He’s a Sheffield born lad who has been turned into one of boxing’s hottest prospects by Brendan Ingle’s famed Wincobank gym. Sound familiar?
Brook is currently the WBO Intercontinental champion and outright British champion at welterweight, but is heavily tipped to one day take a world title.
The 24-year-old is preparing for his first world title shot, probably against unbeaten American Mike Jones sometime this year in what could be a thrilling encounter.
Brook began his professional career in 2004 but made his first strides into boxing at a very young age. In fact, he was just nine when he first set foot in the now famous St Thomas Boy’s and Girl’s Club gym in Wincobank, Sheffield.
His father, Terry Brook, said that he knew from a very young age that his son had a special talent for boxing.
“Kell could punch like a man when he was seven. At that time I was looking at what Naz (Prince Naseem Hamed) was doing and the Ingle gym and thought he could be a world champion,” he said. From seven year old I always believed that he could be.”
There was certainly no shortage of people for young Brook to look up to, with Naseem Hamed, Johnny Nelson and Ryan Rhodes all fighting out of the gym at that time.
As aforementioned, the flamboyant former featherweight world champion Prince Naseem was, and continues to be, a touchstone for Brook. Seeing Naz strut his stuff in the Ingle gym from a young age was bound to have a significant effect on any impressionable youth aspiring to be a boxer. His father Terry said the families are friends, and Naz has been forthcoming with both praise and advice for his son.
Perhaps it is inevitable that comparisons have been made between Brook and Hamed given their shared Sheffield and Ingle gym heritage, but really apart from the steely determination to win titles and phenomenal punching power, there is not a great deal of similarity between the two.
Brook is certainly less flamboyant than his illustrious predecessor, and isn’t prone to taunting his opponent in the ring in the swashbuckling style of Hamed in his prime. And he is yet to arrive in the ring on a magic carpet. Though he is still only young at 24, he has achieved nowhere near the level of worldwide fame, and some would say notoriety, of the Prince. In fact, Brook is probably an unknown to most casual fight fans in the UK, let alone in the United States. Though it is likely that picking up a world title next year and stepping up to fight undeniably world level opponents will change that.
Still, like Naseem, Brook’s confidence inside and outside the ring is unmistakable. After all, a man who claims he could ‘do’ Filipino pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao has got to be either supremely confident in his own ability or delusional. And make no mistake, in Kell Brook’s case it is the former.
Brook also recently called out former sparring partner Amir Khan in what was widely seen as a bid by his promoter Frank Warren to get some much needed publicity for his fighter. After all, Khan currently campaigns at light-welterweight, one weight class below Brook, and a fight with someone as dangerous as the Sheffield switch-hitter would have been a no-go for Khan, especially with a huge unification fight with Tim Bradley on the horizon.
In the end, Brook was never seriously considered with Khan opting for the unheralded Paul McCloskey, a much safer-bet in what is essentially tune-up fight for Bradley. Nevertheless, should Khan move up to welterweight in the future, as expected, and Brook go on to make his mark in the division, an all-British showdown a year or two the line could be one of the biggest on these shores for some time. The fact that the pair have some previous makes a future showdown even more intriguing.
Though Brook will be well served to learn from the many highs of Naseem’s dominant featherweight reign, he would also do well to learn from the few mistakes made by the Prince inside and outside the ring.
The celebrity and adulation is widely thought to have gone to Hamed’s head later on in his career, and he famously fell out with Brendan Ingle and left the Wincobank gym. Naseem reportedly disliked the long training camps and corners were cut in training, eventually culminating in his sole defeat, a unanimous decision loss to Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera at the MGM Grand in 2001.
Brook also separated with the Ingle gym early in his professional career, but perhaps wisely decided to return home to the gym that has produced numerous British and world level champions. Like Naseem, who was jailed in 2006 for dangerous driving, he has also found himself on the wrong side of the law. One unsavoury episode saw Brook convicted of assault in a Barnsley nightclub in May 2010. He escaped jail and community service but was electronically tagged. Nonetheless, with support from his family, manager Frank Warren and the older and wiser Naz amongst others, Brook appears to have learnt from his mistake and moved on to concentrate on what he does best- winning boxing matches in convincing fashion.
His subsequent defeat of Michael Jennings after his conviction and the demolition of Philip Kotey in two rounds seemed to suggest that he is ready to make the step up. And 2011 could well be the year that Kell Brook finally becomes the world champion and household name he longs to be.