Kell Brook is the fourth world champion to come out of our gym in Wincobank and follows in the footsteps of Naseem Hamed, Johnny Nelson and Junior Witter.
In time, Barry Awad – Kid Galahad – will be number five. Not bad for a spit-and-sawdust place.
When Kell beat Shawn Porter in Los Angeles to take the IBF world welterweight title, he did it away from home with the odds against him. Shawn was ordered by the IBF to make his mandatory defence against Kell in America.
On average it takes 20 years to train and build a world champion. It is always uncertain and requires dedication and commitment from the boxer but those around him. Much of the work that goes on is unseen. Like me, everyone who helps out in the gym is a volunteer. Wincobank would not have its world champions without volunteers to train, coach, mentor and accompany the amateurs to their fights. Very few make a living from professional boxing, but I hope that most who pass through the gym are better people for doing so.
The Ingle Gym is packed seven days a week. As with many Sheffield organisations, it is built on the work of volunteers who need facilities, resources, and community activities. They give their time freely without complaint and, in many cases, no recognition.
Sheffield has been hit hard in recent years with cuts to valued services, most notably the libraries. I always tell the boxers to get a good education, otherwise someone else will always control their lives. Libraries are key institutions for self-learning. Joining the Central Library was the first thing I did when I came to Sheffield. That is why I’m delighted that most, if not all, of the libraries earmarked for closure will remain open thanks to volunteers who have business plans and will give their time to realise the plans.
I am proud to live in a city in which its people always deliver in the face of adversity. They collaborate and find solutions even when there seems to be no hope of success.
We should all give thanks to all the community champions of Sheffield for making it a wonderful city to live in, and one which I have never wanted to leave.