Randall Bailey makes the first defence of his IBF crown against Devon Alexander on Saturday night as part of a tremendous undercard for the Danny Garcia v Erik Morales fight. A few hours earlier in Sheffield, local boy Kell Brook takes on Hector Saldivia in an eliminator for the same title.
The last time Brook fought he answered some of the questions that people were asking of him. His fight with Carson Jones was going perfectly for six rounds, he was catching Jones clean with powerful combinations and looked to be on his way to wearing the American down in the later rounds.
Jones, however, was made of sterner stuff than any of Brook’s previous opponents and dug in hard before mounting his own attack from the midpoint onwards. The last few rounds were hard going for Brook, who was struggling to breathe due to a broken nose and was getting caught more than he had in all of his previous fights put together.
Whilst Jones might not be a murderous puncher, he hits hard enough to have an effect. Brook was caught clean numerous times with his chin standing up to the shots. With his chin passing its first test, the only two remaining questions over Brook were heart and stamina. He definitely passed the former, toughing it out in the last four rounds against the non-stop attacks of Jones, whilst the latter remains a question mark over Brook.
The way Brook faded late in a tough fight was slightly worrying for his fans, team, and himself. So much so that Brook has since appointed a nutritionist and a conditioner to get himself in the best possible shape. He says he can already tell the difference, telling Sky Sports - "I'm in a very nice place. I've never drunk and eaten like I'm doing now. I'm always smiling and people are noticing. It's the best I've ever felt physically and mentally. I can't wait to put what we've been doing in camp into the task in the ring."
You can’t help but admire Brook’s mentality, he could’ve easily shrugged his shoulders after the Jones fight and declared himself happy enough with the win and the show of heart. Instead he was honest enough to admit there were things he needed to improve on and immediately went about changing the way he prepares for a bout.
This Saturday’s fight could be another test of Brook’s stamina, as well as his chin. Saldivia, 41-2 (32), is a hard punching opponent who likes to fight on the front foot, pressurising and wearing down opponents with clubbing hooks and uppercuts. Like a lot of big punchers, Saldivia’s chin isn’t the best, although he can’t be bracketed as ‘chinny’.
The Argentinean has shown in the past that he can be caught and hurt, most notably against Said Ouali, who he had down within thirty seconds of the bout but found himself on the canvas twice and stopped in the minute that followed. He’s also been in a few toe to toe battles and stood up to some heavy shots, albeit against lower level opponents like Omar Gabriel Weis and Daniel Alberto Montenegro, neither of whom hit as hard as Ouali or Brook.
The only other defeat Saldivia has suffered came by knockout, although he’s twice beaten his conqueror Jorge Miranda in rematches. There aren’t any big names on Saldivia’s record, his best win coming against Luis Rodriguez, the hard as nails Mexican. Saldivia overcame a sluggish start to batter Rodriguez to the canvas twice on his way to a seventh round stoppage win.
This has all the makings of an exciting fight, both can hit and both will be fired-up by the prospect of a world title bout being one win away. Saldivia has the power to hurt any welterweight in the world if he catches them cleanly, it remains to be seen whether he gets the chances to do so against Brook, who you can expect to be cautious in the opening rounds.
Brook goes into the fight as a huge favourite with the bookies, who have him as short as 1/15 (-1500). Those odds are quite revealing, Saldivia is a puncher but Brook is considered a level or two above him technically. Saldivia will be aggressive but I expect Brook to be too quick and skilful for the flat-footed Argentinean, counter-punching effectively in the early rounds before picking up the pace and stopping him sometime around the eighth round.