MONTREAL — Everything is looking up for boxer Ionut (Jo Jo) Dan.
On Thursday morning, the Romanian-born welterweight received his Canadian Citizenship.
On March 28, Dan will fight for a world title for the first time when he visits Sheffield, England to face International Boxing Federation champion Kell Brook.
And in early April his wife Anca, already a Canadian citizen, is due to give birth to their second child, a daughter to go with three-year-old son Nicolas.
Dan got his citizenship certificate along with about 300 others from 55 countries at a local community centre, just before heading to gym for a workout with trainer Pierre Bouchard.
“I was so proud,” he said. “Now I’m Canadian.
“Now we started this week right and I hope we keep this going in England to make it good. Things are getting better. I think I’m on the good way. I’m very thankful for everything.”
The left-handed Dan (34-2-0) will be the underdog against Brook (33-0), who won the title in August on a majority decision of the judges in Carson, Calif.
Just getting to a world title fight has been a tough slog for the 33-year-old Dan, who moved to Canada in 2003 to turn pro at a time when several Romanians were doing the same, including former WBA lightweight champ Leonard Dorin and ex-IBF super-middleweight camp Lucian Bute.
Dan’s first two years in Toronto didn’t go well and he moved to Montreal in 2005, only to be dropped by promoter InterBox two years later. Until 2012, when he signed with American promoter Lou DiBella, he was managed by Montreal-based Chris Ganescu and became a traveller.
His biggest fights to date were a pair of meetings with Selcuk Aydin in Turkey, both losses by split decision. In the rematch, Dan suffered a broken jaw in the second round but fought on for another 10 and nearly pulled off the win.
He had post-fight surgery, only to find on his return a month later it hadn’t healed properly and he needed another operation.
“I was always positive and had confidence in myself,” he said. “I knew I could fight again at a high level.”
He travelled to his opponent’s hometown again for a pair of spectacular fights with the previously undefeated Kevin Bizier in Quebec City and managed to earn majority decision victories both times, the latest on Dec. 19.
Dan said he won’t be put off by fighting in Brook’s hometown. He expects that bout to be more like the ones in Turkey, with a super-hostile crowd behind the local fighter.
“In Turkey, the atmosphere in the arena and the way the fans reacted didn’t bother me all,” he said. “I was concerned about what happened in the ring.
“In the ring, it’s him and me. The fans can scream or do what they want. It gave me confidence because even with big pressure I can perform. I think I’ll do a good job.”
He can take inspiration from Otis Grant, the Montreal middleweight who went to Sheffield in 1997 and beat Ryan Rhodes for the WBO title.
“He won’t be surprised if he gets boos or even punches when he goes to the ring,” Bouchard said. “We know how to deal with that.
“I really trust the British commission. They’re not kooky like Turkey, or even Germany sometimes is a bit tricky. When we’re in the ring, we know the crowd will be against us, but I trust the judges.”
Brook is in his first bout since an unknown assailant sliced his leg with a machete while he was on vacation in Tenerife in September.