The welterweight division is perhaps the deepest in boxing with titleholders Manny Pacquiao, Keith Thurman and Kell Brook along with Danny Garcia, Timothy Bradley Jr., Errol Spence Jr., Jessie Vargas, Lamont Peterson, Shawn Porter, Adrien Broner and Lucas Matthysse.
There have been a series of quality bouts in the 147-pound division over the past couple of years and there are more to come, including one of the most intriguing fights of this year — Brook making his fourth defense when he faces mandatory challenger Errol Spence Jr., the 2012 U.S. Olympian, 2015 ESPN.com prospect of the year and the fighter many view as the future of the division and a future pound-for-pound entrant.
The match, which will take place on Saturday (Showtime, 5:15 p.m. ET) before a crowd that could swell to about 30,000 at Bramall Lane, and outdoor soccer stadium in Brook’s hometown of Sheffield, England, looms as, by far, as the most difficult of his reign, which has consisted of dominant knockouts against the less-than-impressive trio of Jo Jo Dan, Frankie Gavin and Kevin Bizier. But the fight is also, by far, the most difficult, on paper at least, of Spence’s career.
Kell Brook is still slightly amused that he is expected to lose his latest world title defence on Saturday night against Errol Spence in Sheffield.
World champion Kell Brook claims Errol Spence Jr’s undoubted talent is no match for his own.
“Brook versus Spence is a fight that pits two of the best, if not the best fighters in the welterweight division,” Showtime Sports boss Stephen Espinoza said. “We will look back and realize this welterweight division is one of the deepest in history and they are fighting each other.”
To many it’s a pick ’em fight that should be highly entertaining between skilful fighters who can box and punch and also like to please the crowd.
“Both guys want this fight. They weren’t pushed into it. They wanted it and they got it,” said Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn, Brook’s promoter.
Both fighters are very confident of victory.
“I’m just going to do what I do best, just turn up,” Brook said. “I know Errol Spence is one hell of a contender. I respect him. But I’m fighting at home in front of my people. I’m going to draw energy from everyone who is watching the fight here and give him his first defeat. There is a lot on the line. I’ve made sure I’ve covered every angle at this point.”
Said Spence: “This is my time, this is my era. This is my time to shine. This is my time to get the belts. This is my time to unify and become the undisputed welterweight champion of the world. This is just another stepping stone to get to where I want to be.
“I’m 100 percent prepared, I’m 100 percent focused, and I’m 100 percent ready to give the fans what they want, which is a real great fight. … This is definitely my coming out party, and I will show up.”
The card also includes a vacant super middleweight world title bout between George Groves (25-3, 18 KOs), 29, of England, who is 0-3 in previous world title bouts, and former titlist Fedor Chudinov (14-1, 10 KOs), 29, of Russia. Although that fight will not be televised as part of Showtime’s broadcast, the Sky Box Office pay-per-view telecast of the bout will be simulcast in the United States beginning at approximately 4:30 p.m. ET on the Showtime Sports Facebook page and the Showtime Sports YouTube channel.
This is your ESPN.com Ringside Seat for the fight:
Kell Brook (36-1, 25 KOs) vs. Errol Spence Jr. (21-0, 18 KOs)
What’s at stake?
Brook, 31, will be aiming to score his biggest win since he traveled to Southern California and took a majority decision against Porter to claim the belt in August 2014. He will also be looking to rebound from his first defeat last September, when, unable to land a marquee welterweight fight, moved up two weight classes and challenged unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin in London. Golovkin broke the orbital bone around Brook’s right eye and stopped him in the fifth round of a spirited effort. Questions abound about how well Brook has recovered mentally and physically from that fight.
In addition to winning a world title, Spence, 27, of DeSoto, Texas, will be looking to fulfill the potential so many have seen in him since he was tabbed as the best pro prospect from the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. Spence can also become the first American fighter to dethrone a British titleholder since Bradley traveled to Nottingham, England, and won a welterweight belt from another Sheffield native, Junior Witter.
“This is a lifelong dream of mine, something I have been dreaming about as a little kid,” Spence said. “I’ve given my blood, sweat and tears to get here. This is my time and I will be a world champion Saturday night. I wouldn’t have come here if I had any doubts.”
Brook has shown enormous respect for Spence but he said he is not about to lose the title belt he worked so hard to get, especially in front of his hometown fans.
“(Spence) is a serious dude from America. He’s a young hungry lion, but he’s not beaten anyone like me. I’m a champion and I’ve been a champion. I’m defending,” Brook said. “I know both sides of the coin. I’ve prepared very well. I’m ready for a war. And that’s what you’re going to see — a war Saturday night. There are going to be two winners Saturday night: that is going to be myself and everyone watching. There’s no way he can beat me. I’m a man possessed and I have a serious job to do. This is my night to shine.”
