It’s a night full of world title ambitions, as well as a world title contest itself on a first Matchroom UK offering of 2020 this Saturday. The FlyDSA Arena in Sheffield is the venue where several Yorkshire residents are in action at the front end of the bill. Sky Sports televise in the UK, and DAZN are the US broadcaster.
At the head of affairs is the return of a favourite son from an absence of well over a year. Kell Brook (38-2, KO26) was last seen in a real struggle in December 2018, when unanimously outpointing Aussie Michael Zerafa in what was a WBA Super Welterweight title eliminator. Brook started well enough, but faded down the stretch as the visitor came on strong. This was Brook’s first appearance not under the Ingle banner, choosing instead to be trained by ex pro, John “Fireball” Fewkes, but for his latest assignment, the familiar influence of Dominic Ingle will be back in his corner.
Brook has endured a tough few years. After over 30 unbeaten fights, Brook expertly wrenched the IBF Welterweight title as underdog against Shawn Porter in California back in August 2014 in a famous majority decision away win. After three routine defences against Jo Jo Dan (RTD4) Frankie Gavin (TKO6) and Kevin Bizier (TKO2) Brook decided to roll the dice when Chris Eubank Junior stalled on a fight for the WBC, IBF and IBO Middleweight belts against Gennady Golovkin in September 2016. In stepped “Special K” at the O2 Arena. And Brook gave “GGG” all he could handle for five rounds, but found the Kazakh’s power too much at the higher weight, fracturing his eye socket as Ingle threw in the towel. Brook’s welterweight belt remained unaffected, but he defended in his next fight in May 2017 at the home of his beloved Sheffield United against rising talent Errol Spence Junior, but this time a fractured left eye socket left Kell with double vision, and Spence came on strong to knock Brook out in eleven rounds.
With two career shortening defeats back to back, Brook decided he had outgrown the 10 stone 7 division, and a move to Super Welterweight followed. Sergey Rabchenko was despatched in two rounds in March 2018, but then came the Zerafa fight, and Brook will hope to be back to his once dazzling best this weekend.
Brook’s dance partner in his home town will be Massachusetts’ Mark DeLuca (24-1, KO13) in a twelve rounder that shouldn’t pose too many problems for him.
A look at “The Bazooka’s” record doesn’t scream superstar, and his fights have mainly taken place in several American outposts. The 31-year-old’s sole defeat came in June 2018, when former Contender contestant, Walter Wright, won a close split decision. DeLuca avenged this in his very next fight in October of the same year, with a unanimous points win. DeLuca is certainly durable though, having gone the twelve round distance twice, and ten rounds on three occasions. His last two contests saw Jimmy Williams and Brandon Brewer widely outscored, both over ten.
Prediction: Brook has said in the build-up that his plan is “DeLuca, World title, then Khan” and, with the World title picture at 154lbs ever changing, this could be a real possibility should he get past DeLuca in style. A meeting with Amir Khan has long been discussed, and Brook will hope to get his Bolton foe in the ring this year.
Kell will obviously have rust to shake off, but I believe he can trouble DeLuca early with his power, and have DeLuca out of there within the first four rounds.
The undercard sees Kid Galahad (26-1, KO15) attempt to secure a second world title shot at Featherweight, after a close, split verdict loss in his first attempt last year against Josh Warrington in Leeds.
The Qatari born Ingle Gym product was a victim of not ripping the belt off the champion last June, with a game plan built on frustrating Warrington, although many felt he deserved to take the win. This was Galahad’s first career defeat on a ledger that has boasted British, Commonwealth and European title wins at super bantamweight.
He immediately gets another chance to become IBF mandatory once again on the bill in Sheffield with, Dominican, Claudio Marrero (24-3, KO17) standing in his way at another shot at world honours.
Marrero is a fighter that usually gets caught short when he makes the step up. He was dropped in August 2013 on the way to a points defeat to Jesus Cuellar for the interim WBA belt, but then won the interim belt nearly four years later, along with the IBO bauble, knocking out Carlos Zambrano inside a round. He lost the belt in his first defence, knocked out in seven by Jesus M Rojas in September 2017. His last loss came in a bid for his IBO belt in January 2019, with Tugstsogt Nyambayar outscoring him. His most recent outing was back in June, a wide points win over Eduardo Ramirez in Houston.
Prediction: Galahad is at times tough to watch, and his style can make for messy fights. I can see him frustrating Marrero, and eventually taking over down the stretch to take a clear points win, and move a step closer to an elusive world title.
The World title fight on the bill sees Doncaster’s excellent, Terri Harper (9-0, KO5) take a significant acid test. Harper puts her IBO Super Featherweight title on the line, and looks to add the WBC belt against their reigning champion, Eva Wahlstrom (23-1-2, KO3).
“Belter” Harper has improved fight by fight under Stefy Bull, and picked up her IBO crown in March last year with a tenth and last round stoppage against Nina Bradley in Barnsley, having knocked her opponent down in the first and second rounds. Since then, she has been picked up by Eddie Hearn, and stopped Claudia Andrea Lopez in six in Nottingham in May, Nozipho Bell in Rotherham in July, and, last time out, the teak tough Vivienne Obenauf was impressively widely outscored over ten in Manchester in November.
Finland’s Wahlstrom ventured outside of her home comforts for the first time in December 2018, but found Katie Taylor too hot to handle in New York, as the Irish superstar won every round in a challenge for the WBA and IBF Lightweight belts. Wahlstrom has held her WBC belt since April 2015, outpointing Natalia Vanesa del valle Aguirre for the vacant title. She has made five defences, but after losing to Taylor, the Finn was held to a draw by Ronica Jeffrey in Las Vegas in August 2019. The scoring was bizarre to say the least, with one judge giving Jeffrey every round, while one judge gave it to Wahlstrom by two points, and the third scoring a draw. Eva won every round of eight in a homecoming fight in November against Consolata Musanga.
Prediction: Harper carries real power, and a stoppage would be especially eye catching given Katie Taylor couldn’t stop Wahlstrom at Eva’s higher weight class. I can’t see a stoppage win for either, and, as long as Harper follows instruction, and boxes smart, she can unify with a clear points win.
It’s a busy bill in Yorkshire, and former European and Commomwealth Super Featherweight champion, Martin J Ward (23-1-2, KO11) goes ten rounds with heavy handed Mexican Jesus Amparan (1601, KO14).
Local lad Anthony Tomlinson (11-0, KO6) meets Scotland’s Stewart Burt (13-1-1, KO1) over ten, while the always likeable Dave Allen (17-5-2, KO14) returns from his heavy defeat to David Price last time out, with a six rounder up at Heavyweight.
Hot prospect, John Docherty (7-0, KO5) is also in action, and “The Doc” has a six round assignment against Czech import Stanislav Eschner (12-14-1, KO6).