By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – The man most recently responsible for inflicting significant damage to Kell Brook’s face feels he can come back again.
Brook bounced back from a broken orbital bone around his right eye suffered during a fifth-round technical knockout loss to middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin in September 2016. That surgically repaired side of his face held up fine during his following fight, but Errol Spence Jr.’s punishing punches produced the same injury to the left side of Brook’s face.
The 31-year-old Brook (36-2, 25 KOs) hasn’t fought since Spence knocked him out in the 11th round and won the IBF welterweight title from him May 27 in Sheffield, England, Brook’s hometown. He had serious surgery on his face for the second time in nine months after Spence beat him and thus far has taken six months off to recover.
Eddie Hearn, Brook’s promoter, announced Monday that Brook will battle Belarus’ Siarhei Rabchanka (29-2, 22 KOs) in his comeback from that second serious surgery March 3 in Sheffield. Brook has moved up from welterweight to junior middleweight, the division in which he’ll attempt to land a title shot if he beats Rabchanka.
Spence thinks Brook can come back from a second surgery to succeed at 154 pounds, but believes Brook will have a tough time putting those injuries out of his mind, especially in his first fight back.
“It all depends on the person, but mentally, it has to be in the back of your mind,” Spence told BoxingScene.com recently. “Two [orbital] fractures, I mean, it has to be in the back of your mind. He could come back. It depends on how seriously he takes it.
“He’s moving up in weight, to 154. Those are bigger guys, so it depends on how serious he takes it. If he’s taking it serious and is 100-percent dedicated, like he was when he first started boxing, he could do well. It all depends on his mental [approach].”
Spence questioned Brook’s commitment because he appeared very heavy to Spence in photos Spence has seen through Brook’s social media accounts.
“He’s real heavy right now,” Spence said. “I heard with [Miguel] Cotto, they offered him the fight [for December 2 at Madison Square Garden], but [Brook] said he was too big. I’ve seen him on Instagram and he’s real heavy right now. So it’s all on him. If he’s hungry, he’ll do well. But if he’s slacking and doing all the bad habits, he’ll wind up with the same results. So we’ll see.”
Spence (22-0, 19 KOs) is scheduled to make the first defense of the IBF 147-pound championship he won from Brook against Lamont Peterson (34-3-1, 17 KOs) on January 20 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn (Showtime).
The powerful southpaw from DeSoto, Texas, is thankful that he hasn’t had to deal with the type of career-changing facial injuries that have beset Brook. Spence isn’t sure he’d even attempt to box again if it happened to each side of his face.
“I would take some time off, but when I come back I would seriously do some sparring and test it out,” Spence said. “And then if it feels fine, and I get hit on it and it feels normal, then I’d get back to boxing. But if I’m having problems and I’m gun-shy and if I’m wary of getting hit, I would hang it up. It all depends on how your mental mindset is.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.