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Preview: Kell Brook vs. Jo Jo Dan

Sports Mole previews Kell Brook's first defence of his IBF welterweight title against Jo Jo Dan in Sheffield on Saturday night.

When Jimmy Lennon Jr announced Kell Brook as the new IBF welterweight champion after his 12-round tussle with Shawn Porter in California last August, a childhood dream was fulfilled. Like any competitor in the sport, Brook longed to become world champion and to achieve that ambition in the backyard of Porter - a man who was being tipped to face Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2015 - only made the occasion that extra bit special.

But, less than three weeks after his triumph on the west coast of the United States, jubilation turned to devastation. During a holiday in Tenerife, Brook's celebrations were cut short when he was stabbed in his left thigh, causing severe injuries and leaving his boxing ambitions seemingly in tatters. The initial prognosis wasn't great, and despite the wholehearted support from everyone in close quarters to him and the huge number of messages received on social media, Brook was left to not only contemplate his future in the sport, but to spend several long days in a hospital bed away from home agonising over whether normal everyday tasks would turn into a chore.

However, after touching back down in Yorkshire to begin the lengthy rehabilitation programme that lay in wait for him, the road to physical and mental recovery started. His scheduled first defence in December was out of the question, but seeing his newly-won belt on a daily basis at home or in the gym provided the perfect inspiration to keep him on a disciplined path - something which wasn't plain sailing after the Devon Alexander disappointments - towards the Motorpoint Arena on Saturday night.

The saga with injuries ahead of his proposed world title shot against Alexander was a dark time during Brook's career, but it's that period that would have played a significant part in taking his opportunity against Porter. Despite being an unbeaten fighter, Brook doesn't receive the credit and respect that he warrants because of the stellar names in a packed division, but it's rarely taken into account the backbone and maturity that he has needed to show to earn his status as world champion. Brook earned his shot to compete for the IBF title in October 2012, but it took him almost two years to finally step through the ropes as the mandatory challenger. That's a long time thinking about the prospect of achieving your dream.

Kell Brook lands a punch on Shawn Porter in their IBF Welterweight World Championship fight at StubHub Center on August 16, 2014© Getty Images

Not many people gave Brook a chance of defeating Porter. The manner in which the American bulldozed his way through Paulie Malignaggi put his power on a pedestal above the majority of the 147lbs division, but his aggressiveness also showed limitations and Brook was savvy enough to neutralise Porter's threat, much like Mayweather did during his two meetings with Marcos Maidana. At this stage, you can't compare Brook to Mayweather, but both have shown in the past that they have the ring craft to cope with come-forward, aggressive opponents.

That's something that Jo Jo Dan will bring to Brook this weekend. Because the Romanian isn't well known to the casual fan, his chances of victory have almost been written off, but given the circumstances that surround the contest and with the 33-year-old recognising that this is one shot at glory at world level, he will undoubtedly provide Brook with a tough examination. He's an underdog in the fight, as was Brook against Porter, but his only two defeats of a 36-bout career have come against the same, unbeaten opponent and he's never been stopped.

The expectation is that Brook will be able to stop Dan in the second half of the contest, but before that can happen, Brook must show that he has no issues with his leg and that he can cope with the occasion of making his first world title defence in front of 10,000 supporters, some of whom have followed him since his professional debut all the way back in 2004. Right now, Brook is champing at the bit to get back in the ring, but he won't fully appreciate the journey that he has been on since September until 30 minutes before his fight and when he's standing at the beginning of his entrance with 'All of the Lights' booming out to the home support.

If Brook can overcome Dan and successfully defend his world strap, that level of respect for his achievements would grow a little more, and he would be primed for a high-profile fight in the summer, potentially at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane. Both factors will provide motivation for the 28-year-old, but he will already be driven by a potential showdown with Amir Khan.

That colossal showdown probably wouldn't happen next, but Brook needs to keep winning or else he can forget about luring his rival into the ring. Unless he secures that fight, Brook won't rest easy at the end his career, and that should be the reason why we'll witness a focused, eye-catching performance from him this weekend.

Undercard

The undercard in Sheffield is headlined by Adam Etches and Gavin McDonnell facing the biggest tests of their blossoming careers. As of yet, middleweight Etches hasn't received the media attention that his performances have deserved, and he will be eager to further improve his 18-fight unbeaten record against Sergey Khomitsky, a man who has twice gone the distance with Martin Murray and stopped Frank Buglioni less than a year ago.

McDonnell competes for the European super-bantamweight title against Oleksandr Yegorov after his superb display against former world title challenger Vusi Malinga in his last fight. The Doncaster boxer will be confident of victory, but it looks a bout that has 12 rounds written all over it. There are also outings from Frankie Gavin, Kal Yafai and Stephen Smith but they should only be stay-busy matches ahead of significant fights in a couple of months' time.

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Amir Khan during a Press Conference at Mercure Sheffield St. Paul's Hotel & Spa on April 25, 2013
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