A KNOCKOUT performance from Sheffield’s Kell Brook earned him a world title shot after he finished Argentinian Hector Saldivia in three rounds at the Motorpoint Arena, writes Graham Walker.
More than 6,000 fight fans cheered as a right hook put the South American on the canvas in the first round.
Brook, aged 26, with an impressive new physique, looked like finishing it in the second and left Saldivia badly marked under his right eye.
But the local boy stepped up another gear in the third round and dropped his opponent again - stopping the fight after just 28-seconds.
Doncaster’s Jamie McDonnell will fight for the IBF world bantamweight title next year after he won his undercard fight, finding a way to break down a tough-as-teak Darwin Zamora.
See The Star on Monday for full reports, reaction and more.
Brook is now undefeated in 29 fights and his next will be for the IBF world welterweight title early next year - with Randall Bailey or Devon Alexander lying in wait.
Brook answered all the questions in the wake of a harder-than-expected win over Carson Jones in July.
He looked tremendously sharp, picked his powerful punches well and dominated the fight from the first bell.
Afterwards he praised his new team of nutritionists who have helped to enhance his physique and win the world title eliminator.
Brook and his team decided corners could no longer be cut, with a new, punishing training regime.
And like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s unstoppable Terminator, Kell admitted: “We’re turning into a machine.”
Celebrating his win, Brook told Sky Sports: I went back to the drawing board and brought in a nutritionist. I brought in a team and did the hard work.
“ I was feeling good in the changing room. i knew I was bang on to get the result.
“Everything has been by numbers and we were hitting those numbers.
“When you get to this level you can’t mess about so we brought in people to get the job done.”
He’s next expected to fight for the world title early next year. But he’s also got Amir Khan in his sights.
He told Sky Sports: “I want to take Khan ‘s chin straight off and destroy him.
“I want to keep filling arenas out and bring the fights back home.”
Brook trainer Dominic Ingle and promoter Eddie Hearn acknowledge the style of their fighter’s victory over Saldivia, a battle-hardened opponent who had knocked out more people than Brook has faced to date.
Ingle said: We always knew Kell was capable and in three rounds he totally destroyed Saldivia.”
Hearn said: “I want to thank the Sheffield public for their support. This guy is going to be one of the biggest stars boxing as ever had in this country.
“The fight people want to see is against Amir Khan and we’ll have no problem beating him in the shape Kell is in. We’re ready now. We’ve done the apprenticeship and we’re ready for a world title.”
This showing will calm any fears borne out of the Jones fight and also helps vindicate his decision to enter a brutal 12-week training camp which has seen him develop the new look he sported tonight.
He has spent the build-up hollering from the rooftops of the Steel City that he is the man to succeed Naseem Hamed as a world champion from Sheffield, and he stormed into the ring riding the crest of a wave generated by a near-capacity crowd at the Motorpoint Arena.
Brook looked desperate to prove his new credentials, fizzing into his stride with a leading left, with Saldivia looking loose early on. His lack of a defence would cost him too, with Brook teeing up a right that floored him for a count of eight.
He then had Saldivia wobbling with a right, before getting him in trouble again at the start of the second, unleashing a left-right-left reel against the ropes. He was then warned for use of the elbow, though, and Saldivia, who has gone off early before, went on the attack, winding up behind a right hand before the bell rang.
That suggested the 28-year-old was in it for the long haul, but Brook put that to bed early after his rest in the corner, finding Saldivia wide open and putting him down with a venomous jab that he could not recover from.”