When Kell Brook’s trainer suggested that a dot in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa would be the ideal retreat for his world welterweight champion from the distractions of Sheffield, the proximity to Tenerife never occurred to either of them.
Fuerteventura, in the Canary Islands, is just 150 miles from the resort where Brook was almost hacked to death by a machete-wielding assailant.
In the comparative tranquility of this small Spanish colonial haven for sun-seeking British holidaymakers that attack is a distant memory for the boxer known as Special K.
Of the decision by Dominic Ingle – son and heir to father Brendan’s fabled gym in Sheffield where Prince Naseem Hamed was groomed for greatness – to set up sweat-shop out here, Brook says: ‘That night in Tenerife rarely enters my head now.’
Other, that is, than when he recalls how it changed his life for the better.
As he finalises his spartan preparations to defend the IBF welterweight title in his home Steel City this Saturday night, Brook is living, healthy, glowing proof that good can come out of evil.
Just as well since the American challenger, Errol Spence Jnr, is such a hot knock-out property that he has been studiously avoided by most of the other stars in this division.
Brook attributes the glistening 12-pack condition in which he goes into this fight to the near-Damascene conversion he experienced in the summer of 2014.
Of the wide, deep, sinew-severing gash inflicted to his left thigh he says: ‘When I looked down and saw the blood gushing out I knew I could die. Or maybe never walk, let alone fight again.’
Did the stabbing have a lasting effect on his life and his boxing?
‘Absolutely it did,’ he says. ‘When I came out of hospital and heard running water and the birds singing I realised I’d been taking things like that for granted. When I get tired after a hard day’s training I take that now as better than being close to death.
‘Tenerife is just across the water but now I have so much good going on in my life – my family, my partner Lindsey and our daughters, my training, my career – that I have closed the book on that and opened a new chapter in my life. I’m happy where I am today.’
This renewed dedication to the rigours of the hardest game, at 31, may not be the best of news for Spence, even though the American is four years younger and comes to Sheffield undefeated and having KO’d 18 of his first 21 opponents.
Brook hesitated about submitting yet again to the rigours of draining down to welterweight even though his one venture to middleweight ended in his only defeat as the great Gennady Golovkin shattered his eye socket en route to a fourth-round stoppage.
Team Ingle convinced him it would be less arduous in a faraway camp along with not only a recharging of ambition but also a scientific training and diet regime.
So it has proved. Where boxers used to be able to talk us through their eating habits before a big fight, Brook reports: ‘My meals change according to the different things I do each day, like running or sparring or working the pads or cycling or lifting weights.
‘I wouldn’t say it’s easy because I’m big for a welterweight and they still have to be ready for my mood swings. But I don’t become Mr Grumpy any more. Not even on the days when I am fasting and having to run on an empty stomach.’
It helps that the modern methods give him the chance of an occasional slap-up treat, like the freshly caught whole sea-bass he was pictured savouring the other day at a beach-front restaurant.
The result is a high-toned fighting man who is powerfully muscled yet slender and fast and a picture of vibrant well-being. He says: ‘I know it’s working because I don’t just look in the mirror and think I look good. More importantly I feel terrific inside.’
Brook knows that the remoteness of this location – 75 miles from a sparsely-inhabited stretch of North African shore – also plays its part.
The ‘distractions’ of Sheffield include not only the day-to-day demands of fatherhood but the call of friends, the clamour of fans and the nights out.
He says: ‘Lindsey is a great mother but there are times when she has to get her nails done or whatever and I do the school runs. I love time like that with the family but that doesn’t fit with preparing for a world title fight. Then my pals are around and I have people coming at me in nightclubs.’
In tiny Fuerteventura those nights on the town have been replaced by scuba diving and crazy golf: ‘Real crazy for me. Even at this version of the game I end up in the trees.’
Doesn’t he miss the high life?
Brook says: ‘Before it would have bothered me even more than I’ve been away for both Lindsey’s and my birthdays. Now I’m happy, chilled, patient and can wait for us to go out for a big celebration after I beat Spence.
‘I know that will be a tough task. Spence is young and hungry and powerful, like I was when I went to America to challenge Shawn Porter and upset the odds to win the world title.
‘He’s looked five-star beating everyone they’ve put in front of him. But he’s facing me now. He will have to question himself now he’s in with an elite fighter, taking on the champion who has never lost at welterweight, who is big, strong, full of energy and fighting at home.’
Matured, also, might he add?
‘I think so,’ he answers. ‘I do think I’m a better fighter now I’ve calmed down a bit.’
So much better that he would readily take a rematch with Golovkin.
‘People think I’m mad when I say that about such a huge puncher who did such damage to my eye,’ he says. ‘But I was going well up to that big shot.’
Not only that. He adds: ‘Boxing is sport, not war. When you’ve looked death in the face you’re not afraid of any man in the ring.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/boxing/article-4531546/Kell-Brook-living-better-life-knife-attack-hell.html#ixzz4hswYi7uY
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