On Saturday night (UK time) live from Bramall Lane, Sheffield, England, Kell ‘Special K’ Brook (36-1) defends his IBF World Championship belt against what many believe to be not only his best opponent to date, but against the future of boxing itself. Errol ‘The Truth’ Spence Jr (21-0) is a 27 year old Texan Southpaw who has a huge reputation.
Over the past two years or so the talk coming from the US has been that Spence is the heir apparent to the Mayweather thrown; with speed and power Spence Jr has made short work of 18 opponents most recently the recognisable names Bundu, Algieri and van Heerden. Spence Jr is big at welterweight and has the power to match his size, he is arguably the only welterweight that can match Kell Brooks size come fight night.
Although the hype surrounding Spence Jr is significant, it is fair to acknowledge that the hype is related almost exclusively to rumours about sparring performances. He has not fought a killers row of opponents to get to this position, in-fact his opponents have been underwhelming to put it politely. Spence Jr is rumoured to have given both Adrian Broner and Shawn Porter torrid times during sparring, and more significantly was also rumoured to have given Floyd Mayweather a tough spar and a black eye. A gym legend was born.
In the spotlight of the ring however the list of Spence Jr opponents are dire, with Leonard Bundu and Chris Algeri being the standouts. Bundu was 41 when they fought last year and Algeri is a blown-up light Welterweight who has leveraged a wonderfully gritty performance against Provodnikov into a series of paydays against opponents he was never going to beat. The ‘Truth’ is that Spence Jr has not fought anyone of any significance in the professional ring and certainly nobody that would have prepared him for Brook.
Records however, only reveal so much. Spence Jr may not have been matched very hard so far but you cannot argue with the way he despatched of his opponents. Spence Jr took 6 rounds to take KO Bundu and 5 to bludgeon both Algeri and Barrera via TKO and 8 rounds to beat van Heerden by TKO. At no point has Spence Jr looked in any trouble, perpetual forward motion throwing what appeared to be whatever punch he wanted to throw whenever he wanted to throw it. He has looked every bit the boxing force of nature he is rumoured to be.
That said Kell Brook hardly has a killers row of recent opponents to boast, with the likes of Jo Jo Dan, Frankie Gavin and Kevin Bizier in recent memory. Although there are caveats to Brooks record. Both Dan and Bizier were IBF ordered monitory challengers which followed two periods of inactivity due to injury – the stabbing incident in Tenerife and the broken rib (which ended the agreed Diego Chaves fight), while the Gavin fight was a simple to make and every fans favourite ‘keep busy’ fight. But like Spence Jr, Brook handled these opponents as he should have, they were taken apart in a routine and unequivocal manor.
Prior the Dan there was the Shawn Porter fight. A tremendous performance. Away from home against a man considered at the time as the Welterweight Tyson, a man with an unrelenting, highly pressured, frantic style. A fighter no Welterweight chooses to fight. Brook’s performance was superb, he fought a highly tactical fight catching Porter again and again as he charged forward like a linebacker. Then came GGG. An opportunity the penless Eubanks Jr didn’t take, but one that Brook took enthusiastically. The fight was brilliant, Kell did himself proud but GGG was simply too big and too strong for the naturally smaller man.
For all their differences the two Welterweights are in a similar position in their career – the pressure of expectation looms. With relatively weak records peppered with flashes of real quality both fighters need one another as the gold plated stepping stone to secure reputational redemption.
All things considered I think Kell Brook not only wins, but takes Errol Spence Jr to school.
Expect Spence Jr to come out strong from the first bell, he must silence the Bramall Lane crowd, show Brook that the hype is real and everything that he’s heard is ‘The Truth’. As the crown becomes quieter and quieter there is a greater chance that nerves will set in and pull Brook from his rhythm.
Where other commentators believe the GGG fight will have had a detrimental effect on Brook (the broken eye socket and subsequent surgery for example) I believe it will be this fight that sees Brook home to a wide unanimous decision victory. I believe the GGG was the making of Brook.
I expect the early rounds of Brook/Spence Jr to be similar to the rounds we saw in GGG/Brook. Spence Jr forcing the pace and trying to impose his style, Brook on his toes counter punching in ones and two’s, choosing carefully when to plant his feet and trade. I would not be surprised to see the same combination of uppercut, hook, straight that Brook threw with success against GGG be thrown against Spence Jr.
Spence Jr is a quality fighter and has a bright future. But re-watching him fight I don’t see the ‘Truth’, I see a young fighter who has not yet had to adapt during a fight, a boxer who has not been challenged sufficiently. Watching Spence Jr he has a tendency to follow his opponent around and can load up then throw very wide hooks. He can forgo his jab and has so far relied on backing opponents against the ropes and throwing bomb after bomb.
Brook will be too quick, too accurate, his footwork too timely.
For Spence Jr to win he must show something he hasn’t shown under the spotlights. He must show that the hype is real and justified and he simply hasn’t been forced to show his true class so far. It’s been done before, I was one of many that thought the older, more experienced, more technically gifted Klitschko would beat Tyson Fury…I was wrong then. Am I wrong now?