When Jo Jo Dan (34-2, 18KO’s) steps into the ring this Saturday against defending IBF welterweight champion and hometown hero Kell Brook (33-0, 22KO’s), Dan will be entering into hostile confines. The 10-thousand-seat Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, Yorkshire, United Kingdom, will be sold out.
Other than a small Dan entourage of roughly 10 of his closest friends and family members, all in attendance will be screaming for the local star Brook. While this might make your ordinary boxer uncomfortable to say the least, Dan is not just your ordinary fighter.
“You can call me the Road Warrior I guess,” said Dan. “This is nothing new to me. It doesn’t bother me one way or the other. If you think about it, all the pressure is now on Brook to perform. 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. On March 28th, I will be 100% ready for this challenge.”
The 33-year-old Romanian has been living and training in Montreal since 2002, two years prior to making his professional debut. Dan officially made his debut on April 21, 2004, scoring a second-round TKO over Jeff Hill. Over the next six years, Dan continued to rack up win after win, running his record to a perfect 26-0, before earning a shot to challenge for the vacant WBC Silver welterweight title against fellow undefeated contender Selcuk Aydin. Aydin was a feared puncher, having scored 15 stoppages in 19 victories, even earning the nickname “Mini Tyson” along the way. To earn the title, Dan was not only going to have to withstand the hard-charging, heavy-handed Aydin, but he was going to have to do so in his opponent’s backyard of Turkey.
After 12 rounds, Dan looked as though he had done everything he needed to do to earn the victory, as he dominated the Turkish-native in every aspect of the bout. BoxingScene.com scored the bout 117-111, with one judge having it a bit closer in Dan’s favor at 116-111. Unfortunately, the other two judges scored the bout for Aydin with scores of 114-113, giving the hometown favorite the split decision victory, in what was called one of the worst decisions in all of 2010.
Not to be deterred, Dan was quickly back in the ring, picking up three consecutive victories, and setting up another shot at Aydin; once again, in Aydin’s home country of Turkey. Despite badly breaking his jaw in the second round, Dan battled bravely the rest of the way to hear the final bell. However, after 12 hard rounds, Dan would drop another close decision to Aydin.
“After I lost the first fight, it took them a year to call for a rematch. I decided to go back because I was sure of beating him again in his hometown. Unfortunately, I got caught with a good shot in the second round and my whole fight plan went out the window. I had to go to war with him because I knew the doctor or my corner would stop the fight if they knew of my broken jaw. I refused to let my corner take out my mouthpiece from the second round on, because I knew if they took it out, I wouldn’t be able to get it back in, and the fight would be stopped. I almost stopped him in the 11th round, but I went down for a count while off balance and they gave him that round 10-8 instead of me winning it 10-9. At the end, two judges gave him the fight by one point; the third judge was way off. Had I won the 11th round, instead of the slip being counted as a knockdown, then I would have won a split decision even with that broken jaw.
“It was the hardest thing that I have ever had to deal with in my life. I was pushing my jawbone with my tongue all fight long just so I could breathe. After the fight, the doctor couldn’t believe how badly my jaw had been broken, or that I was able to fight on for nearly the entire bout. I had to have two major surgeries to repair it and take a year off from boxing, but thank God I was able to make a full recovery.”
Following the second loss and ensuing layoff from the surgeries, Dan signed with powerful US promoter Lou DiBella, of DiBella Entertainment, and picked up two quick victories, setting up an IBF welterweight title eliminator for the number two ranking. His opponent was the highly regarded fast-rising welterweight contender Kevin Bizier, with the fight staged in Bizier’s backyard of Quebec. In what was named Canada’s 2013 ‘Fight of the Year’, Dan won a 12-round split decision in an absolute war.
Almost a year to the date from their first matchup, Dan and Bizier would meet again, at the same venue, this time with the winner earning the right to challenge the champion Brook. Aired on Showtime, Dan turned in yet another spectacular performance, and once again walked away with a 12-round split decision victory over the hometown hero Bizier, earning his shot against Brook this Saturday night.
“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,” stated Dan.
When asked if he believes that he needs a knockout to win based on past experiences, Dan answered calmly and with full confidence, “No.”
“I don’t train for knockouts. If the knockout comes, then it’s a bonus. I train to win every round. This fight is going to be watched around the world by millions of people. I have full confidence that it will be judged properly and the fighter who deserves the victory will be announced the winner. I am more experienced and better prepared than the previous times I challenged for the world title. I worked very hard to earn this mandatory position and I will not let this opportunity pass me by. On March 28th, I will become the IBF welterweight champion of the world.”
A win on Saturday will cap an amazing couple of weeks for Dan. This past week, Dan received his Canadian Citizenship and his wife is expected to give birth to their first baby daughter any day now.
To follow Jo Jo Dan on Twitter or Instagram, visit @JoJoDan1. You can also find him on Facebook at facebook.com/boxerJoJoDan.
The bout on Saturday night will be televised live by SKY Sports in the United Kingdom, as well as Stateside on Showtime®. Showtime will provide live coverage beginning at 6:15 p.m. ET/3:15 pm. PT. The bout is promoted by Matchroom Boxing and DiBella Entertainment.