By Jake Donovan
For Kell Brook, Saturday represents far more than just a title defense. It’s more than a homecoming. What his showdown versus Jo Jo Dan reflects the will of a fighter to overcome any obstacle.
It was in that spirit that the boxing world awaited with baited breath as the unbeaten Brit recovered from wounds suffered during a machete attack while on vacation in Tenerife last fall. His first fight since that incident – and since dethroning then-unbeaten welterweight titlist Shawn Porter – comes on Saturday, as he defends versus Dan from the comfy confines of the Motorpoint Arena in his hometown of Sheffield, England.
The bout will air live on Sky Sports in the U.K. and in a Saturday matinee special edition of Showtime Boxing International in the United States.
Brook (33-0, 22KOs) emerged as the feel good story of 2014 even before his horrific run-in while on holiday. A trip to the United States proved well worth the while, delivering the performance of his career in outpointing Porter over 12 rounds last summer to win a portion of the welterweight crown.
The win comes at a time when there is no richer division in the sport.
At the very top is the upcoming May 2 super fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. Ranking a notch below the pair of superstars are the likes of Brook and rising star Keith Thurman, both of whom are undefeated and in possession of alphabet hardware in posing as the most attractive options absent a shot at the Mayweather-Pacquiao winner.
Of course, Brook has to keep winning in order to remain at the top. Dan has twice proven what can happen when you take your eye off the ball. Kevin Bizier was being groomed for a future title shot before running into the rough-and-tumble Romanian scrapper – who lives and trains out of Canada – in their Nov. ’13 meet.
A similarly close but clear outcome came of their rematch last November, with Dan claiming a well-earned split decision and the right to next challenge for the title.
That moment leads us to Saturday evening in Sheffield, England. Read on to see how the staff at BoxingScene.com believes it will all play out.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS: KELL BROOK vs. JO JO DAN
Ryan Burton (Brook UD): The Brit comes back from the knife attack he suffered last year to win a hard fought but clear decision.
Jake Donovan (Brook late TKO): Color me caught up in the moment. I have to believe Brook enters this fight with a new outlook on life following his disastrous turn during holiday last fall. In that spirit, look for a top-shelf performance from a rejuvenated Brook, which should be way too much for Dan to handle.
Terence Dooley (Brook late TKO): It will be interesting to see how Brook performs in his first fight since he was attacked with a machete. I expect him to start slowly to ease himself in before stepping things up during the middle rounds and stopping Dan around the 10th or 11th round to send his fans home happy.
Steve Kim (Brook UD): Brook is a well-rounded fighter and he has the home canvas advantage.
Peter Lim (Brook late TKO): A brute of a welterweight, Kell Brook looks like your typical neighborhood bully and fights like him too. He will overpower, bust up and break down Jo Jo Dan.
John MacDonald (Brook KO10): If it hadn't been for the machete attack Brook suffered last year, I'd be adamant that Brook stops Dan early. What effect that injury has had in the champion remains to be seen but if he's anywhere near his best he should stop his mandatory challenger late on.
Ryan Maquiñana (Brook UD): Brook proved his quality against Shawn Porter and in this assignment, I think he'll box beautifully for 12 rounds to avoid the dangerous Dan's power shots.
Takahiro Onaga (Brook TKO9): Dan is tough but I suspect Brook will want to make a statement in his first defence.
Per-Ake Persson (Brook Dec.): Brook got hometown advantage - but also the pressure of fighting at home. I think he can handle that and beat Dan, who is good but not quite in Brook´s class.
Cliff Rold (Brook Dec.): Dan has waited a long time for this. That won't matter in the ring. Brook is too quick and will have his hometown rowdy. Dan should last but the points will pile for Brook.
Victor Salazar (Brook mid-to-late TKO): This is a mandatory defense where he should look good in. I don’t think Dan does anything better than Brook. I expect to see Brook maybe look rusty after a 6 month layoff. After a few rounds, I think Brook will dominate.
Reynaldo Sanchez (Brook TKO8): Brook is on another level, Jo Jo Dan is a strong fighter. However, I think the experience and Brook power make a difference.
Alexey Sukachev (Brook UD): Brook is just excellent. At least, he was excellent against Shawn Porter, and that says a lot. However, Brook has a tendency to downplay to his opponent's potential sometimes. No other welterweight forces the other to downplay his own potential better than the tricky Romanian - just ask Selcuk Aydin and Kevin Bizier. But the gap in class will show in any case. So, it's either an easy outclassing of the challenger (118-108 or 117-110 etc.) or a close decision win (115-113, 116-112) - depending on Brook's actual appearance.
Stacey Verbeek (Brook UD): In his first defense of his IBF world welterweight title, Kell Brook will prevail over southpaw Dan in a UD fueled by a boisterous home town audience.
Danny Winterbottom (Brook TKO8): Dan looks a solid enough southpaw but I don't see what he brings to the table to suggest he will leave Brook's hometown of Sheffield with the IBF title. This fight is all about 'Special K' and how he looks in his return to the ring following the horrific leg stabbing he suffered whilst on holiday in Tenerife shortly after claiming the title with a win over Shawn Porter in 2014. That night Brook was terrific and as long as hasn't underestimated Dan, which is unlikely, he will have too much for the US based Romanian. I see Brook, roared on by a capacity crowd, stopping a bamboozled challenger around about the eighth.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox