SAN DIEGO, May 27, 2017 – Kell Brook won his IBF welterweight title on foreign soil, defeating Shawn Porter in California in 2014. Errol Spence, Jr. took Brook’s belt away in the same manner, beating the champion on his own turf Saturday and proving up to his nickname, “The Truth.”
In front of 27,000 screaming fans in Sheffield’s Bramall Lane football stadium, Spence won by knockout at 1:40 of the 11th round. Brook had taken a knee and did not get up, causing referee Howard Foster to call the fight.
The fight was rough and a little messy at times, but it produced plenty of fan-pleasing action between two offense-minded combatants. Brook came out strong behind a fast jab, while Spence looked for opportunities to work to the body of Brook. Spence admitted later after the fight his nine-month layoff left him “kind of shaky” and overshooting punches. Spence stuck to his game plan and kept working to the inside.
Brook landed several good hooks and upper cuts on Spence in the early rounds, answering a key question before the fight: could Spence take a punch? Now we know he can. Most observers had Brook ahead midway through the fight. Spence said, “I felt like I was behind, I wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be. I decided to press the action, come forward, break him down and press him out … I watched some of his fights. He likes to fight at a certain pace. When you pick up the pace, it throws him off.”
It worked for Spence and it turned the tide in the fight. In the seventh round, Spence threw more punches and mixed up his shots. One of those punches caused Brook’s eye to start swelling. It was his left eye, not the right eye which was damaged due to an orbital bone fracture caused in the second round of his fight with Gennady Golovkin.
With Brook’s eye swelling and fatigue starting to show, Spence had the upper hand. Spence continued to tag Brook with strong jabs and continued to work the body hard. The shift in the fight was night and day. After the ninth round, Brook’s trainer Dominic Ingle told him, “You’ve got to move, you’ve got to box.”
Spence continued the offensive pressure in the tenth round, and he dropped Brook to his knees on the canvas, only the second knockdown of his career. Spence, by far the fresher man in the ring, was all over Brook. Brook dug deep and did his best to stay in it, landing a good left hook. But Spence had so much more left in the tank; Brook was fighting on sheer will.
The champion’s will finally succumbed to the reality of his eye. Spence hit Brook with a right hook solidly to the damaged eye. Brook hesitated, pawed at his bad eye, then stepped back and took a knee. Referee Howard Foster counted him out with Brook never getting back up.
Spence (23-0, 19 KOs) is now the IBF welterweight champion and puts himself among the leaders in the division, including Keith Thurman and Manny Pacquiao.
“I give myself a B-minus, I didn’t do too good,” said Spence assessing his performance after the bout. “I was a little off my offense and my defense,” Spence said after the fight. “It didn’t play out the way I thought it would. I thought I would be a little sharper. But that’s what true champions do.”
Spence said he used the screaming Sheffield crowd as motivation. “That’s what true champions do, you go anywhere to fight. He came to America and took the title, so I came over here to take the title from him. Kell Brook gave me the opportunity. I thank him for that.”
Brook (36-2, 25 KOs) said when Spence hit him in the seventh round to the left eye, it felt the same as when Gennady Golovkin hit him to the right eye nine months ago, although not as bad. “The last round, he caught me in it and it stuck, I had double vision. I couldn’t see and I had to stop,” said Brook. “I’ll live to fight on another day. I’m gutted in front of my own fans in Sheffield, I lost my belt. I’m devasted.”
Brook said he was proud of himself bringing the fight to Sheffield and filing the stadium. “I would have got through the fight, but when you can’t see, there’s nothing you can do … We made a great night in Sheffield tonight, we brought a lot of revenue in … I hope that everyone’s had a good night.”
Brook was taken to a local hospital immediately after the bout to have the eye checked. With the right orbital bone surgically repaired, Brook needs to be cautious he hasn’t repeated the injury to the remaining eye. This column predicted the repaired eye would be a factor. Although it was the unhurt eye affected in this fight with Spence, it’s possible the weakness of the repaired eye affected Brook’s entire facial bone structure. Brook needs to proceed with caution and good medical care.
Whether Brook will stay at welterweight assuming he returns to boxing isn’t clear. Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn said he would have preferred Brook fight at junior middleweight (154 pounds), but “he’s a stubborn man, he didn’t want to vacate the belt.” Hearn would like Brook to face his arch rival and countryman Amir Khan. “Right now it’s about making sure Kell is OK, healthy. He’s a true warrior.”
Spence wants to take on the big names at welterweight and if Saturday’s fight was only a B-minus, those big names should be concerned. The one time U.S. Olympic boxing team member won’t easily give up his belt after taking it home to Texas.
On the undercard, British super middleweight George Groves (26-3, 19 KOs) proved that persistence pays, stopping former titleholder Fedor Chudinov (14-2, 10 KOs) of Russia in the sixth round to win his the WBA Super World super middleweight title. It is Groves’ first championship after multiple tries. It was Groves’ best fight in years, perhaps of his career.
Chudinov is a rough fighter and it took Groves a few rounds to figure him out. Groves was cut by an accidental head butt in the fourth round, causing concern for trainer Shane McGuigan. Groves landed a right hook on Chudinov and he stepped up the offense, perhaps with a sense of time draining away. Wherever it came from, Groves fought Chudinov to a standstill in the sixth round, and after the Russian didn’t throw a punch in nearly a minute, the fight was waved off. It was a fair stoppage, no man should sustain damage merely because he’s still on his feet.
“It still hasn’t set in that I’m a world champion. I’m numb. I knew I could get there but I just didn’t know if I would,” said Groves at the post-fight news conference. Groves gave the fans something to celebrate on their way home tonight in Sheffield.
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 Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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