Kell Brook remembers the day he first promised he would become world champion, almost as clearly as the day his dream came true.
The young Brook had barely entered his teens, and boxing was already his life. Training with established stars at the famed Ingle gym in Wincobank saw to that.
By 14, his thirst for belts was beginning. He quenched it a little by becoming the Yorkshire and Humberside Schoolboy champion, and his mind was made up. He was still a kid but, while many of his mates from Herries School were out on the streets of Southey and Shirecliffe until late, Brook was in the gym - after telling himself that, one day, he would become a champion of the world.
“I would say that boxing saved my life,” Brook told me when we last met, at a masterclass boxing event for young children last year.
“I was one of those naughty kids growing up in a naughty neighbourhood and, looking back on the kids I grew up with at school, a lot of them are still involved with that bad life.
“Some of them are in prison, and a couple are dead.”
Brook grew up a stone’s throw from Herries School in Shirecliffe, widely accepted as one of Sheffield’s most underperforming areas. A Sheffield Council report two years ago found that deprivation levels are higher than other areas of the city, with an above-average crime rate. Herries was closed in 2000, and became Parkwood High School before Brook left in 2002.
“Without boxing, I would have easily got involved with that kind of thing, too, because that’s all the kids around that area know,” he added.
“But going to the gym, learning discipline and listening to people gave me the edge at age 10 or 11, because I knew I didn’t want to get involved in the bad life like others around me.
“It’s transformed my life for the better - both physically, mentally and financially, and how I approach life now is completely different because of boxing.”
Brook, speaking before his will-they-won’t-they bout with Devon Alexander was finally scrapped for good last year, went onto tell me how he was planning to “take apart” the then-IBF welterweight world champ.
“I’m going to explode in America after this fight,” he enthused. “No-one will ever have done what I’m about to do.”
In the end, he never got his chance and had to watch, frustrated, as Shawn Porter, instead, stripped Alexander of his title.
But Brook knew his time would come; he was fully prepared to work hard in silence, and let success make all the noise.
And what a racket it was.
In front of a packed, buzzing StubHub Center crowd in Carson, California last weekend, Brook went toe-to-toe with Porter; just 12 rounds with the energetic Ohio fighter standing between him and his destiny.
A majority verdict delivered it, with Brook’s measured style enamouring the judges against Porter’s all-action game plan.
Every punch taken in sparring, endless runs around the streets of Sheffield and weeks on end away from his young family on training camps were vindicated with three little words that meant everything.
And the new.
It is impossible to say what went through the 28-year-old’s mind as he heard that he was officially on top of the world, and was hoisted aloft by promoter Eddie Hearn.
Maybe he spared a thought for his Shirecliffe roots, and realised just how far he had come; thousands of kilometres from home in literal terms, but a million miles metaphorically.
Or maybe his mind wandered back to when he was
seven years old, and first met Brendan Ingle.
“I saw all these big lads hitting bags, and I wanted to get my gloves on and have a go,” he remembers.
“But Brendan told me I couldn’t straightaway, and wanted me to do my shuttle runs and learn the discipline first. So I gave up.
“But when I was nine, I started getting into my Bruce Lee films and asked my Dad to take me back down. I did everything they asked of me, stuck at it and I’ve never looked back since.”
The Ingle gym, remember, was no amateur operation. Champions like Graham, Hamed and Nelson called it home by the time Brook took up the gloves, and their success only fed his hunger for some of his own.
Brook has shown he belongs on the world stage, with a professional record of 32-0, a world title belt around his waist and no shortage of natural talent.
But away from the ring, he possesses an equal amount of humility and still fondly remembers the day Ingle began preparing him for life at the top.
He was not yet ten years old, still painfully shy and wide-eyed, when Ingle made him stand up, address the entire audience - including the likes of Hamed, Nelson and Ryan Rhodes - and speak for a minute, about himself.
It wasn’t quite Mr Miyagi-esque, from Karate Kid. But, as Brook admits, it did the trick.
“Before I left for America, Brendan reminded me of that day and how it took me out of my comfort zone,” he said.
“It prepared me for what was to come, moments when the spotlight is on you and the pressure is, too.”
Brook returned to the UK yesterday with the IBF belt, and one of his first planned stops was at the Shirecliffe home of his proud grandparents, Ann and Roy.
“A lot of his wider family still live in Shirecliffe, and I have a lot of contact with some of them on an almost daily basis,” Paul Howard, one of Brook’s former teachers at Herries, said.
“From an early age he was convinced that boxing would be his life, and it’s great to see him succeed - as it is with any former student.
“It’s also a boost for a community which, without being patronising, needs it a little.”
Howard, now Community Liaison Manager at Parkwood Academy, which stands on the old Herries School site, proudly displays a signed photo of Brook on the wall of his office.
“People come in and ask who it is,” he said, “and now I can tell them that he was an typical lad from Shirecliffe - a jack-the-lad type, really - who had a big talent.
“But he also had a great attitude and work ethic. He stuck at boxing, worked hard - and now he’s the champion of the world.”