Kell Brook breathed fresh life into his career as he began life in the light-middleweight division with a stunning second-round knockout of Sergey Rabchenko.
Brook’s career had stalled after a fruitless jump to middleweight to challenge Gennady Golovkin in September 2016, while a drop back down to welterweight last May saw him lose his world title to Errol Spence Jr.
But he drew an emphatic line under those twin defeats as he needed less than five minutes to end the challenge of Rabchenko and get back in the win column in front of his home fans at the Sheffield Arena.
The bones around both of Brook’s eyes have been reinforced by titanium plates after he first fractured his right eye socket in his defeat to Golovkin and then sustained a near identical injury to the other side of his face against Spence Jr.
Brook (now 37-2, 26KO wins) had spoken of how the defeat to Spence Jr, in particular, had left him at a low ebb but he says he refused to take an easy route on his comeback, choosing to face a fighter with whom he had had some tough sparring sessions in the past and who had only previously lost twice in 31 professional fights.
One of Rabchenko’s victims was Brook’s former gym stablemate Ryan Rhodes while the Belarusian had won all seven of his previous contests in Britain.
But he was never able to get going against Brook, who will now have his sights set on challenging for world honours once more, or arranging a bout against long-term rival Amir Khan.
The 31-year-old Brook, backed by a buoyant crowd in his home city, wasted little time settling into his stride behind a crisp jab while his superior footwork allowed him to avoid most of Rabchenko’s lunges.
The Briton stepped up his attack in the second round as he followed up a bruising left uppercut with a straight right that put Rabchenko on the floor.
The 32-year-old was unsteady as he rose to his feet and was counted out by referee Steve Gray one minute and 27 seconds into the round, to the delight of the home crowd.