Kell Brook set for Sheffield homecoming

So rising welterweight star Kell Brook will return to his home city of Sheffield on 25 June to defend his WBO title, according to his  new promoter Eddie Hearn

British welterweight champion Kell Brook

British welterweight Kell Brook

Hearn, the son of veteran sports promoter Barry, told Sky’s Ringside last week that his new charge would return home to fight a ‘big name’ opponent in the summer. The details of the bout will be announced in the next few weeks.  But will it be the step up in class that Brook so badly needs to realise his undoubted potential?

The early front runner appears to be Lovemore N’dou (48-2-12, 31 KOs). The Australia-based South African has a decent pedigree and has held a minor world title in the past. He has also never been stopped in his 62 professional fights, so Brook is likely to be taken the full 12 rounds by the 39-year-old veteran who has mixed it up with the likes of Miguel Cotto, Paulie Malignaggi and Saul Alvarez.

Brook recently left Frank Warren Promotions to sign a deal with Hearn’s Matchroom Sports. The 24-year-old had presumably grown impatient with Warren’s inability to secure him either a world title shot or a big name fight to further his promising career.

‘Special K’, who boasts 23 straight wins as a professional with 16 knockouts, met with Matchroom’s managing director Hearn in March and their discussions clearly convinced Brook the time was right to seek pastures new.

“I met Eddie and we got on like a house on fire. His thoughts and plans on my future were exactly what I wanted to hear,” Brook said.

The British and WBO Intercontinental welterweight champion has been out of action since December last year, when he knocked out Ghanaian journeyman Philip Kotey in just two rounds on the undercard of Warren’s Return of the Magnificent Seven bill in Liverpool.

Brook’s next fight was expected to be a major test in order to set him up for a future world title shot.  A proposed showdown with unbeaten American prospect Mike Jones has so far failed to materialise, while Brook’s calling out of new welterweight champion Victor Ortiz barely registered.

Miguel Cotto, Cornelius Bundrage and Paulie Malignaggi have also being mentioned as future opponents, but seem unrealistic at this stage of his career. After all, Brook is a high-risk opponent with no name recognition across the pond. What would the likes of Malignaggi gain from taking on a dangerous foe who is a virtual unknown in the US? A rumoured link up with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions to get Brook some exposure in America could provide the boost his flagging career so badly needs.

Bitter split

As you would expect, Warren was quick to refute claims he is to blame for Brook’s recent inactivity, and the veteran fixer hit out at the Sheffield fighter in his weekly column in The Sun.

“In the last week or so, I told Kell Brook I did not want to promote him anymore. I was fed up of constantly dealing with his father, rather than Kell himself,” he wrote.

“It felt like the situation that led to the breakdown of my relationship with Ricky Hatton.”

Indeed, Warren has had fractious relationships with some other big name fighters in the past, with Hatton, Joe Calzaghe and Amir Khan all ditching the London-based promoter to move on in their careers. Perhaps Brook, who is still a relative unknown in the UK outside of boxing enthusiasts, felt a fresh start was needed to take his career to the next level.

Possibly out of frustration at his lack of recognition in the UK, Brook has become more vocal in the media of late. He recently called out  Amir Khan, who has made great strides in the sport to become WBA light-welterweight champion and gain a significant profile Stateside as well as in the UK.

Khan has now headlined major fight cards in Las Vegas and at New York’s Madison Square Garden against Marcos Maidana and Paulie Malignaggi respectively, something Brook can only dream of at this stage of his career. Warren’s aggressive promotion of middleweight propsect James DeGale must have also irked the 24-year-old as his progress seemed to plateau under the Londoner’s guidance.

Intriguing rivalry

Khan and Brook have sparred in the past and an intriguing rivalry seems to brewing, if their recent exchanges on Twitter are anything to go by. Khan dismissed Brook’s challenge on the micro-blogging site and the Sheffield native attacked his rival’s “rubbish chin” in a recent radio interview. Brook also claimed on Ringside that he had “Khan’s number” and the Bolton fighter knew it.

Of course, Khan currently campaigns at light-welterweight, a weight class lower than Brook, so an all-British showdown would have to wait until Khan, as expected, moves up a division. Khan recently defeated the unheralded Paul McCloskey in a dire but controversial fight in which the Northern Irishman  – also a part of Hearn’s Matchroom stable – was stopped for a relatively minor cut.

In what was admittedly a low-key defence of his world title, Khan nevertheless showed plenty of flaws as he struggled to pin down his awkward but limited opponent. Brook was quick to point out how Khan missed with several wild shots and appeared to struggle with his opponent’s southpaw style. Nevertheless, Khan was winning comfortably on all judge’s scorecards at the time of the stoppage, and it is likely Hearn’s requests for a rematch will fall on deaf ears after a dull spectacle that did little to enhance Khan’s growing reputation in the sport. McCloskey is the sort of fighter that no one can look good against, so Khan will be thankful to get another routine win under his belt.

The British Olympic silver medallist will almost certainly be taking on American titleholder Timothy Bradley in the summer as he attempts to unify the light-welterweight division. But a clash with Brook at welterweight would be huge further down the line if only Matchroom can succeed where Frank Warren failed –  by matching Brook with an opponent worthy of the name.

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