By: Ste Rowen
This Saturday night, Kell Brook makes his return to the ring for the first time since his 11th round stoppage loss to Errol Spence in May last year. A punishing encounter that broke his left eye socket, lost him his belt and forced Brook into questioning whether it was worth carrying on.
‘People are right to question what I’ve got left and how I am going to be after the injuries and defeats. I know that I’ve got a lot left in me. I believe I am going to be the same fighter, I’ll be better with the bigger weight which will bring the best out of me.’
The Sheffield native was forced into taking in a knee in front of his home fans in the Spence bout but he’s back in Sheffield again, this time at Sheffield Arena, to make his first steps in the heavily stacked with talent, 154lb division and regain the momentum and perhaps respect he lost in defeat.
Brook’s first tilt at junior middleweight sees him come up against 29-2 (22KOs) Sergey Rabchenko. The Belarussian fought just once in 2017, stopping fellow countryman and journeyman Sergey Krapshyla. The combined record of Rabchenko’s last four victories is 51-59-5 (27KOs).
On his opponent, ‘Special K’ had his promoter’s hat on,
‘He’s a very good fighter, very clever. He has only got two losses, like myself…He’s naturally strong and powerful, and he goes to the head and body good. He uses the ring, he’s a very clever fighter.’
‘If anyone had not done anything right at the top level, they would get beat by this guy, because this guy is no joke.’
It’s not exactly the acid test some fans were hoping for but some leeway may have to be given for a man who in his previous two bouts suffered fractured sockets in both his left and right eyes, not to mention it being his first fight in a new division.
With the WBC ‘Silver’ junior middleweight belt being on the line, a win could propel the victor into a mandatory shot, unfortunately for Saturday night’s winner, the current 154lb WBC champion is the unbeaten, huge hitting and fellow Errol Spence gym-mate, Jermell Charlo, set to fight in June against an, as yet unnamed opponent.
But Kell’s new division is full of exciting fighters including match ups with contenders such as, Julian Williams and Erickson Lubin, recently knocked out in the first round by Charlo; or a domestic shootout with Liam Smith and of course, the never-ending speculation of a fight with Amir Khan. Another fight with the other champions can’t be overlooked, though WBA holder, Erislandy Lara and IBF champion, Jarrett Hurd face off against one another next month, a fight later this year even with the loser would be a great barometer of where Kell is at and how far he can go to reach the summit at 154.
Saturday night’s card in Sheffield also features some interesting matchups.
Gamal Yafai, brother of Super Flyweight champion, Kal, takes on 18-1-2 (5KOs), Gavin McDonnell. Gamal, 14-0 (7KOs) is currently on a 3-fight knockout streak with his biggest win to date coming in May last year when he stopped then unbeaten, Sean Davis in seven to claim the WBC international super-bantamweight title. McDonnell is two fights removed from his comprehensive loss to WBC super-bantamweight champion, Rey Vargas.
Fans favourite, Dave Allen will be looking to put old demons to bed and avenge his 3rd professional loss when he rematches Lenroy Thomas for the heavyweight commonwealth title. Allen and Thomas fought a close but ugly encounter on the Brook/Spence undercard last year which saw the Jamaican take the split decision victory. The ‘White Rhino’ now 12-3-1 (9KOs), is under no illusions about how significant this fight is for the trajectory of the rest of his career,
‘Mental preparation I think is key now, for a man like myself. Physically I’m there, so yeah, I’ve got to live the life in fight week, because I’ve thrown good performances away on fight week by doing stupid things.’
‘My message to Eddie Hearn is, when I beat Lenroy Thomas in fantastic fashion, which I will do, we’re going to have to sit down and make big plans.’