By Paul Mason (@KOBoxingSets)
This Saturday sees the big one at Bramhall Lane, home of Sheffield United FC, as Sheffield’s own Kell Brook moves back down in weight following his adventure at Middleweight last time out against Gennady Golovkin, to defend his IBF Welterweight Title against the dangerous number one contender, Errol Spence Junior. Here I preview the big bill.
Kell Brook (36-1, KO25) v Errol Spence Jnr (21-0, KO18)
Finally, two fighters at the very top end of their division come face to face this Saturday, in what is a genuine 50/50 fight. Kell Brook will defend his IBF Welterweight Title against the talented stand out amateur, and so far faultless professional, Errol Spence junior.
“Special K” turned professional in September 2004 and built a 16-0 record before challenging for the British Welterweight Title. He defeated Welshman Barrie Jones, who came in a short notice for the fight by 7thround TKO. He followed this up by spectacularly defeating Kevin McIntyre, knocking him down three times in a first round win. Brook captured the coveted Lord Lonsdale belt outright after wins over Stuart Elwell (TKO2) and Michael Lomax (TKO3). His next three fights were more ranking builders, but Brook wanted to headline shows and left Frank Warren for Eddie Hearn in 2011, promptly topping the bill in his Sheffield hometown in a unanimous points victory over Lovemore N’Dou. Three more wins followed, including one over Matthew Hatton (UD12) when Brook overcame Carson Jones in a much tougher than expected war, where Brook was tested severely and was close to being knocked down in the final round, but did enough to triumph via majority decision on the cards.
Next up was Hector Saldivia in a final eliminator for the IBF title. Following a third round knockout win, brook then sustained an ankle injury, postponing the title fight with then champion Devon Alexander. When Alexander then tore his bicep ahead of the rescheduled date, the fight was off, and Brook marked time for the next available shot at the title with TKO wins in a rematch with Carson Jones, former Ricky Hatton conqueror, Vyacheslav Senchenko and Alvaro Robles to finally land his attempt at the IBF Welterweight Title.
The bout was to be against Shawn Porter, a highly regarded American fighter, expected to beat Brook and retain, when the fight was set for the StubHub centre in Carson, California, in the August of 2014. Porter came out aggressively as he put pressure on Brook, relying heavily on looping shots. Brook kept his composure, however, and showed solid defensive skills, strength, and clean punching throughout the fight. Brook defeated Porter to win the title at by a majority decision. Brooks joy was to be shortlived, as he was attacked whilst on holiday, stabbed three times in the leg and once in the arm by a machete. Brook showed courage and bravery to come through the ordeal and recovery and was quickly back in the ring in March 2015, in his first defence, against the overmatched and overwhelmed Jo Jo Dan (Corner stoppage between rounds 4 and 5). He next defended against Frankie Gavin in an all British affair. Brook wasn’t troubled at all in a sixth round stoppage win. His last fight at Welterweight was another routine win, this time a second round stoppage against Kevin Bizier. In his last fight, Chris Eubank Junior was scheduled to sign to meet Middleweight monster Gennady Golovkin, but when the Eubanks’ hesitated in signing, in stepped Brook to challenge for the Middleweight Championship, two weights north of his normal weight class. In a shoot-out at the 02 Arena in London last time out in September last year, Brook gave Golovkin all he could handle, before the Kazakh broke him down, causing damage to Kell’s eye, which was later confirmed as a broken eye socket. Brook’s trainer, Dominic Ingle wisely saved his charge for another day, pulling him out in the fifth round.
So rather than gradually going back down to his preferred weight through Super Welterweight first, Brook goes straight back in at 10 stone 7lbs to meet the gifted and undefeated Errol Spence Junior.
Born in New York, but now residing in Texas, Spence turned professional in 2012 following a stellar amateur career. He captured 3 National titles in consecutive years from 2009-11, and narrowly missed out on a medal at the 2012 Olympics, losing out in the quarter finals. He immediately turned pro and has since racked up 21 straight wins, gradually stepping up in class each time. His last two fights have been particularly impressive, stoppage wins over former world title challengers Chris Algieri (TKO5) and Leonard Bundu (KO6). These fights moved Spence into the mandatory position for the IBF title, and he now cashes this in on Saturday night.
The winners are the fans in this case as it puts together two fighters at the peak of their powers, with fan friendly styles meeting head on, in what should be an exciting fight. It’s so tough to pick a winner as my mind changes daily! But if I was pushed, I feel Brook has the more big fight experience and could prevail via tight decision on the cards. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a split or majority decision. But there is also the school of thought that Brook will have to safely come down from Middleweight and this may take something off his game, but we won’t know the answer until fight night comes around. I can’t see anything but a great fight taking place.
George Groves (25-3, KO18) v Fedor Chudinov (14-1, KO10) For The Vacant WBA (Super) Super Middleweight Title
George Groves will hope its fourth time lucky as he challenges for a version of the Super Middleweight World Title, as he is matched with the more than capable Russian Fedor Chudinov.
