Mega-fight lure as Brook returns to ring for home city title defence

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Eddie Hearn says a super bout against the winner of the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao showdown is a very real prospect for Sheffield’s world champion Kell Brook – provided there are no slip-ups tonight.

Brook returns home to the Steel City to make the first defence of the IBF welterweight title he won by beating Shawn Porter in California last August.

Kell Brook, left, celebrates his win against Shawn Porter  in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Kell Brook, left, celebrates his win against Shawn Porter in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

The unbeaten 28-year-old faces mandatory challenger Jo Jo Dan, who, with just two defeats in 36 fights, could prove a nuisance for Brook in what is the Yorkshireman’s first appearance in the ring since being stabbed in the leg while on holiday in Tenerife.

Should he handle what is expected to be an emotional, and glitzy, ring walk at the Motorpoint Arena tonight – and then the ensuing 12 rounds against the durable Romanian – then some of the biggest names in boxing could be next.

The long-awaited mega-fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao on May 2 pits together the other two world champions in the welterweight division, with Mayweather holding the WBC version and Pacquiao the WBO.

The winner of that fight would hold two of the belts, putting Brook in exclusive company.

Kell Brook, the belt, and Jo Jo Dan

Kell Brook, the belt, and Jo Jo Dan

For Hearn, whose Matchroom Sports have promoted some of the biggest fights in Britain in recent years, that is an opportunity too good to ignore.

“Mayweather, Pacquiao – they’re both there for Kell,” said Hearn. “He is a world champion in the welterweight division and there’s two others; Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.

“After May 2 there will be one of them. So what a chance for Kell, and what a time to be world champion in that division.

“All those fights are ahead of him, he’s just got to keep winning.This is big time, high-stakes boxing.

“But it could be all over for Kell Brook if he doesn’t forget what happened (in Tenerife) and get in that ring and deal with Jo Jo Dan.

“The fights that are out there for Kell – Juan Marquez, Mayweather, Pacquiao, Amir Khan –but if he lose tonight that’s all over, so it’s a must-win fight.”

Not that Hearn expects his star client to fluff his lines in front of what is set to be a sell-out crowd.

For 10 years, Brook has beaten a path in the professional game toward this moment, and for nine years before that as an apprentice at Brendan Ingle’s storied Wincobank gym in Sheffield.

While Brook’s confidence has never wavered, the backing of the British public has not been as unconditional.

To alter perceptions, Hearn believes Brook must continue to make the most of the opportunities presented to him.

“I don’t think Kell got the credit he deserved for the Shawn Porter win but at the same time he didn’t get the chance to build off the back of it because of what happened in Tenerife,” said Hearn.

“He won the world title, then all of a sudden got stabbed and was told he’s not going to fight again. Everything happened so quickly, and I don’t feel as though he has the momentum of the Shawn Porter win behind him, but he does have the mental belief that he’s achieved that.

“The great thing for Sheffield, Yorkshire and Great Britain is that they have a world champion who can dominate the division.

“Not a world champion who can win it once, defend it and is a lovely guy and that’s it.

“They have a credible world champion who is an elite-level fighter that can go on and unify the division, or even go up in weight, he is that good.

“You saw that against Shawn Porter and you’ll see that again on Saturday night. Now the whole city is watching, the whole country, and everyone wants to see this special one, to see if he is as special as people like me, Kell, and others keep telling them.

“It’s up to him to show that.”

Hearn has no fears about Brook not being able to handle the emotion of tonight’s occasion.

Brook has called it a ‘dream come true’ to defend a world title in his home city, but because of the journey he has been on over the last few months, there is a chance the reception could overwhelm him tonight.

But Hearn said: “That’s why he’s such a special athlete, because if that was you or me we’d be sitting up at night having nightmares about what would happen.

“But Kell just puts it out of his mind. These fans are there for him and he knows he should embrace that. The fight is live in Britain and in America, so he’s got to go out and make a statement.”

From Brook’s perspective, the thought of taking his eye off the ball tonight has never entered his mind.

“I’ve just got to be professional. I’m 28, I’ve been a professional since I was 18. I’ve seen fighters in other fights look past their opponent and get beaten,” said Brook.

“I’m not taking that chance, my mind is firmly on Jo Jo Dan.

“Get through him, then we can have a chat about other fights.

“But right now, this is a tough fight, and I’ll show everyone why I’m special.”