Kell Brook is determined to complete his remarkable journey from “game over” to home city glory when he puts his IBF welterweight title on the line for the first time in Sheffield on Saturday night.
The 28-year-old will take to the ring against Romanian Jo Jo Dan less than six months after an horrific machete attack in Tenerife which left him fighting for his life with blood pouring from a 12-inch wound.
And having fought his way up through the city’s sports halls and leisure centres to finally top the bill in front of an expected crowd of more than 10,000, Brook admitted his biggest battle might be to stop his emotions getting the better of him.
Brook said: “When I was laid in hospital with my leg tied up it felt like I was at the bottom of my ocean and I remember when it first happened my whole life flashed before my eyes.
“I thought, ‘this is game over for me now’, but I remember getting to the hospital and being wheeled out and feeling the fresh air and seeing the birds flying about and thinking ‘I’m here, I’m alive’.
“I think when you’ve been that close to death it definitely changes you.
“It is going to be hard going from the leisure centres to packing out the Arena, but I was born to do this and I believe I perform better under pressure.
“It took me a long time to get this belt and with what I’ve had to go through there is no way on this earth Jo Jo Dan is taking it off me. I’ve kept everyone waiting and they are in for a real treat.”
Brook took the title from previous holder Shawn Porter in California in August and knows victory over Dan could pave the way to much more lucrative bouts in the 147lbs division.
While his stated aim of sealing a showdown with the winner of the May super-fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao may be over-ambitious, plenty of other potential money-spinning bouts remain.
And while Brook is right not to under-estimate his Canada-based opponent, it is hard to see how the 33-year-old Dan is likely to pose much of a threat.
His record is a solid enough 34-2 with 18 stoppage wins, but his two losses came on his only two previous forays anywhere near top class, both against Turkish opponent Selcuk Aydin in 2010 and 2011.
Brook added: “You can never look past any opponent and you never know what is going to happen - you have to take every fight and every day at a time.
“If you are asking me if I want to fight Mayweather or Pacquiao, of course I do. I’m the world champion and I’m leading the way and I’ve got to look for the higher profile fights.
“It is a piping hot division and it just makes it all the better that I’m the world champ and you’ve got all these other top fighters who want what I’ve got.”