There were times when welterweight titleholder Kell Brook was not sure if he would box again, but that is just what he will do.
Six months after a suffering a severe stab wound to his left leg that appeared career-threatening at first, Brook will enter the ring before a supportive hometown crowd at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, England, on Saturday (Showtime, 6:15 p.m. ET) to make his first title defense, a mandatory against Montreal's Jo Jo Dan.
A jagged scar on his leg remains, as do the dark memories of the knife attack, but Brook is healthy now and thankful that his unexpected ordeal has had a happy ending.
"I've come a long way from the injury, not knowing where I would be with the leg," Brook said. "I've put it under severe stress in a full camp and I have had no problems with it. It was hard at the beginning, but we took baby steps and slowly but surely we got up to full speed. [The fight) couldn't come quick enough to defend the title.
"The leg is fine. I do everything that I used to do. There's no pain, and it's not holding me back at all."
That was not the case in early September. A little less than three weeks after Brook traveled to Carson, California, and dethroned Shawn Porter by decision in a superb performance to claim a 147-pound title, he wound up in a hospital bed, filled with uncertainty about his future.
"Winning the title was an unbelievable buzz and for two weeks I was flying. But after the attack, I was down in the gutter," Brook said. "I was feeling sorry for myself just lying there in bed, but now I am back and better than ever."
After winning the title, Brook, his partner, Lindsay, and daughter Navaeh went on a celebratory vacation to the Spanish island of Tenerife off the coast of Morocco. It was a vacation that ended abruptly when Brook was attacked with a machete late one night.
The 28-year-old Brook (33-0, 22 KOs) awoke in a Spanish hospital bed with a badly damaged leg. Thirty-eight staples were required to close his wounds.
"It had been a nice holiday. I was on such a high after going to the U.S. and winning the world title," Brook said. "It was around 2 a.m. and, although I am not normally a drinker, I'd had a few, but I wasn't hammered. The attack was unprovoked.
"One minute we were chatting, the next I was being macheted up. There was blood squirting out of my leg. I could see death, my life flashing in front of me. [The attacker] stood over me shouting and swearing and I scrambled away. All I remember is thinking about my daughter and that I needed to get away from this. There was so much blood, I was covered in it. I really feared for my life. Just two weeks before I had been on top of the world in America, winning the world title -- not something many men from England have done -- and now there I was at the bottom of the ocean. To be a world champion had always been a childhood dream. Had I not been found by paramedics, I would have bled to death."
Promoter Eddie Hearn was planning for Brook to make his initial defense in Sheffield in December -- the opponent had not been selected -- but that was obviously canceled. The concern was not about a title defense. It was about whether Brook would be able to fight again.
"I can remember so clearly visiting the hospital to see Kell Brook the day after that horrific knife attack in Tenerife," Hearn wrote in his Daily Mail column this week. "As soon as I walked in I looked into his eyes and I knew exactly what he was thinking -- is it all over? The wound was horrific, some 38 staples virtually holding his thigh together. I couldn't believe it. Only weeks before we had been celebrating the biggest moment of his career.
"Suddenly we are sitting there waiting to find out if he would ever be able to enter a ring again. The doctor's analysis wasn't great. She said with the right rehab there was a decent chance he could fight again, but he would not be able to perform in the same way in and out of the ring. She couldn't have been more wrong. Over the last few months Kell Brook has shown the heart of a lion. No one really gets to see the struggle he went through -- dressing the wound, struggling to walk at first, the endless hours of rehab and massage, and this is all before the camp got underway."
Brook said he was to spend the first four or five days in the hospital not knowing what his prognosis was because he had trouble communicating with the Spanish-speaking medical personnel.
"I didn't know if I'd ever walk again. When I looked at the wound it was like something out of Jaws, just like a shark attack," Brook said. "I had staples in it, too many to count -- close to 40.
"After about four or five days they eventually got a wheelchair in. I remember my mum and dad, Lindsey and Navaeh came in and wheeled me out. I remember sniffing the fresh air and looking up at the sky as we left the hospital and a gush of wind came. It was one of the small things that people take for granted: looking at the sun, seeing birds fly. I was thinking how lucky I was to be alive. I was looking at my daughter and she was smiling and I was thinking how overwhelming it all was.
"I couldn't have believed then that I would make a full recovery, but the operation was a success and I worked hard to get things right."
He will put his repaired leg to use when he faces Dan (34-2, 18 KOs), 33, a native of Romania who became a Canadian citizen last week. On Dec. 19, Dan beat Kevin Bizier for the second time, claiming a split decision in Quebec City in a title elimination fight to become Brook's mandatory challenger.
"If you think about it, all the pressure is now on Brook to perform," Dan said. "I am fully aware that he has the home advantage with the fans behind him, but I plan to make them my fans with my performance. Inside the ring, it is just us and the referee. When they cheer for him, it pushes me to do better. I had a nine-week training camp for this fight, by far my best one ever. I am well prepared.
"Brook is a very good fighter. It is not a mistake that he has become a world champion. I expect him to come out early and try to add me to his knockout list. I won't be running though. We will find out very early if he can take as well as he can give."
Brook said he has put the stabbing behind him, wants to take care of Dan and move on to bigger fights in a deep weight class later this year.
"Mandatories come along and you have to deal with them," Brook said. "He's earned his position like I did against Porter, so he gets his chance to take that title off me, but that's not happening. I am not looking past him, but I know that there are massive fights out there for me in the division and after I take care of business tonight, I am free to fight anyone.
"Keith Thurman is making a lot of noise these days, Brandon Rios, Andre Berto, Juan Manuel Marquez and, of course, [countryman] Amir Khan. There's many top names in this brilliant division and I am in a great position holding a belt and sitting at the top table in the division."
Clearly understanding, of course, just how lucky he is to be there after the horrific knife attack.
"I know how fortunate I am and I treasure it now," he said. "It has changed me. I'm a lucky kid."