DUBAI // Even if Ricky Hatton's absence from the ring does prove final, British fight fans have already had a glimpse of the next home-bred welterweight of genuine star-quality. Hatton has not fought since he suffered a second-round knock-out to Manny Pacquiao in May 2009, and admitted during a trip to Dubai last week that he is not planning to return any time soon.
However, Pacquiao, the multiple-weight world champion from the Philippines, may soon have his sights trained on another Englishman. In March, Kell Brook became the No 1 mandatory challenger to the Filipino when he claimed the WBO Intercontinental title from Poland's Krzysztof Bienias in Liverpool. The Sheffield fighter is aware Pacquiao has his mind on other battles at present, with a possible bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr to decide the world's best pound-for-pound boxer.
However, Brook, 24, is still hopeful of getting his own shot at the current WBO world welterweight champion next year. And if the fight does happen, he plans to set up camp in Dubai to prepare. "If we can make a fight with Manny Pacquiao, that would be great," Brook, who was named the Young Boxer of the Year for 2009 by the British Boxing Writers, said. "I would like to come out here to Dubai, in this nice heat, and have a good 12-week training camp, get super-fit, then fight Manny.
"I'm next in line. I have one more defence of the WBO interim title, then if Manny is in the way, it is him who I have to fight. I am guaranteed a world title fight by the end of the year." Frank Warren, Brook's promoter, wants the fight to happen. Before Brook took the Intercontinental belt from Bienias with a sixth round knock-out, he suggested his man was well on course. "I'm not suggesting Kell will be ready to fight Pacquiao if he gets through this, but this time next year, with a bit more experience, he'll be there or thereabouts," Warren was quoted as saying.
If Brook does set up a base in Dubai in the future, he may be confronted by one very recognisable face. Part of Hatton's recent trip to the UAE was spent exploring the feasibility of setting up a boxing academy in his name on these shores. "I am sure there could be a lot of talent out there that we don't know of really," Hatton said. "We can start at the grassroots then get a professional boxing event to get them interested, and create revenue with all the Brits who would come over to support it."
Brook grew up watching the popular Manchester brawler. However, he confesses his own fighting style is based more on the methods employed by one of the two boxers who conquered Hatton - Mayweather, the American. "I liked watching Ricky Hatton fight," Brook said. "With him you know you are guaranteed a good fight, because he gets in there with good body shots, and it is all out action. His style is not like mine. My style is more like Mayweather-style, defensive and technical rather than a brawl. There is no one like [Mayweather], for me. It is unreal what he has done in the sport. I don't think there is anyone out there to beat him.
"People in boxing know how good a fighter Mayweather is. He is unbelievable defensively. He has got it all." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org