Kicking things off on Showtime on Saturday at 6:15 p.m. ET from the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, England will be hometown hero and IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook (33-0 22) making the first defense of his strap against Romanian born Canadian Jo Jo Dan (34-2 18 KO). This bout will be shown live in the US and is part of Showtime Boxing International.
Last August, Kell Brook was on top of the world after a masterful performance in defeating Shawn Porter by majority decision and taking his IBF welterweight title. Less than a month later the new titlist would be fighting again, albeit this time in a hospital, not in a ring.
Brook was involved in an unprovoked attack while on vacation in Tenerife, Spain and was slashed over his left thigh with a machete. Brook lost blood at an alarming rate as the fear of death hit his subconscious. The rest is a blur as he woke up in a hospital bed recovering from hours of surgery that required a blood transfusion and the closing of the wound with over fifty stitches and staples.
“I don’t know how much blood I lost but I was told it was a lot,” Brook said. “I couldn’t understand much but I heard ‘critical’, it was so scary. I was panicking, “Will I fight again? Will I walk again?” The doctors couldn’t say, but they were so calm”
A traumatic event such as that would delay most from continuing on their journey but not “Special K”, a champion is built of a different cloth. After months of rehabilitation with no lingering effects, the champion is ready to fulfill his role.
“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 defense done and then target those mega fights that are out there in the division.”
Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn spoke about Brook’s return,
“March 28 will be an emotional night for Kell and the team; I remember being by his bedside in September in a Spanish hospital after that horrific knife attack, it looked like his career was over. He has shown incredible physical and mental strength and looks better than ever in camp. Fans on Showtime will get to see, in my opinion, the best 147-pounder in the world light up a 10,000 sell-out arena on March 28.”
Born Ionut Dan Ion, but using the ring name and alias Jo Jo Dan, is a southpaw who comes into this shot at the title on the strength of five straight wins which included two wins over Kevin Bizier, one of which was his last fight a split decision last December. His only two losses have been to the Turkish Warrior, Selcuk Aydin, one by split decision and one by unanimous decision although that fight was also very close on the cards.
Dan is confident in his chances against Brook,
“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.”
This fight should be a chess match early as both fighters adapt to the other’s speed and style. Dan will move forward aggressively as he has shown in the past but can also box and mixes up his punches nicely when needed. Dan tends to reach with some of his shots and his defense in not always tight so he will have to be wary of Brook’s speed.
This will be Brook’s first test in an actual fight after the leg injury. His sparring and training have gone extremely well but the true test will come here in this “real world” scenario. Dan is an active fighter who will pressure Brook but his aggressiveness may be his undoing. Brook is an excellent counter puncher and his movement and feints should provide openings for those counters. Brook’s ring IQ is solid and he will look to execute all of the best practices for success when an orthodox fighter faces a southpaw. He hasn’t faced one in several years but has beaten multiple southpaws in his career all by stoppage.
This fight is billed as “UnbreaKable” a reference to Brook’s resolve after what could have had a fatal outcome. Brook understands that he was given a second chance and has a great desire to not only defend his title here but to move forward and possibly face the winner of another “high profile” welterweight matchup occurring on May 2.
Wherever his journey takes him, one thing’s for sure, he’s already won no matter what life throws at him.
Portions of this article contributed to BTG.