Both are experienced at World level. Groves has failed three times before in title challenges. Firstly he was controversially stopped by Carl Froch in Manchester back in November 2013 in a challenge for Froch’s WBA (Super) and IBF Titles. Groves floored the more experienced Froch heavily in the first round with a thunderous right hand, and troubled the Nottingham man on several occasions, before Froch fired back after halfway and referee Howard Foster stopped the contest in the ninth with Groves still punching. This lead to a rematch that the fans clamoured to see, leading to the now legendary “80,000 at Wembley” on a summers night in May 2013. The stage was set, and any doubts about the first fight were put to bed, when Froch caught Groves coming onto him in the eighth round and the referee, this time correctly stopped the bout. In Groves’ third title challenge, he failed to wrest the WBC crown from Sweden’s Badou Jack. He recovered from a disastrous first round knockdown, but suffered heartbreak on the cards, losing via split decision.
Groves turned professional in 2008 under David Haye’s Hayemaker promotional banner. After eight straightforward victories, six by stoppage, he challenged for the Commonwealth Title against the tough African, Charles Adamu. Groves was too strong and smart for the visitor and stopped him in six after knocking Adamu down in rounds one and four. After a bout in Vegas, Groves defended his title in a tough test against Scotland’s Kenny Anderson, where he was hurt at times in the contest. He eventually finished matters in the sixth round via stoppage. A routine stoppage victory in Huddersfield against Daniel Allottey (TKO4) set up a mouth-watering clash of unbeaten fighters at the O2 Arena, London, as Groves put his Commonwealth Title on the line to meet old amateur rival, Olympic Gold Medallist and British Champion, James DeGale. Although Groves had beaten DeGale as an amateur, but many felt that the gifted DeGale would be too good for him in the paid ranks. Groves tore up the script and beat his old foe via the tightest of majority decisions that could have gone either way. Groves spectacularly stopped Paul Smith in his next fight, robbing the Liverpudlian of his senses with a cracking shot high on the head for which Smith never fully recovered, and was stopped inside two rounds. Francisco Sierra was stopped in six in California, before Groves threw everything at the teak-tough road warrior Glen Johnson before triumphing by wide unanimous decision in defence of his Commonwealth Crown.
After three stoppage wins against limited opposition, Groves then unsuccessfully challenged Froch twice, but gave a good account of himself on both occasions, and gained good experience against a top operator. Groves returned to action four months after the Froch rematch to pick up a WBC ranking (winning the Silver Title) and the European Title, by outpointing the tough Frenchman Christopher Rebrasse at Wembley Arena. A seventh round stoppage of the American Denis Douglin set up the shot at Badou Jack on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather’s farewell fight against Andre Berto in Las Vegas. IT wasn’t to be though for the man from Hammersmith, falling to an agonising split decision defeat. This lead to a parting of the ways with trainer Paddy Fitzpatrick, who was drafted prior to the first Froch fight following a hasty split from Adam Booth, his previous long time trainer. Groves linked up with Shane McGuigan, who has been his trainer ever since.
Andrea Di Luisa was stopped in five in his first fight following the Jack defeat, and he picked up the WBA International Super Middleweight Title next, wiping out previously unbeaten Scot David Brophy in four. Groves then looked impressive in widely outpointing Martin Murray at the O2. Groves’ most recent fight was last November, when he widely outscored the too brave Eduard Gutknecht. Groves dished out a lot of punishment to Gutknecht during the fight, and this was reflected in the aftermath of the contest, as Gutknecht tragically collapsed, and has been brain damaged and in medical care ever since. Groves has admitted feeling guilt ever since, and has constantly donated to the cause.
For Chudinov, Saturday’s fight will only be his sixteenth as a professional. He turned professional one year later than Groves, but has not really been very active in his near eight professional years. His first four fights took place in the USA, registering three stoppages. He then fought five times in his native Russia, with another four stoppage wins included. He picked up a ranking with the WBA in the Dominican Republic, by stopping the unbeaten Andy Perez in three rounds for the very lightly regarded WBA Fedecaribe Super Middleweight Title. This lead to Chudinov being matched with the unbeaten Ben McCullough for the Interim WBA Belt in Moscow in December 2014. Chudinov knocked out the Australian in two to enhance his reputation, and put him in line for the full Title.
His challenge for the full WBA Crown came in his next fight, when he travelled to Frankfurt to take on long time established World level operator, Felix Sturm. Chudinov triumphed on the cards via split decision to become World Champion in just his thirteenth fight. In his first defence, Chudinov again travelled, this time to meet Frank Buglioni in London. Chudinov dominated from start to finish and won widely on the cards.
In his last fight, Chudinov lost his unbeaten record in controversial circumstances. He again met Felix Sturm, this time in Oberhausen. According to Compubox, Sturm only out landed Chudinov in the 12th and final round, yet somehow Sturm took two 115-113 scores and the third judge scored a 114-114 draw, in what could only be described as a robbery.
This is a great chief support to the main event, and I expect a good, keenly contested fight. I feel Groves has that little more seasoning than Chudinov, and he can come through some rocky moments to come through on the cards.
The undercard features popular Yorkshireman David Allen (11-2-1) get reward for taking tough fights against Dillian Whyte and Luis Ortiz, by challenging for the vacant Commonwealth Heavyweight Title against Jamaican Lenroy Thomas (20-4). Jamie Cox (21-0) makes his Matchroom debut and hopefully this will be a breakout year for him, and he takes on Lewis Taylor (19-3-1) for the WBA Continental Super Middleweight Title. Andy Townend (18-4) meets perennial contender John Kays (22-5-1) for the vacant Commonwealth Super Featherweight Title. Joe Cordina and Laurence Okolie (both 2-0) again feature, while Liverpool’s Anthony Fowler makes his pro debut.
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