Former welterweight titleholder Kell Brook is set to make a long-awaited return to the ring on Feb. 8 at home in Sheffield, England, where he’ll face once-beaten American Mark DeLuca in what is meant to be a tune-up toward a bigger fight later this year.
Brook (38-2, 26 KO) will be returning at junior middleweight, having sat out all of 2019, last fighting in Dec. 2018. His last two bouts have been at 154 pounds, wins over Siarhei Rabchanka and Michael Zerafa, following a 2017 knockout loss to Errol Spence Jr in what was Brook’s last fight at 147 to this point.
Now 33, Brook is looking to make up for lost time, and get back in the big fight race.
“I feel great, I feel good,” he said at a media workout. “We’re four weeks out, I’m on weight, my training is going great. I’m ready to fight, I’d be ready to fight next week. It feels good to be preparing for a fight again. I’m fighting back in Sheffield, we know what we get from the fans — amazing support. It’s always an amazing atmosphere in the arena.
“DeLuca is in front of me, an ex-Marine, a very fit fighter, very strong, he’s going to come over here like it’s his world title fight. The fans are in for a real treat and I can’t wait to give them that treat. I can’t wait to perform and for the crowd to get behind me and push me on.”
DeLuca (24-1, 13 KO) is a 31-year-old from Massachusetts who has fought his pro career in lower-level bouts, but Brook isn’t overlooking him, and says he and trainer Dominic Ingle will come up with the right approach.
“Dom has watched DeLuca live a few times and I’ve seen little bits of him. I don’t really watch tapes of my opponents but I’ll watch a bit more of him in the next couple of weeks and then basically just listen to Dom and the game plan. Then it’s just about getting in there and executing it.”
Brook admits that 2019 tested his patience a bit, as he tried to get into some bigger fights — even willing to get back down to welterweight to make something happen — and nothing wound up coming through. There was also still talk of him possibly facing longtime press rival Amir Khan.
“At the beginning of last year it was frustrating because I was trying to get the Terence Crawford fight to happen,” he said. “I was trying to make a few fights happen but they never materialized. 2019 was frustrating at first but then I was just enjoying my time with my little girls, went traveling about a little bit but then I started getting a bit bored and thought boxing is where I belong and I need to give some more of myself to the fans. I’ve got unfinished business and I want to give all I’ve got.
“I want whoever holds a belt, I want to be a two-time world champion this year. I want to be on everybody’s lips, ‘I can’t believe what this guy’s done. I can’t believe it. What’s happened? He’s the main man again.’ That’s what I’m aiming for.”
A win over DeLuca, no matter the style, won’t necessarily prove Brook is back on top form, but just getting active again is the first step. And however he looks, he’s got some name value left and could be an attractive option for some of the titleholders at 147 or 154.