THIS is Kell Brook country.
But you wouldn’t have known that yesterday when Amir Khan and his roadshow rolled into Sheffield.
His arrival for a media event at the English Institute of Sport, a few strides from the Sheffield Arena where Brook has made his name, was heralded by shrieking girl fans, the like you’d normally associate with boy bands.
Khan makes his return to UK boxing - his last four contests were in the US - against Mexican Julio Diaz at the Arena on Saturday. The 26-year-old (W 27 L 3) looks down his nose at Sheffield’s own Brook, who is currently recuperating from an injury which scuppered his chance to compete for a world title in the States next month. Brook now is being lined up for a comeback on the card of new stablemate Luke Campbell’s professional debut in Hull, in July.
For the moment, the Sheffield limelight falls on Bolton’s Khan, who went through some unorthodox training moves with his trainer yesterday, as he prepares for the 143-pound catch-weight bout.
On the other hand, if Diaz is as good at punching as he is skipping - he did an entertaining routine for the boxing media - Khan is going to have to watch out.
Khan thanked Diaz for showing the courage to fight him in the UK. “No-one likes to come to me and fight in my home country, so it’s great he has shown bottle and come over” he said.
“Julio is coming down from 147 to fight me, that is why we have made the fight at 143.
“We are going to be ready and strong at this weight. It is the first time I have been heavier than 140 for a long time but I think it will suit me.
“This fight will straight away elevate us back into world-title fights.
“But I am not thinking any further than this fight yet. I just want to get through this one and then we will know exactly where we are.”
The bout is the headline attraction of a packed card which also features the first professional fights of Khan’s brother Haroon and Anthony Ogogo, as well as heavyweight Audley Harrison.
Khan said: “I think it is going to be brilliant.
“Sheffield is a well-known boxing place with a big boxing history.
“It is going to be great for me to put on a big performance in front of my home fans.
“It is very exciting. I have not fought here for two years because most of my fights are in America.
“I miss fighting in the UK. My last fight was against Paul McCloskey in Manchester so I needed to come back and put on a fight in front of my home fans.”
Diaz made clear he has not flown over to provide Khan with a career lift.
The 33-year-old has knocked out Henry Aurad and Hector Sanchez last year before drawing with Shawn Porter.
Diaz said: “Everything is perfect, right on point. I feel good.
“I have to perform and look good and try to put him out.
“This is the key to open the doors. I beat Amir Khan, I get another world title shot. He is on my way. I just do my job, put him out, go back home.
“We know what we need to do. He is a great fighter but he makes a lot of mistakes and we are looking to capitalise on any of them.”
With tickets priced up to £300, Khan should be eager to put on a good 12-round show against Californian-based veteran Diaz, (W40 L 7 D1.)