The decision by the IBF to backtrack from granting an immediate title shot and forcing Kell Brook into a final eliminator for the welterweight title may prove to be a blessing in disguise for the Sheffield native. On October 20th, Brook takes on Argentinean Hector Saldivia at Sheffield’s Motorpoint Arena.
Prior to Brook’s last fight: A controversial Majority decision victory over American Carson Jones, the sky seemed the limit for the unbeaten Brook.(28-0, 18 KOs). Touted as amongst the best in the 147 weight division, his early displays showcased his fluid boxing skills, combined with excellent coordination and technique. This generated whispers of potential matchups with boxing’s p4p elite Mayweather and Pacquiao.
The fight with Jones (34-9-2, 24 Kos), a rugged, but limited pressure fighter was seen as the type of opponent to challenge, but ease Brook into the title contention slot. Following a slow start, Jones came on strong in the 2nd half of the fight and had Brook out on his feet by the final bell. Some argue that Brook got the benefit of a hometown decision and for the second consecutive fight he will again be on home soil.
Saldivia (41-2, 32 KOs) has fought the vast majority of his fights in his native land and comes into the fight as a relative unknown to the mainstream boxing public. Like his more illustrious Argentine counterparts, Saldivia is a strong, aggressive, hard-hitting fighter, who appears to be blossoming later in his career. In his last fight outside of Argentina, Saldivia suffered a devastating 1st round stoppage loss to Said Ouali.
Following that defeat, Saldivia has rebounded with an 8 fight winning streak, relocated to California and continuing his development at the world famous Wildcard gym. Saldivia is feeling on top of his game and is confident he can travel across the pond and keep the fight out of the hands of the judges with a knockout win.
Saldivia may present problems similar to that of Carson Jones. He is likely to try and keep constant pressure on Brook, not allowing him to settle into a rhythm and get off his shots. The all important questions are what adjustments Brook and his team have made since his last fight. By his own admission, his stamina was a big issue as well as struggles with diet and making weight. Post fight, his promoter, Eddie Hearn was almost dismissive when asked about an impending title shot, he seemed fully aware Brook had many things to improve upon
In a possible career defining bout for both fighters, Brook goes in as a strong betting favorite and will be under pressure to turn in an impressive performance to start to win over his critics, re-establish himself as one of the stars of British boxing and pave the way for potential super fights down the line, both domestically and across the globe. A win for Saldivia could see him follow in the footsteps of fellow Argentine fighters, Sergio Martinez, Marcos Medina and Carlos Baldomir in using an upset victory to catapult himself into world recognition.
Verdict: Brook beats Saldivia by a close but clear Unanimous Decision (UD).