Boxing: Brook believes he can send Pacman packing
Sheffield showman is set to increase Britain's stable of world champs to five
You would never guess Kell Brook's real name in a thousand years. Make that more than two thousand in fact. Kelvin, Kelly? No, it's Ezekiel, after the Hebrew prophet in the Old Testament who was noted as something of a miracle-worker.
And a miracle is what most believe Britain's charismatic welterweight champion will require should he come fist-to-face this year with Manny Pacquiao. For he is the No 1 contender for the phenomenal Filipino's WBO title.
Characteristically, the one person who isn't intimidated by the prospect of a pounding from the Pacman is the unbeaten 24-year-old from Sheffield, with a punch and a persona much in the mould of his home-town icon Naseem Hamed, not least when it comes to self-confidence and chutzpah. "Everyone knows what a great fighter Pacquiao is," he says. "He's a machine. But he's been beaten before and he can be beaten again, and I've got the style to do it. The Wincobank style."
Wincobank? That's the area in downtown Sheffield which houses the atmospheric workshop run by that sage of sock, Brendan Ingle, which has become as prolific a production line of champions here as as Freddie Roach's Wild Card gym, the current campus of Pacquiao and Amir Khan, in Los Angeles.
Those who have graduated from Wincobank's fistic academy to world class – Hamed, Herol Graham, Johnny Nelson, Junior Witter, Ryan Rhodes and now Brook – have all benefited from what they call the "Ingle tingle", with its trademark low-slung hands, sleight-of-fist counter-punching and swivelling footwork. Hit and hop it before they can hit back. "It's that tingle which has put me where I am today," declares Brook, who holds the WBO Intercontinental belt. "I've watched and learned from them all and there's a bit of Naz in me. But my style's my own. This is going to be my year, and I want to be a world champion by the end of it."
But his promoter Frank Warren says: "Kell isn't ready for Pacquiao yet. I keep telling him he must have a little patience. He's got to sit tight for a while, get a few more decent wins. But he is on the cusp of doing something really big and he will definitely be a world champion."
As leading contender to Pacquiao, Brook is in a good bargaining position. But what Warren may have in mind is to try to match him against one of the less fearsome mortals who hold other versions of the title – American Andre Berto (WBC), Slovenian Jan Zaveck (IBF) or Ukrainian Vyacheslav Senchenko (WBA). Warren has also made his erstwhile marquee man Khan "a multi-million-dollar" offer to fight Brook, which the WBA light-welter champion twittered "made me laugh out loud". Khan claims he regularly beat up Brook when they sparred as amateurs but Brook insists it was the other way round. "It would be a huge fight for Britain," he says. Indeed, but breath should not be held.
However, Warren and Ingle predict that Brook, emphatic winner of all his 26 bouts, will be one of the most exciting faces of 2011, the one most likely to extend Britain's quartet of world champions (David Haye, Khan, Carl Froch and Ricky Burns) to a fistful.
At 70, Ingle nowadays delegates the coaching to sons Dominic and John but he says of Brook, whose father brought him to the gym as a "right handful" of a nine-year-old: "We've watched him grow into a fine amateur and now a British champion and world-title contender. The moves he has, he can be as good, if not better, than Naz. But he's a young, good-looking kid and he has to learn to live the life of a fighter all the time." Warren concurs: "What I want him to do is learn from Naz what he did wrong as well as what he got right. He's got to learn to get it right outside the ring as well as inside."
Last July, Brook was convicted of an assault in a Sheffield nightclub for which he was tagged and subjected to a 8pm-6am curfew, escaping community service or worse after Warren wrote to the court. "Being tagged stopped him going out at night but at least it didn't stop him training."
Brook admits: "It was a big wake-up call. Now I know what I want and what it takes to get there. I was talking to Naz a couple of months back and he said, 'Don't cut corners or else you get cut short'. There has been no cutting corners. I've just been getting my head down."
With Haye and Wladimir Klitschko finally squaring up, Khan planning a title defence here in April, Froch favourite for the Super Six title, Brook and now Nathan Cleverly and James DeGale moving into world-title contention, 2011 should see boxing continue its spirited resurrection after Audleygate – taking a leaf, apparently, from the book of the original Ezekiel, the Bible puncher whose party piece was raising people from the dead.
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