BIG time boxing is well and truly back in Sheffield.
If a fighter can fill most of the cavernous Sheffield Arena in the same way Naseem Hamed did in 1997, Joe Calzaghe did in 2002 and Clinton Woods and Ricky Hatton did in 2005, he must indeed be a ‘Special One’.
And Kell Brook lived up to his nickname on Saturday with a comprehensive win over an older, more experienced Matthew Hatton, making his 50th pro appearance.
Nearly 10,000 fans filled the Arena. Those there to watch the noble warriors included a few less dignified knuckle-draggers – tribal fans wanting to fight each other in the stands.
If, as seems likely, the same venue is to be used again for such an even higher profile showdown – possibly Brook v Paul Malignaggi, Shane Mosley, Andre Berto, Victor Ortiz, Devon Alexander or, less likely, Amir Khan – the organisers must surely consider segregation, so the vast majority of decent sports fans are not distracted or endangered.
Brook, who started his pro career with a six rounder down the road at Don Valley stadium seven and a half years ago, was unaware of the occasional flare-up in the seats. While he is not prone to showboating in the style of the visiting Naz, he does have similar power, speed and athleticism. And he used that in the very first round, breaking Hatton’s nose.
From that moment on Hatton was forced to wear a bloody moustache and the Sheffield’s strong jabs continued to make the nose stream, undoubtably making breathing more challenging for the away fighter.
Brook, quicker on his feet, more muscular and cleaner with his shots, had the Mancunian on the back foot and tagged Hatton in the fourth round.
The middle rounds were heartbreaking for Hatton.
He thought he had been imposing himself in the fifth, but was then pinned on the ropes and hurt with left hook and right hand. It was a similar story in the sixth. By round eight, Hatton’s corner was imploring their man to try and put the pressure on. It was time to fight close in and take some chances.
The trouble was he just didn’t have the skills, once he’d got remotely near to tying Brook up.
The 30-year-old had learned a lot about survival from his creditable 12-round battle with Ryan Rhodes’ conqueror Saul Alvarez 12 months ago.
And although he hit the canvas briefly in the ninth after a left hook, he couldn’t improve on giving Brook the slightest of marks over his right eye.
The Grenoside stylist may even have been momentarily miffed that he couldn’t finish the job, winning eventually on a points tally of 118-109, 119-108 and 119-107, to win the WBA Inter Continental and IBF International welterweight belts.
But the bigger picture of overcoming another hurdle en route to a world title shot will have soon replaced that sentiment. On top of that, Brook can now rank himself among the best loved Sheffield sons in boxing history.
His adoring public can’t wait to see him again.
But next time – let’s keep all the fighting inside the ring.
On a spicey undercard, Welshman Kerry Hope caused a major upset by outpointing previously-unbeaten Pole Grzegorz Proksa – a young version of Junior Witter - via majority decision to take the European middleweight title, while Belfast prospect Carl Frampton retained his Commonwealth super-bantamweight belt by knocking out Prosper Ankrah of Ghana.
Ingle welterweight Adnam Amar was stopped after five rounds in his English title bout with Lee Purdy. Local boxers Wayne Reed and Lee Noble lost to Eamonn O’Kane and Ryan Aston respectively.