Whether or not another title run comes of his latest win, Kell ‘Special K’ Brook felt as good in the aftermath as he insisted throughout fight week.

The former welterweight titlist enjoyed a celebrated return to the ring after stopping American fringe contender Mark DeLuca in seven rounds Saturday evening at Sheffield Arena in Sheffield, England.

Brook scored knockdowns in rounds three and seven, the latter producing an end to the one-sided main event.

“My eating is back to normal, I feel like I could have went 15 rounds in there,” Brook (39-2, 27KOS) told Sky Sports following his third straight win at junior middleweight. “I took my time and picked him apart, and got the win the way we wanted.”

Action was slow out the gate, with Brook jumping out to a deliberate start in his first fight since a December 2018 win over Michael Zerafa in this very arena. The 33-year old Sheffield star pawed with the jab, while DeLuca—a former Marine who fights out of Whitman, Massachusetts—did his best to avoid the incoming although never coming close to living up to the all-action reputation that he’s developed back home in the New England region.

The crowd was always going to be all the way behind Brook no matter what he did in the round. Delivering the bout’s first knockdown certainly didn’t hurt his local popularity. The former welterweight titlist connected with a right hand which froze DeLuca in place, rendering him a punching bag for an ensuing volley. Another right hand managed to get through, with Brook connecting on non-consecutive left hooks to eventually will DeLuca to the canvas.

Brook continued on the attack in round four, most of which was spent in close quarters and withDeLuca winging punches in hopes of landing a home run. It never came close to happening, as Brook landed both out of the conventional stance as well as when switching to southpaw.

DeLuca took a deep breath and exhaled through his broken nose as he attempted to make a fight of it in round five. Brook offered the false impression of letting his foot off the gas, measuring up the American before opening up late in the frame. A left-right combination by Brook had DeLuca covering up along the ropes, with the local hero continuing to land upstairs all the way to the bell to end the round.

Brook kept the same pace in round six, picking apart a bloodied DeLuca’s whose left eye was beginning to swell shut. A steady jab from Brook continued to create a home for his right hand, with DeLuca unable to offer much more than heart and a sturdy chin.

A one-sided affair was brought to an emphatic close in round seven. DeLuca spent the truncated frame fighting behind an earmuff defense, while Brook patiently waited for the right opening to appear before going for the finish.

It came in the form a crisp left-hand upstairs to put the American flat on his back. DeLuca (24-2, 13KOs) did his best to follow the count and bounce to his feet, but was too slow on the rise as referee Phil Edwards counted him out at 1:15 of round seven.   

It goes without saying that Brook is long removed from his days as an elite-level talent. The constant reminders throughout the telecast of his August 2014 welterweight title win over Shawn Porter only emphasized just how little has been accomplished since that career-best win. Brook showed courage in an otherwise ill-advised move to middleweight where he suffered a September 2016 stoppage loss to then-160 pound titlist Gennadiy Golovkin. Eight months later came his last career title fight, conceding his 147-pound strap to Errol Spence in a May 2017 stoppage loss.

Three wins have followed, including Saturday’s stoppage of DeLuca. The move up in weight still has yet to lend proof to the suggestion of his turning back the clock, although in fairness he is now competing in a junior middleweight division which has seen a heavy rotation at the top level in recent times.

Whether or not Brook is able to push his way through the door remains to be seen. For now, he’s back in the ring and with the promise of far more on the horizon.

“This time around, he’s got the mind, the brain and the engine. I believe he can become a two-weight world champion. We got Kell Brook and Liam Smith (who was in attendance) both looking to become champion again. If they can get it done separately, great. If not, so be it, we can get them in the ring together in a final eliminator.

“I believe 2020 is going to be a big year for Kell Brook. He’s one of the old crew. A lot of the fighters from the old generation are retiring. Not Kell Brook. He’s got another year or two left and we want to see him put another world title around his waist.”

The bout aired live on Sky Sports in the United Kingdom and on DAZN in the United States.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox