Kell Brook will climb through the ropes at the Sheffield Arena tonight knowing he is a win away from a shot at a world title, just 14 months after quivering with nerves ahead of an innocuous bout at a leisure centre.
The 26-year-old, self-styled "Special One" was under the management of Eddie Hearn for the first time against Lovemore Ndou at Hillsborough Leisure Centre in June last year, and told his new promoter that he did not know if he was up to it.
He would see off the Australian on points, though, and has since grown in both confidence and reputation, so much so that, if Brook beats Hector Saldivia in what amounts to a semi-final for the IBF welterweight title, he will be on the brink of ruling the world.
"Fourteen months ago, Kell Brook had his first fight with us, this will be his sixth," said Matchroom Sport boss Hearn. "We had a plan straight away to become a mandatory challenger for the title, that was all we wanted to do. We didn't want a small purse or to give away options. We wanted to control our own destiny.
"People believe in Kell Brook, he's breaking records on Sky and he's a superstar in the making."
Unfortunately for Brook, his last outing was anything but super. He clung on for dear life against the well-travelled Carson Jones, taking a majority decision that belied his broken nose and blood-stained shorts.
The close shave has proved to be a wake-up call for the unbeaten Brook, though, who has sculpted his body to new levels in order to preserve his 28(18)-0 record against 28-year-old Argentine Saldivia.
With a crack at the title, which will be held by either Devon Alexander or Randall Bailey who also fight tonight, on the line early next year as a reward, in his way is Saldivia who himself has an enviable record of 41(32)-2.
"He's no easy pickings," said Brook. "He's earned his right to be ranked where he is, he's no walkover and is going to be very tough, you can tell he is and I am going to have my work cut out. I wouldn't want it any other way, I want to excite the fans and they are going to go home with a smile on their face."
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