky Sports in the UK.
Brook (38-2-0, 26 Ko’s) will be 34-years-old in May and due to his rare ring outings, since he lost his world title to Errol Spence Jr at Bramall Lane back in 2017, it seems that he has wasted an important part of his career waiting for Amir Khan to face him in a huge British grudge match.
Brook’s last fight, a wide unanimous point’s decision over Australian Michael Zerafa has started to look better since the Aussie upset former WBO 147lb champion, Jeff Horn, in Bendigo, before losing a controversial majority decision in the rematch in Brisbane 4 months later.
It might have been interesting if Brook had gone to America to face Jarrett Hurd, Julian Williams, Jarrell Charlo, and Tony Harrison. Most fans would have given him little chance but ‘The Special One’ as Brook likes to be known, was given little or no chance when he took the IBF belt from Shawn Porter in 2014.
The decision to move up 2-weight divisions to face the then rampaging knockout artist Gennady Golovkin in 2016 for the unified middleweight titles was not a move made with too much thought for Brook’s long-term career prospects. I understand that life-changing paydays matter, but that one knocked a lot of miles off the clock for the Sheffield stylist. The 5th round stoppage was compounded by a broken eye socket that required surgery to repair and strengthen the injury.
When Errol Spence Jr came to Bramall Lane (Sheffield United Football Club) 8 months later to challenge Brook, Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn made it clear that Brook should give up the belt and move up to the 154lb limit. Brook decided to strip off the new muscle he had gained for the GGG fight, and although he pushed the Texan harder than he had ever been pushed before, the youth, strength and talent of the American was just too much for him and resulted in an 11th round stoppage and another broken eye socket.
At this stage, many high earning fighters might have called it a day, but comeback wins over Siarhei Rabchenko (Ko 2) and Zerafa showed that Brook still had something to give.
Mark DeLuca is a 31-year-old southpaw who while he has faced some decent opponents during his 12 years as a pro, he has never boxed an opponent anywhere near the talent of Brook. Has the Sheffield man grown old overnight? It’s always possible, but long-time trainer Dominic Ingle would know if he had, and while Ingle and Brook had a short split from working together, they are back together and that makes me think we are going to see a good performance from Brook.
Prediction: Brook to win a wide points decision.