Former welterweight world titleholder Kell Brook's return to the ring on Dec. 8, which follows a layoff because of an ankle injury, will come against Michael Zerafa, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn announced on Monday.
The 12-round junior middleweight bout will headline a card at Sheffield Arena in Brook's hometown of Sheffield, England, and will stream live in the United States on DAZN.
Brook is aiming to eventually fight at 147 pounds for a much-anticipated showdown with British rival Amir Khan in 2019, but he needs to take care of business against Zerafa for that fight to be finalized.
"We know that the Khan fight is on the horizon, but this is all part of Kell's preparation for being razor-sharp and bringing his weight down to 147 pounds. Zerafa aims to spoil the party," Hearn said.
Brook (37-2, 26 KOs), 32, has not boxed since a second-round knockout of Sergey Rabchenko on March 3. Brook was due to fight on the Dillian Whyte-Joseph Parker undercard on July 28 in London, but was sidelined by the ankle injury during his preparation.
Brook will go into the fight without usual trainer Dominic Ingle, whom Brook said had another commitment. Instead, Brook's corner will be led by friend and former boxer John Fewkes.
"I'm delighted to be back at Sheffield Arena in front of my people," Brook said. "'The Special One' is back, and all of my focus and attention is on getting myself ready to put on a spectacular performance for my loyal fans. I want to close the year in special fashion and set up some blockbuster fights in 2019. I was ringside for Amir Khan's last fight [on Sept. 8], so let's see if he'll be there on Dec. 8, or will he be too shook for Brook?"
Brook and Khan have circled each other for years, but now that they are both in the twilight of their careers and both are now with Hearn, the big-money showdown is expected to happen in the first part of next year.
Brook is aiming for his second win in a row when he faces Zerafa. He defeated Rabchenko after two rough stoppage losses, a fifth-round knockout to Gennady Golovkin when Brook moved up to challenge him for his unified middleweight title in September 2016 followed by an 11th-round knockout loss to Errol Spence Jr. in Sheffield that cost Brook his welterweight belt in May 2017.
"This is the biggest opportunity of Zerafa's career, and he will be coming over here to take my scalp, but there's levels in this game, and I need to put him away to get the big fights that I desire," Brook said. "Meticulous work, dedication, preparation and focus has gone into this camp and I will continue to grind until fight week."
The only previous time Zerafa (25-2, 14 KOs), 26, of Australia, stepped up to face a top opponent came in September 2015 in Mashantucket, Connecticut, where he suffered a brutally one-sided beat down in a fifth-round knockout loss to Peter Quillin in a middleweight fight.
Zerafa, whose two losses came the two times he fought outside of his home country, has won eight fights in a row since the loss to Quillin, but they have come against pedestrian opposition.
"I thrive from being the underdog, and I believe that Kell Brook's team have made the mistake of overlooking me," Zerafa said. "I'm a completely different fighter to the man that lost to Peter Quillin, and on Dec. 8 I will prove that.
"I've already dreamt of beating Kell and replayed the fight over and over in my head. I was born for greatness, and Dec. 8 is the beginning of my rise to the top of the sport. Kell is a true warrior and a great champion, but he's been in some tough fights and put a lot of miles on the clock. I see a ship with a lot of holes ,and too many holes leads to a sunken ship. On Dec. 8 there will be a huge upset, and I will make a lot of people eat their words."
The card will also feature Jono Carroll (16-0, 3 KOs), 26, of Ireland, against former European junior lightweight champion Guillaume Frenois (46-1, 12 KOs), 35, of France, in a world title eliminator. The winner will become the mandatory challenger for junior lightweight titlist Tevin Farmer (27-4-1, 6 KOs), 28, of Philadelphia.