By Gav Duthie: The chief architect of the Ingle Wincobank Gym at the heart of the Steel City Sheffield Brendan Ingle passed away in 2018 but he would have been smiling down on Manchester last Saturday night as Kell Brook won his big grudge match over Amir Khan.
Ingle was one of the greatest characters in the sport. Hundreds of boxers from World champions to local kids credit the Ingle gym with turning their life around.
The goal of the gym was always to give the local community a place to go, a life away from crime and temptation. The discipline and flair combined though created some of the best fighters Britain has ever produced.
They have a unique style based on quick reflexes, accurate punching, and great footwork. World champions most recently from Kid Galahad, Kell Brook, Junior Witter, Naseem Hamed, and Johnny Nelson passed through the doors.
After last Saturday I asked myself the question, is Kell Brook the greatest of them all. Here is my list of top 5 Brendan and Dominic Ingle trained fighters.
Johnny Nelson 45-12 (29)
Perhaps controversial given the success of his career compared to the others placing him at 5. He is undoubtedly the biggest success story because by his own admission he was terrible when he first entered the gym. In fact, he was bad for years. He lost 10 out of 13 amateur fights and lost his first 3 as a pro. He never gave up though and kept on improving. Nelson had lost 12 times when he faced Carl Thompson for the WBC title but he never lost again.
Many felt he was lucky to get the shot but he dominated Thompson never letting him inside and stopped him in the 5th round. He made 13 successful defenses between 1999 and 2005. He drew against Guillermo Jones but won the rest. A knee injury ended his career but he still holds the joint-most cruiserweight defenses. He also won 2 minor heavyweight titles in the WBF and WBU.
Junior Witter 43-8 (23)
For a brief moment, Witter was possibly the best British fighter around. Like Brook, he had a simmering British rival but his fight with Ricky Hatton never happened. He was the WBC light welterweight titleholder in 2006 and 2007 defeating the still active Demarcus ‘Chop Chop’ Corley in his prime and he destroyed Vivian Harris.
He also won a European title outpointing future world champion Andriy Kotelnik. He had power in both hands and most Ingle fighters was a switch hitter, comfortable at both southpaw and orthodox. He seemed to decline really quickly losing to Tim Bradley in 2008. Although he boxed on until 2015 he never really regained his stunning mid naughties form.
Herool Graham 48-6 (28)
Never a world champion but many say he was the most talented of them all. He was the original and the blueprint for the style that was perfected by Naseem Hamed and others to win world titles. He had amazing reflexes, great speed and time, superb head movement, and was unpredictable.
He was unsuccessful in 3 world title attempts in 1989 (Mike McCallum), 1990 (Julian Jackson), and Charles Brewer in 1998. He dropped a close Split decision to McCallum and was completely dominating Julian Jackson suffering one of the sickest knockouts in history when he timed his head movement wrong. He also dropped Brewer twice well past his best in 1998 but was stopped late. His best win was against Vinny Pazienza.
Naseem Hamed 36-1 (31)
Probably most would have him number 1 and it’s probably just all the recent excitement but he falls just short for me. Retiring at 28 years old after losing his love for the graft missing out in fights like a Marco Antonio Barrera rematch, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Manny Pacquaio, or up in weight against Acelino Freitas and Joel Casamayor.
Take nothing away from how brilliant he was though. A rare talent who looked unbeatable for so long. Flamboyant entrances, stunning knockouts, probably the greatest personality in British boxing history. He inspired so many fighters of Indian descent. He was the WBO champion between 1995 and 2001 making 15 defenses.
He also unified winning the WBC title against Cesar Soto. He was humbled by Marco Antonio Barrera and never really recovered his confidence winning only one fight afterward. His greatest wins came against Wayne McCullough, 5-time champion Manuel Medina and a stunning 4 round fight for the ages against American Kevin Kelley.
Kell Brook 40-3 (28)
All of the lights. Kell Brook had all the skills of the others but was a little bit more composed. Naseem had the power edge and Graham maybe speed, but Brook was a great outside fighter. Like most, his inside game isn’t the best but his timing and control of distance are exceptional.
The IBF champion in 2014 after traveling to America to dethrone Shawn Porter. Poor matchmaking and an obsession with fighting Amir Khan curtailed his career after somewhat. In hindsight fighting Golovkin, two weight classes above his natural weight was a huge mistake as was facing Errol Spence straight away after going back down.
He broke orbital bones in both fights and his only other loss was to Terence Crawford so only defeat to 3 generational greats. He should have made more of his time at 154 lbs after defeating Rabchenko in 2018 as he could have mixed it with champions such as Julian Williams, Jeison Rosario, Patrick Texeira, and Tony Harrison and have a good chance of winning.
At times he was disillusioned with the sport but his recent win over Amir Khan might have reignited a spark and Kell Brook might just have enough time to do even more great things in boxing.