Boxing drug lures Brook back as Westgarth loss looms large

Just days after the Yorkshire boxing fraternity was rocked to its core by the death of Scott Westgarth, the focus returns to the centre of the ring once more as Kell Brook makes his long-awaited return tonight.

Kell Brook

The fate of Sheffield’s Westgarth – who died on Sunday just hours after falling ill following a fight that he won at the Doncaster Dome last Saturday evening – will not be far from the thoughts of Brook, his corner and many of the fans inside the FlyDSA Arena tonight.

The tributes have flooded in from all corners of the boxing community as the tragedy of Westgarth’s death served as a reminder of the dangers of the sport.

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Brook himself has suffered fractured eye sockets in each of his last two fights – to both eyes – which led him to question his desire to return to competitive boxing.

But as with many of his fellow fighters, the risk to their lives is part of the day job, something known beforehand and taken in their stride.

So it is that Brook returns tonight, 10 months after a surprise loss to Errol Spence junior in which his IBF welterweight title was taken from him.

Brook is stepping up tonight to super-welterweight for a fight with an old sparring partner in Belarussian Sergey Rabchenko, who like Brook, has only two defeats on his record.

Going into the fight on the back of a loss is unchartered territory for Brook, but in the build-up all week he has had the air of a man for whom the confidence has returned.

“Mentally I’m feeling great. I’m switched on. All the boxes are ticked,” he said yesterday at the public weigh-in when he tipped the scales at 10st 13lbs 7oz – three ounces heavier than opponent Rabchenko.

“Now it’s about Saturday and doing what I’ve been saying.

“It’s big pressure, I know that, I cannot lose. I’m ready for it. I need to win. I’ve gone for a tough fight because I know I need to have done everything right and be at my best.”

Perhaps dangerously, given the need to get back to winning ways and the strength of his opponent, Brooks is already talking about working his way back to a world title shot at the new level of super-welterweight.

“I want to be a two-weight world champion,” said Brook, who won his first global belt by beating Shawn Porter in California nearly four years ago.

“I’ve never been satisfied winning one world title. Even when I was a teenager, I always wanted to move up the weights and win belts as I grow.

“I want to win a belt at super-welterweight at least, I need to get the win and then we can start targeting the champions.

“I just want to be in the biggest fights that everyone is talking about. I love being in fights that grab the attention of the fans, like the Gennady Golovkin and Errol Spence Jr fights did.

“Proper boxing fans knew that Spence Jr was the next big thing in the States, no one believed that I would fight GGG then come back down to defend against him.

“I love beating the odds and getting in there and performing. The feeling I get from going out there, hearing ‘All of the Lights’ and doing my thing in front of all of the fans, it’s amazing for me, that’s my drug and I can’t wait to get back in there.”

Brook and Rabchenko clash on a huge night of action in the Steel City with the chief support provided by a crunch showdown between world-rated super-bantamweights Gamal Yafai and Gavin McDonnell of Doncaster.

David Allen is hunting revenge in his rematch with Commonwealth heavyweight champion Lenroy Thomas, Rotherham lightweight rivals Lee Appleyard and Atif Shafiq lock horns while Kid Galahad aims to get into the title mix at featherweight after a meeting with Irving Berry – Leigh Wood and Rocky Fielding complete the line-up.