By Terence Dooley
Sheffield's Kell Brook and Manchester's Matthew Hatton are ready for a welterweight war at Sheffield's Motorpoint Arena later tonight.
Bob Shannon, the trainer of Hatton, was by his charge's side all day. The veteran coach was recently featured on Sky's Ringside show. He told the TV cameras that he is determined to bring success to his Fighting Fit gym to honour the memory of his son, Robert, and father, also called Robert, who both tragically died in car crashes decades apart.
Robert Junior's death hit Bob hard; he works as a full-time decorator and once told me that the lonely nature of the job makes it tough to get thoughts of his son, who also held a coaching license, out of his mind. Shannon lights a candle for them both every day, in recent months the ritual has been followed by hours of watching Brook's fight DVDs.
Indeed, Shannon believes that he has sussed out a number of flaws in Kell's style, although he let nothing slip when I caught up with him on the phone earlier this evening to discuss the bout. “People are asking me what I saw in Kell's armoury, even Kell has asked people – I think it has got under his skin a little bit,” said Shannon.
“Boxing is not just about running up hills, it is about tactics as well and that is something people don't often get to see me doing. Matthew looked good on the scales, Kell looked as sharp as ever and not nervous, both lads stood their ground. It was a really good weigh in. I have got a really good feeling about this because they are two professional lads, a credit to the sport of boxing and to their families. It is all about respect for themselves, each other and their children. The fact they've both taken the fight also shows that they have a lot of respect for the fans. Come tomorrow night it will be tough for both of them, they're both focussed on the win.”
Hatton, 42-5-2 (16), recently told me that the underdog tag does not bother him. The 30-year-old feels that last year's brave performance in his WBC world light-middleweight title fight against Mexico’s Saul Alvarez in L.A. proved that he is a durable, game and solid boxer, with the onus now on Kell, 26-0 (18), to prove that he too can make the step to world level. Shannon agrees with Matthew's assessment.
“We went over to L.A. and he fought Alvarez at a weight above Matt's usual division,” stated Shannon. “It was a massive fight for Matthew. It showed the world what I've always said about him – he's massively underrated. Alvarez thought he could walk through Matthew and found he couldn't, Kell will find out the same thing.
“I have put a lot of work into this as well. We've worked on footwork ever since Matthew came to my gym. We move alongside each other and I've pushed him along the ring in some hard sessions. It paid off after a couple of months because Matthew thinks his movement has improved. If your foundations aren't right it is tough to improve anything else, they are a big part of being a top fighter. Matthew has shown that he is a top fighter.
“Matthew has the experience of fighting for a world title and I've made sure he gets extra one-to-one coaching and attention. That extra attention lets you work on weaknesses and turn them into strengths, which we have done with his footwork. I think he'll win this fight.”
Although keen to stress that were not looking beyond Brook, Shannon believes that a win for 'Magic' will help propel him into an all-Lancashire showdown with Amir Khan should the Bolton fighter win back the WBA and IBF light-welterweight world titles from Lamont Peterson in May and then relinquish the belts to move up to 147.
He said: “I think Matthew can fight Amir Khan or Peterson, if they move up, [and] should he beat Kell - because he will have proven himself a world-class fighter from this great country of ours. Amir is a great fighter, great for this country, and the fans want those British title fights because they are big events. Amir would be a great fight for Matthew, but we are looking only at Kell because we respect him so much.
“Your life is mapped out by destiny, it was destiny that brought me and Matthew together, and we've moved into this fight – I think it was meant to be because they've been linked a few times and it never quite came off.
“Ricky Hatton had so much natural talent and was an amateur golden boy. Matthew didn't have that type of amateur career, he's come through by putting in a lot of hard work and determination. It has got him to where it is. Matt just needed someone who could dedicate their time to him, I've done that and he is in such good shape – I think he could go on for years.”
Win, lose or draw, Shannon will head back over the Pennines, get an early night and will be up first thing on Sunday morning to take his other fighters on their weekly hill run. It was during one of these runs that Shannon picked up an unlikely nickname, “Last of the Mohicans”, and this unusual moniker prompted him to cut his hair into an equally exotic Mohawk. The trainer picked up the story.
“You already know where I will be early on Sunday morning,” he said when asked if he will be partying late into the night on Saturday. “I will be up the hills with my fighters taking them on their runs. That is how I got the nickname 'Last of the Mohicans'.
“We were all on a hill run years and years ago. My fighters were saying it was too hard a run for them to do so I said 'O.K.' and did the run myself. When I was finished the lads all congratulated me and one of them said I was 'The Last Of The Mohicans'. People often ask why I have the Mohawk hair style, well now they know why. I won't stay up late drinking champagne, I won't go out on the town – I'll be there for my fighters on the run because I've a brilliant Commonwealth champion [at welterweight] in Denton Vassell and Matty Askin, who is fighting John Lewis Dickinson for the English cruiserweight title in May. These lads mean the world to me and so do their fights.”
Click on the following link to watch Shannon's Ringside segment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvnGOSrTDZY. You can also follow his gym on Twitter @Bobshannonsgym.
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