The Truth has arrived. Errol Spence Jr. lived up to his nickname by silencing critics (myself included) by overcoming an early deficit to batter Kell Brook into an 11th round stoppage and claim the IBF welterweight title.
The fight was fought on a very high level. Early on, Brook held the advantage when he kept the challenger at long-range and on the end of his right hand and jabs. But Spence would force the action and remain relentless in clubbing the body. The biggest difference over the first half was Brook had a better grasp of ring generalship; he knew when to pick his spots on offense and smother Spence’s attempts to respond. Through six, I had Brook with a 4-2 lead.
Then things started going south for the Sheffield native. Brook’s punch output dissipated drastically as Spence’s accuracy and pressure gradually increased every round. Now Brook was a step slower in clinching, allowing Spence to work the body and land punishing jabs.
By the eighth, bad swelling surrounded Brook’s left eye. The toll of making the 147 limit from welterweight, in addition to Spence’s pressure and body-punching, had Brook’s resistance withering by the minute. There was nowhere to hide as the challenger punished Brook with blistering power shots whenever the champion sought refuge on the ropes. Brook was forced to take a knee in the 10th and was on the verge of being stopped before a dramatic late rally got him through the round.
Spence promptly continued his workmanlike assault in the 11th. Brook once again took a knee, later claiming the left eye damage had badly compromised his vision. This time, his corner wisely saved him from further punishment.
If you’re a top welterweight not named Errol Spence, tonight performance has put you on notice. The most impressive thing for me was Spence’s defense, which I had previously underrated. He proved to an elusive, small target and took away the potency of Brook’s right hand.
WBA/WBC champion Keith Thurman, who’s currently recovering from elbow surgery, wasted no time responding to Spence’s unification challenge.
Although many see Spence as the future kingpin of the division, Thurman has a good chance of derailing it. One Time is highly athletic and has the footwork needed to keep Spence from getting set and also exploding with flashy and damaging combos. However, we know Spence’s specialty is body-punching and Thurman has been hurt badly twice from shots downstairs against Luiz Collazo and Shawn Porter. Ideally, a Spence and Thurman unification should be one of PBC’s major fights in early 2018.
What’s next for Kell Brook? A LONG break. He has suffered orbital bone fractures to both eyes in his last two fights. A titanium plate had to be inserted into the right one after the brutal defeat to Gennady Golovkin last year. The same procedure will likely be required for the left eye that Spence smashed tonight. The eyes will be targets from here on out, and Brook’s best bet would be to take the rest of the year off and cash out with an all-Sheffield showdown against Amir Khan in spring 2018.
As for Spence, there’s no need to sit around while Thurman convalesces. Luis Collazo or the winner for the just announced Robert Guerrero vs. Omar Figueroa (assuming they don’t kill each other) bout would be solid stay-busy fights to close out the year.
Whatever Spence does, you can be rest assured we’ll all be watching very closely.