SAN DIEGO, May 25, 2017 – As American Errol Spence Jr. worked his way up the professional boxing ranks following the 2012 London Olympics, observers wondered when – and if – he would live up to his nickname, “The Truth.”
Spence (22-0, 18 KOs) made significant progress toward this reality in 2016 with an impressive fifth round TKO over an overmatched Chris Algieri, the first stoppage of Algieri’s career. He followed up with a sixth round TKO of Leonard Bundu.
It put Spence in position to become a world champion on Saturday and move to the elite ranks of the welterweight division when he faces IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook (36-1, 25 KOs) at the outdoor Bramall Lane Football Ground in Brook’s hometown of Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. The bout will air on Showtime in the U.S. starting at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT.
Brook made his own mark on foreign soil, winning a decision over Shawn Porter at the StubHub Center in Carson, California in August 2014. It was a significant move up in opposition at the time. Since then, Brook’s career has had ups and downs in and out of the ring. Following the Porter fight, Brook suffered stab wounds in an assault in the Canary Islands. He continued to win in the ring until last September, when he made a bold decision to move up two full weight divisions to face unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin.
Although Brook gave it a tremendous effort, he suffered a broken orbital bone in the second round of the fight and lost in five brutally tough rounds. Brook says his injured eye is now healed and he has no hesitation getting back into the ring to defend the belt he won back in 2014 from Porter.
“He’s living his dream. He’s come here to fight on the biggest stage. The thing is he’s up against me,” said Brook. “I know what it takes. I think fighting in my hometown, I’ll feel more energy in the fight and push harder in front of my people.”
Spence proved with his victory over Algieri he’s up to a challenge, well trained, and still hungry to prove himself. The 27-year-old Spence is still improving and still learning. After the Algieri fight, he called Brook the number one contender in his way and called him out.
Spence has been training in Amir Khan’s gym in London preparing for this bout. “I know this won’t be an easy fight. I have to go to his backyard and take it just like he did. That’s what champions do,” said Spence. “The only thing i need to prove is that I’m the best fighter in the welterweight division. I expect me to have a lot of boos and I welcome that. It’s a lot of pressure on him.”
Brook’s credentials are well established, but there are significant caveats for Saturday’s bout. Besides coming off a potentially career-ending injury, Brook is coming back down two weight divisions. He should make weight as he’s disciplined in training, but he is more naturally a 154-pound junior middleweight at this point.
“I’m an animal. I’ve done the weight right,” said Brook on his prep for the fight. “I think he’s a great talent. He’s been doing what’s asked of him. But he’s up against a champion now,” Brook said of Spence.
“It’d be a dream situation to go win the title in the champ’s backyard. I can’t wait,” said Spence. “My prediction is I’m coming home on the plane with the belt.”
It won’t happen without effort. “My right hand is warming up! He’ll taste chocolate brownies on Saturday, I want him to taste the sugar!” laughed Brook.
The outcome might not be as sweet as Brook thinks. The weight issues plus his untested eye injury are significant obstacles for Brook. Spence is the younger, hungrier man with little to lose, possessing significant pop in his punches. If Brook is protective of the eye, Spence should press his body attack and wear Brook out. We predict a late stoppage giving Spence the win and a trip home with the championship.
On the undercard, British super middleweight George Groves (25-3, 18 KOs) faces former titleholder Fedor Chudinov (14-1, 10 KOs) of Russia for a WBA Super World super middleweight title. While Groves is the favorite, the 29-year-old has lost multiple title shots, twice against Carl Froch and also against Badou Jack in 2015. This is likely Groves’ last best chance and he needs to make it count. Chudinov’s only loss came in his last fight with Felix Sturm. Chudinov appeared to get the better of Sturm, but German home cooking gave the slimmest possible majority decision to the hometown fighter. Groves has the better skill set, but Chudinov will want to make up for his loss. Don’t count him out.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on [email protected]
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