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Kell Brook - British boxing's next big thing?

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Ben Dirs | 22:27 UK time, Wednesday, 15 September 2010

To the nine-year-old Kell Brook, walking through the doors of Brendan Ingle's gym in Wincobank, Sheffield, for the first time was like walking onto the set of a Hollywood movie - and what he calls "the Wincobank tingle" has been with him ever since.

"I still remember that first smell," says Brook, who defends his British welterweight crown against Chorley's Michael Jennings in Birmingham on Saturday, "and that smell's still there now - how a gym should smell."

The undisputed star of the gym back when Brook was merely an uncredited extra was former featherweight world champion 'Prince' Naseem Hamed, a man who could turn a routine training session into something resembling an MTV shoot.

Kell Brook beat Michael Lomax inside three rounds

Kell Brook beat Michael Lomax inside three rounds: Getty

"There was 'Naz', (former cruiserweight world champion) Johnny Nelson, (former light-middleweight world title challenger) Ryan Rhodes, all these great fighters, all my heroes," adds Brook, the 2009 boxing writers' young boxer of the year.

"There were television crews in, with cameras on rails for Naz. The gym was packed, the atmosphere was buzzing, there was music blaring out, it was unbelievable.

"And me being a kid, watching Naz training, and Johnny and 'Spice Boy' Ryan, I thought 'that's what I want to be and that's what I want to do'. That was the tingle that drove me to the point I am today."

Under Ingle's tutelage Brook developed into a fine amateur with all the Wincobank hallmarks - the low-slung hands, the snaky defence, the spitting counter-punching. And when he decided to fly the nest after seven pro fights, he was eventually tempted back, like a lost dog following that unique Wincobank scent.

Under the watchful eye of Brendan's son Dominic, who guided another stable-mate Junior Witter to world glory in 2006, Brook, who won the British title with a seventh-round stoppage of Barrie Jones in 2008, made three blink-and-you'll-miss-it defences before his progress was halted by injuries and a spot of extra-curricular nonsense.

In May he was convicted of assault after a nightclub brawl in Barnsley, fitted with an electronic tag and placed under curfew. Cue a cameo appearance from the former undisputed star of the Wincobank gym, an older, wiser Naseem Hamed.

Brook, 24, explains: "I was out with him a couple of months ago and he said 'don't cut corners or else you'll get cut short'. He also spoke about his fights, the different opponents and about his life - he's the man.

"The last few months I've had a big wake-up call - again - but I now know what I want to do and what it takes to get there. There have been no cutting corners, I've just been getting my head down and thinking about what I'll do with my big pot of money."

Brook's promoter Frank Warren might be surprised to hear that his former charge Hamed, with whom he had his run-ins, has been doling out sage advice, but pleasantly so.

Young prodigies gone wrong have been falling through Warren's fingers since he came into the game, most recently Kevin Mitchell, who admitted after his chastening defeat by Australian Michael Katsidis in May that he had been disobeying Hamed's new cardinal rule.

"There are no shortcuts in this business, your talent can take you to a certain point and then it's all about hard work and dedication," Warren told BBC Sport. "Kevin was on a roll and he took his foot off the gas - and if you don't put it in you won't get it out.

"Kell is on the cusp of doing something really big - he's only 24 but I don't think he's too far off a world title shot. He's got a good style, he's loose, he's confident, he can punch, he can box.

"But he's got a big fight on his hands. Jennings is a tough cookie, he knows the game and I think he'll give Kell a lot to think about. He went in with Miguel Cotto [Jennings lost a fight for the WBO crown last February] so this is a big step up for Kell, a real big test, and will determine if he's as good as we all think he is."

Brook's fight with the 33-year-old Jennings, himself a former British champion, will double-up as an eliminator for Manny Pacquiao's WBO welterweight crown. And while a match with the Philippine superstar will never happen, an impressive victory over Jennings would catapult Brook into the world-title mix.

Warren will be aware the welterweight division is currently among the strongest and, with Mitchell's humbling defeat still raw, he may decide a match-up with European title-holder Matthew Hatton would make more short-term sense.

For his part Brook isn't making any rash predictions about the long-term future or indeed about Saturday night - more advice from the wise old Prince, perhaps? - although he isn't too shy to cite one of the modern greats as his immediate inspiration.

"I remember watching Floyd Mayweather against Genaro Hernandez when he won his first world title and Hernandez had lots more experience," says Brook.

"But Mayweather played with him, and it will be same against Jennings - whatever he does, I've got every angle covered - I'm ready for him."

The suspicion is Brook has landed Jennings at just the right time - only a year ago and things might have been different - and never mind the Wincobank tingle, things might start turning Hollywood all over again.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Ben, have you ever contemplated changing your name?

  • Comment number 2.

    Good Blog Ben. What are you predictions for tomorrow nights fights?

    The fight I am most looking forward to is Sam Sexton v Derek Chisora. In there last fight Sexton was ahead on points but Chisora finished well and stopped Sexton.
    Since it seems Sexton has had the tougher fights (Rogan twice in Ireland for the Commonwealth title), and Chisora easily dispatch a aged Danny Williams. With the British and Commonwealth titles on the line seems like the winner could be thrust into graeater things in a poor current Heavyweight Division.

    Should be a great night of boxing!

  • Comment number 3.

    Chances are Brook wins this one, but that being said, whilst Kell does have undoubted talent, I'm not sure beating Jennings is a compelling argument to suggest he is World class and it annoys me when Sky bandy the term about willy-nilly. No disrespect to Michael (in fact, I'd love him to get the win...and I'm a Yorkshire lad) but I feel Brook's unorthodox style will make this fight similar to Naz vs Steve Robinson way back when. Robbo was decent little fighter in his own right but naz's "style" was all wrong for him.
    I hope I'm wrong about this one but what I'd definitely like to see, is Jennings taking Brook into the later rounds. Brook have never been past eight rounds if memory serves and it would be interesting to see how Brook copes if he can't get his man out of there in the early rounds

  • Comment number 4.

    good shout samsonbucket: Ben Dirs - love it!!

  • Comment number 5.

    I can't believe anyone thought Kevin Mitchell had a real shout against Katidis. Seemed like British hype and Katidis's record was totally ignored mainly because it didn't have Prescott on it!

  • Comment number 6.

    diddyt01 - Sexton-Chisora, too close the call, but I'll go for Chisora; Brook to stop Jennings late; Cleverly to come through on points. Should be a good night.

    DAVE669 - Yeh, don't think he's been past eight and I think you're right, it would be good if Jennings could drag him out there. That said, it was also be nice to see him do a decent job on him, to demonstrate that maybe he is world-class. As you say, we can't be sure of that yet.

    samsonbucket Yeh, I was thinking about changing my name to samsonbucket in order to hide behind a mask and anonymously mug people off online.

  • Comment number 7.

    Ben, my name is Luke Smith and I'm a practicing advocate on the Isle of Man. I'll offer my services and apply to change your name by deed poll if you would like.

    No muggings, just opportunistic.

  • Comment number 8.

    samsonbucket - Haha, well done - how much would it set me back?

  • Comment number 9.

    We charge £40 for the fee, and an admin charge on top. Thats £150 to you my friend.


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