Dominic Ingle, the trainer who took Kell Brook to a world title, says he will not know whether the former IBF welterweight champion still has it until he steps back into the ring next month.
Brook is back working with Ingle at the famous Wincobank gym ahead of his fight with Mark DeLuca on February 8 in Sheffield, hoping it will provide a springboard to a world-title shot next summer.
But, while Ingle says the 33-year-old has looked good in the gym, he is reserving judgment on his prospects of making a splash at the top level again until he actually boxes.
“We’ll have to see what he has left,” said Ingle, the son of legendary trainer Brendan. “I will know in the first four rounds.
“I have seen him sparring younger, ambitious guys, who have come to take his head off and he has handled them. He’s handled their energy, stamina and timing. He’s fresh, but that could change when he drops another six or seven pounds to make weight – there are all these other factors.
“So far he has looked all right, but he has been out for over a year so we won’t actually know until he gets in the ring.
“Fingers crossed he turns up of February 8 and gives a performance that shows us he has got another 12 months. All I will say at this point is that he is in a very good place with his weight and fitness, it is just a case of what he does on the night.”
Brook last boxed in December 2018, when he had a tougher-than-expected night before grinding out a points victory over Michael Zerafa. Ahead of that fight, he had left Ingle to be trained by John Fewkes, but, while critical of that decision, Ingle says there was never a fallout.
“They think everybody falls out in boxing,” Ingle said. “It’s like having kids. With my father, he always gave me enough rope to make my own mistakes. He would say, ‘if you do this, it’s going to go wrong, but if you are going to do it, go and do it and you will learn’.
“It is the same with boxers. My ambition with Kell was to take him to a world title and to win it. That was my job done. From that point on, you have still got a job, but it is their responsibility. Once they are on the top of the mountain, it is up to them to stay on track, I can’t live their life for them.
“I thought [switching to Fewkes] it was the wrong move, but we didn’t fall out. I was somewhere else. I was in Canada and he didn’t want to traipse around, which I understand. But for me that would have been better than working with an inexperienced trainer, who didn’t know how to control Kell Brook. That’s what you need and it takes years to get that kind of relationship.
“As good a fighter as Kell Brook is, it is like having a Ferrari and putting a kid behind the steering wheel. That kid might be able to drive a toy car but it is a different machine. Kell Brook won the fight, it wasn’t the best and a year later he is back in the mix.”
Ingle says that ambition rather than earning potential will be the key to Brook having an Indian summer to his career.
“He goes through phases when he gets really cheesed off with boxing and disheartened and then something will spur him on,” Ingle said.
“Sometimes it is other fighters in the gym. He will see Liam Williams doing well, or Kid Galahad, or Billy Joe [Saunders] and he will think ‘I can still do that’. And he can, he can still do that, it is just whether you can drag yourself out of bed in the morning, the nice house with the wife and kids.
“He has worked hard for what he has got, but at this age you can’t do boxing for money, you have to do boxing for ambition and you have to have the hunger to prove yourself.
“He doesn’t like to lose at anything. He still has that ambition but once you lose that, it is time to pack up.”