How Steel City’s Kell Brook was forged

Boxer Kell Brook at the  Lower Manor Gym, Sheffield. Kell is flanked by Chris Smedley (left) and Steve Barnes
Boxer Kell Brook at the Lower Manor Gym, Sheffield. Kell is flanked by Chris Smedley (left) and Steve Barnes
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Steve Barnes will have more than passing interest in Kell Brook’s latest defence of his IBF title a week on Saturday.

Steve who? His name isn’t instantly synonymous with the spectacular climb up the rankings of Sheffield’s world champion. Yet it was Steve who guided Kell through the amateurs and was the foremost influence on him as he headed towards the paid ranks.

“I used to take him everywhere” said Barnes. “I had him for 12 years, he was terrible when I got him! I won some of his fights for him, aged 12-18, I made him look a million dollars on the pads. But then politics of boxing and money got involved - I was an amateur coach back then so I didn’t have the license to carry on. But I know that without a pedigree in amateurs, nobody would go all that far in the pro game.”

Nowadays Barnes has a pro license and trains Liam Cameron and Leon Field, who box on Saturday at the Magna Centre, and Nicki Smedley who is returning to the sport.

But he looks back with fondness at the fabulous talent he has played a significant part in forging. “You have to have the material to work with in the first place” he said. “You can’t make a gold ring out of scrap iron. And Kell has come on bomb. He still needs to fight the top people to prove himself. When he has fought the top people then we will see. Can he do that and win? I think he would be a hard opponent for anyone.”

The Lower Manor trainer says Cameron has only to conquer a lack of confidence to hit the big time. “He does 10 rounds every night in the gym, so he might not even have to go out of second gear when it comes to Saturday.”

He insists that Cameron “has all the skills.

“But there is still stuff in his head and things about his style I don’t like. He needs to be confident. I am stopping him from planting his feet, staying on the ropes with his hands up, taking shots to his arms and gloves. When he moves his head and his legs, it looks nice. He is a work in progress. He’s had great sparring in Manchester with Callum Smith and held his own. He’s doing alright.”

As for Smedley, once an English title contender, Barnes is having to overcome four years of ring inactivity.

“We have had to shift a lot of timber” he said, referring to weight.

“He will make it. I have given him a good diet which is tried and tested. He will get his fast hands back. After a couple of bouts he will want a crack at another title.”