Opinion

The BN Verdict – Kell Brook returns a ‘new man’ but can he be a better fighter at the of age 33?

Mark De Luca cannot provide the answers we need from Kell Brook but better opponents will, writes Ron Lewis

KELL BROOK vows that he is a new man. The old one, the one who had to be kidded into turning up for training, is gone. The new one is ready to seize any opportunity still open to him.

Brook’s win over Mark DeLuca in Sheffield on Saturday, a seventh round KO, went as predicted. The former US Marine was brave, took wave after wave of Brook onslaught, but was far too limited to really threaten the former IBF welterweight champion. The step up to a world title shot from this is a large one.

“I’m after belts,” Brook said at the post-fight press conference. “I was very fit, I feel complete, like this is me. I’ve got the fire in my belly and I want to become a two-time world champion this year.”

There was talk of Liam Smith as a likely next fight, another super-welterweight who finds himself in a similar situation – a former world champion, biding time until a world champion looks their way. Both seemed keen, if the money is right.

Certainly, Smith would give a pretty definitive answer of whether Brook still has it. In his first fight in 14 months, Brook showed he maintained his punching power and much of his speed. He avoided getting into any physical mauling with DeLuca. Smith is so strong, Brook would likely try to avoid much of that if they met, too.

What earned most praise, though, was the state of Brook’s fitness. Weight-making for once, had been straightforward, training had been uninterrupted. Brook admitted in the build-up to the fight that he used to cut corners, even when claiming he didn’t. A light was shone on the extent of that.

Eddie Hearn, the promoter, admitted that he used to conspire with Dominic Ingle, Brook’s trainer, to make up fights for Brook because he would not train unless he had a date for the fight.

Indeed, preparation for this fight started when Brook was told he would be boxing on the Andy Ruiz-Anthony Joshua bill in Saudi Arabia in December. Whether that was ever likely or not, it meant that Brook was already in shape when the posters started going up advertising Brook’s return to Sheffield Arena.

Brook said this would be him from now, a gym rat, always in shape. That was quickly answered by Ingle, who challenged him to make sure he was at the gym on Monday. Brook promised to be there on Sunday.

This was Brook’s 39th win from 41 fights, but it is a difficult career to judge, based on the shortage of big names. If he were to beat Smith, that would undoubtedly be the second-best win of his career after the win over Shawn Porter in California that saw him claim his world title. The defeats, to Gennady Golovkin and Errol Spence were against top fighters, having suffered bad injuries. But a boxer wants to be judged on the victories, not the losses.

At 33, Kell Brook is starting the final chapter of his career, but he needs to hope it is building to a fitting climax.

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