Ones to Watch
Johnny Nelson spends time with three of British boxing's brightest talents in a Ringside special.
Last Updated: 21/08/12 9:14am
This Thursday we have a very special edition of Ringside - Ones to Watch.
I've been out and about getting to know three of British boxing brightest talents, fighters who we're expecting big things from during the coming season.
They are Sheffield Star, and our top Welterweight, Kell Brook, Belfast Boy Carl Frampton, potentially the best of an exciting domestic crop of Super-Bantamweights, and finally Liverpool's exciting puncher Tony Bellew.
We started in my home city of Sheffield and at the Wincobank gym. Brendan Ingle's famous base has produced so many great champions over the years: Herol 'Bomber' Graham, Prince Naseem Hamed, Junior 'The Hitter' Witter, 'Spice Boy' Ryan Rhodes and yours truly (Johnny 'The Entertainer' Nelson). Now there's a new talent fresh off the famous Ingle production line - 'The Special One' Kell Brook. Unbeaten in 28 fights, 18 by knockout, our domestic number one could be one fight away from a shot at the World Title.
After being told I wasn't one of his inspirations growing up, (it was Naz) I joined the Steel City's new star for a session on the pads with trainer Dominic Ingle. Admittedly my timing was a touch off. That was followed by some sparring to the body, and despite my years on the safe side of the ropes I'm still considerably bigger than Kell.
Body sparring is a chance for all shapes and sizes to mix and hone their ring craft. I was still able to teach young Kell a few tricks, but when he joined forces with former World Champion Junior Witter and another of the gyms rising stars, Super-Bantamweight prospect Kid Galahad, three against one was a little unfair even for an elusive slickster like myself! I think they'd been waiting to get their own back on me for some time.
Away for the gym, I accompanied Kell for a hair cut in Pitsmoor, where he introduced me to Frenchie, his barber, another boxing fanatic. The shop's walls are covered in pictures of fighters; some of the sports greats past and present. There was one picture missing mind you!
Kell's roots run deep in Sheffield and I visited the family home in Hillsborough, where Kell was brought up before he moved out to start his own family with partner Lindsay and baby daughter Nevaeh. His mum Julie, dad Terry, sister Terrianna and brother Jacob are very proud and supportive of Kell as are his grandparents Ann and Roy. They have become fervent fight fans since their grandson took up the sport and more importantly Grandma Ann is a fan of mine, as you'll hear, much to the amusement of Kell! And you'll also see that it wasn't just Ann and Roy who I had the pleasure of meeting, the house is the heartbeat of the Brook family.
Brook's already proved himself the best in Britain at his weight and one man set to follow him in his next couple of fights is Belfast's new fighting hero Carl 'The Jackal' Frampton. Barry McGuigan's young protégé could be the man to bring the big boxing nights back to the City. Unbeaten in 14, the Commonwealth Super-Bantamweight tackles former double World Champion Steve Molitor next month. It is a real chance for the Ulsterman to steal a march on bitter domestic rivals Rendall Munroe, Scott Quigg and Kid Galahad.
I went to meet Carl in Tigers Bay, an area in the heart of the Belfast where Carl was raised. He's very proud of where he's from and is held in high regard by the people in the community. He took me back to where it all started, the Midland ABC. Carl was a prodigious amateur talent, winning Irish Senior Titles and capturing Silver for Ireland at the European Championships. There's a 20-foot mural on the outside wall of the gym with an image of Carl, commemorating his achievements for being the most successful fighter the gym's produced. Modestly he's rather embarrassed by it all. Inside I met the man who first spotted the Jackal's talent, head coach Billy McKee.
Carl is every inch the Belfast Boy, but he has set up home 20 minutes outside the City in Lisburn, with his fiancée Christine and young daughter Carla, the motivation behind his success. He is hoping for some great nights in his home city, starting on September 22. But the bulk of his work is done 500 miles away in the Kent countryside at the home of his manager and mentor, one of Ireland's finest and most popular Champions Barry McGuigan. Barry's son, another former amateur star, Shane, trains Carl under Barry's watchful eye. Shane is only 23 and just starting out, but he is an expert on diet and nutrition as well as fitness, boxing technique and tactics.
Our journey to see some of Britain's boxing talent concludes in Liverpool with the City's big talking, big punching star Tony Bellew. Tony kicks off our Fight Night Live action on September 8 with a sure-fire explosive clash with fellow banger, Colombian Edison Miranda. It's not one to miss and sure to get the season off to a flyer.
Tony's aiming to line-up another shot at the World Light-Heavyweight title, after a fantastic but ultimately unsuccessful effort to become WBO Champion against bitter rival Nathan Cleverly last year. Tony's never afraid to speak his mind, which might not be to everyone's taste, but as my time with Tony proves there's certainly more to Mr Bellew than meets the eye.
I joined him and the family for breakfast before assisting Tony on the school run with sons Corey and Cobey. Tony then took me for a drive round Toxteth and Wavertree, the tough, deprived areas that have shaped him and given him his hunger to succeed. The final stop, was a strength and conditioning session at Finch Farm, the training HQ of Tony's beloved Everton FC. This is where Tony, under the expert guidance of Dave Billows (club's head of sports science), packs all that punching power into his 6ft 3in, 12 stone 7lb frame. For some reason I thought it would be good to experience this part of Tony's training and as you'll see I perhaps should of left them to it. You could say at age 45 it was a hurdle too far! (Watch the show and you'll see what I mean!!).
It was great getting to know the guys; three fantastic characters surrounded some great people. I got a real glimpse into the personalities, backgrounds and families that make these guys the fighters, champions and people they are. I hope you enjoy the show.