Worth the weight?
Brook struggles to make 147 pounds. This is no secret. It’s one of the reasons he so quickly embraced the opportunity to face Golovkin last fall at 160 pounds. And even after the loss many believed he would retreat to the 154-pound junior middleweight division — including his own promoter, Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn, rather than return all the way to 147 pounds to struggle making weight while having to face the baddest up-and-coming fighter in the division.
But Brook simply could not bring himself to vacate his beloved belt and made the commitment to getting down to 147. He said his nutritionist was a big help during training camp.
“I’m not as moody as I thought I was going to be cutting down the weight. If you’ve seen me, I’m in great shape, I’m light. I’m down to weight,” he said. “So, I’m not feeling as bad and I’ve got plenty of energy than thinking back to other times I’ve had to make welterweight.
“Everybody wanted me to move up because they know that I’m a happier and a better fighter at a slightly heavier weight. But I’ve become a world champion at welterweight. It’s been hard with ups and downs and I just couldn’t give up that title just to move up in weight. I just didn’t want to move up in weight without defending my world title. It took me a long time to get. That’s why I would rather put myself through it to make this welterweight limit. Nobody is just going to get the belt without fighting me for it.”
Spence is glad that Brook made the decision to defend the title against him rather than vacate, which would have meant Spence fighting for a vacant belt.
“Kell Brook’s a real fighter that wants to fight the best. A lot of people said he would be ducking me,” Spence said. “I kind of knew he was coming down. I wanted him to come down because I wanted to take the belt from the champion. I didn’t want to fight the next available guy. I wanted to fight the champion, the guy who has the belt and earn it the right way.”
Memories of GGG
Although Brook had his moments against Golovkin, he wound up with his face broken, his trainer, Dominic Ingle, throwing in the towel and his first defeat. Brook showed heart and nobody disputed his bravery. He also got plenty of credit for his willingness to face Golovkin, the undefeated knockout artist.
But how’s the eye since the surgery and is he concerned about it going into Saturday’s fight?
“I am very confident in my surgeon,” Brook said. “You know it’s always nice — well not nice — but getting punched in it for the first time in (sparring). It’s always good to take that first shot. Since then, I’ve been whacked plenty of times and it feels brand new, so there’s no doubt there in the eye.”
Spence believes Brook has put the injury behind him as well.
“I think the Triple G fight is in the past. He had nine months to recover,” Spence said. “There are guys that have been in tougher wars than that. Nine months is enough time for him to recover and recuperate and get back to normal. I’m expecting a 100 percent Kell Brook to come to fight. I’m not expecting an injured Kell Brook. It looks like he’s making his weight pretty good. I have to worry about the best Kell Brook.”
On the road
When Spence’s manager, Al Haymon, called him to talk about the prospect of the fight being in England, Spence did not hesitate. If that’s where it had to be so be it. So now Spence is on hostile turf looking to win the title, the same way Spence traveled to the U.S. to win the belt.
Spence claims he is not worried at all about being on the road or a hostile crowd.
“I expect the environment to be lively. These are hardcore boxing fans in the U.K.,” he said. “These people know their boxing. They really come out to support. I expect him to have a lot of support. I expect me to have a lot of boos and I welcome that. It’s a lot of pressure on him to perform in front of his family and his friends. I’m not worried about the crowd. It’s me and him in the ring. Watch me win the world title.”
Spence also realizes that a win overseas would be huge as a young fighter trying to gain a signature win.
“I feel like this is a legacy defining fight for me,” Spence said. “Most guys with my pedigree get the title handed to them in some type of way. They don’t go across seas to fight the hometown guy against a good fighter like Kell Brook. That’s really unheard of. So I definitely think I get a lot of credit for going overseas and fighting Kell Brook.”
“To win a world title in someone else’s back yard shows that you have a lot of grit about yourself and the utmost confidence in yourself to go and do that. I can’t wait.”
Brook gives Spence credit for making the trip.
“It just shows me that he believes in his abilities,” Brook said. “I was in the same position that he was in. End of the day it’s just going to be me and him in the ring no matter where it is. It’s just going to be me and him. He believes in his talent and I know he’s going to be up for it because when I was coming to fight Porter as the challenger it was a dream and it’s now his dream fighting for the biggest fight of his life, for all the marbles and the world title. I know what he’s going through.”
Prediction: Spence by late stoppage.