Kell Brook will take inspiration from Muhammad Ali’s defeat of Sonny Liston when he begins boxing’s most intimidating challenge.
The 30-year-old will on Saturday step up to the middleweight division for the first time and attempt to overcome the undefeated IBF, WBC and WBA champion Gennady Golovkin, the world’s most feared fighter.
Brook remains the significant underdog for the fight at London’s O2 Arena, but will evoke the spirit of Ali to prepare him for the devastating puncher from Kazakhstan.
Brook fondly spoke of Ali’s 1964 fight with the then-mighty world heavyweight champion Liston, whose menace Ali - then known as Cassius Clay - used to his advantage.
The challenger demonstrated no fear when they finally fought, despite his opponent’s fearsome reputation and so few giving him a chance. One of the finest victories of his career followed, and Brook has similarly developed a siege mentality that has left him feeling “on edge” but that he believes will inspire him.
“When my back’s against the wall, I always perform,” said Brook, the reigning IBF welterweight champion. “I’m meant to perform at the highest level.
“The best comes out of me when my back’s against the wall; when I’m under that pressure. When I watched Ali when he boxed Sonny Liston: he pulled a gun out on him to scare him.
“(He’d lose in) one or two rounds, people were saying. He went out there and he shocked the world, and said that it was a blessing; he was so thankful Sonny Liston did that because he’d never been as frightened and scared in his life.
“I’m feeling on edge for this fight, but it’s only going to make me sharper on the night.”
In addition to his underdog attitude, Brook has kept his distance from Golovkin to maintain his coldness towards him.
He has spent numerous hours in the company of a charming fighter as popular for his baby-faced appearance, smile, limited English and good manners as his exciting style. Brook, however, believes he cannot risk warming to him in the same way as so many others.
“What have we got to talk about?” Brooks said. “I want to punch him in the face, don’t I? It’s a sport; I don’t like getting comfortable with who I’m fighting, because if he ends up being nice, it doesn’t feel as good as punching him, so it’s better to keep business as business.
“You get that gist from him, that he’s very respectful. There’s not been any trash talking in this fight; we’ve both got a lot of respect for each other. I think he knows he’s in one hell of a fight.
“It’s just been business, promoting this fight. I’ve never been comfortable being around who I’m fighting. I prefer to be out of the room, because there’s an atmosphere. I prefer to be with my team instead of mingling with the other fighter. It just doesn’t happen.
“I don’t get involved in all the (television programme) Behind The Ropes and I’ve not watched Golovkin training, and his fights, because you end up getting involved in this hype.”