After a tentative start, Kell Brook vs Mark DeLuca explodes into life and the hometown hero indicates he may still have something left at a higher level
It tends to sound cliched when emanating from the fighter’s own mouth, but tonight at his hometown Sheffield Arena, this really was make or break for 33-year-old Kell Brook. After serious injuries to both eyes, an unremarkable world welterweight title reign and returning from 14 months’ inactivity having returned to the Ingle Gym following an ill-advised spell with John Fewkes, Brook could not just beat decent American Mark DeLuca at 154lbs; he declared pre-fight that he had to look “spectacular”.
He was, albeit only in parts, and DeLuca appeared to have an alternative ending in mind, seeming composed in the opener and landing a few sharp straight lefts to patient Brook’s ripped torso. The 24-1 southpaw from Massachusetts was on a three-fight winning streak including a good victory over previously undefeated Canadian Brandon Brewer in his previous contest, in June. DeLuca was also a career super-welter/middle, while Brook had spent the majority of his championship career at 147lbs.
Brook’s trademark timing and accuracy were only intermittently apparent early on, a symptom presumably of ring rust. DeLuca seemed content to tuck up and fire back when he could. It all seemed to come back to Brook in round three, as he unloaded explosive combinations, bloodying his adversary’s nose before flooring him with a barrage of right, left, right, left, right uppercut. Trading towards the end of the round, the two warriors grinned at each other, but only Brook had reason to be truly happy.
Brook sensibly resisted any temptation to charge in or load up against a defiant foe, yet still broke through with more big shots in the fourth. DeLuca was able to connect with a couple of good straight blows in round five but was too easily backed to the ropes.
Brook probed for openings and the perfect one came with DeLuca against the strands in the seventh. As the American dipped to his left to wing a wild shot, Brook landed a perfectly timed short left hook on the jaw, dropping DeLuca and leaving him unable to beat the count.
After shaking off the effects of his long hiatus, Brook proved efficient and potent. He still has something left, just how much only better opposition will show us. Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn obviously agrees, revealing plans post-fight to match Brook with promotional stablemate Liam Smith in a WBO final eliminator.