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GUEST ARTICLE: Brook v Spence Card – What We Learned

By Paul Mason (@KOBoxingSets)

Saturday saw the third Sky Sports Box Office offering of the year, as Kell Brook put his IBF Welterweight Title on the line at the home of his beloved Sheffield United, against the rising American hope, Errol Spence Jr. It what was a fascinating card, and here’s what we learned from the showpiece occasion.

 

Strap Season For Spence Jr

Fans found out this past Saturday that Errol Spence Jr is indeed “The Truth”. American fighters that go abroad for a title shot are now usually measured by the Jeff Lacy yardstick as to whether they are as good as advertised. Either they will sink or swim, and Spence certainly swam by catching up with Brook over the championship rounds to eventually overcome the gritty Yorkshireman in the eleventh round. Spence also overcame a partisan pro-brook crowd in the process. Spence was impressive, and at the time of the stoppage, was ahead on all of the cards. I had Brook in a 4-2 or 5-1 lead after six rounds, but I couldn’t make a case for him winning any rounds after that, as the Texan swarmed all over him. Spence showed maturity in not panicking during the fight, and the way he eventually finished it was impressive too. The floodgates have now opened for Spence in the division following his victory, and a mouth-watering fight with Keith Thurman, considered the number one in the division, is a possibility, once Thurman recovers from surgery (see below). I can see a homecoming defence later this year, before Spence calls out all of the big hitters in the division. They have all been placed on notice.

 

Where Next For Brook?

One thing that can be taken from Brook’s defeat, is that he needs to take time out to take stock of his potential next move in the sport. Paramount at this point in time is Kell’s health. He suffered another fractured eye socket during the fight, this time on the opposite side to the one suffered against Gennady Golovkin last September. Any eye damage can be career ending for a fighter, and the fact that this has happened twice in two fights for Brook is worrying. Retinal injuries have retired fighters, even against their will, in the past. I hope this isn’t the case and Kell boxes on, but health comes first, which is why I struggle to read what certain “Keyboard Warriors” posted on Social Media on the weekend about Brook “Quitting”. If Brook does return there is still a wealth of possibility. If he has indeed outgrown the weight, then a move to Super Welterweight should be an easy decision to make. Current Champions in the division are: Jermell Charlo (WBC, 29-0, KO14) Jarrett Hurd (IBF, 20-0, KO14) and there is Erislandy Lara, (WBA Super 24-2-2, KO14) and Demitrius Andrade (WBA Regular, 24-0, KO16). The WBO is almost certainly vacant following Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’ move to Middleweight. All of the options are tough, but attractive prospects for Brook, although he would almost certainly have to travel to the USA for a crack at any of the current Champions. The move would be an almost certainty, as the Welterweight division is now likely to be stop-start due to Keith Thurman, The WBA (Super) and WBC Champion has undergone elbow surgery, so will be out of action indefinitely. WBO Champion, Manny Pacquiao takes on Jeff Horn in Australia in July, but has a queue a mile long for people to face him following this. The only lucrative offer at the weight would be the much talked about fight against Amir Khan, however, the boat may have been missed for this fight, with both men now without Titles. Brook still has options despite defeat.

 

Fourth Time Is A Charmer For Groves

Hammersmith’s George Groves finally captured a World Title at the fourth time of asking, in stopping the unbelievably hard as nails Fedor Chudinov in six rounds on the bill. Groves is now the WBA (Super) Super Middleweight Champion, and deservedly so. He put in a really gritty performance, and hung tough, despite everything being thrown at him by the dangerous Chudinov. I was also impressed by Groves’ post fight interview, where he gave special mention to Eduard Gutknecht, who was tragically brain damaged following their contest earlier this year. I now look forward to seeing Groves’ reign, especially as it now throws up the tantalising possibility of a rematch with his old foe, James DeGale. It’s great to see for British Boxing, that the pair have gone from a unification fight in 2011 for the British and Commonwealth Titles, to potentially unifying again, in squaring off for the WBA (Super) and IBF Belts. Groves looks better drilled than ever under his trainer Shane McGuigan, and has improved in every fight under him. Groves looks a force again, and attractive fights are possible for the man now in possession of his first World Title Belt.

 

Agony For Allen

Popular Coniston Heavyweight David Allen came up agonisingly short in his bid for the Commonwealth Heavyweight Title on the card. In a messy, turgid affair, which was hard to score due to the output of both fighters, Jamaican Lenroy Thomas captured the belt on a razor thin split decision. I’d like to see Allen learn his craft for the next few fights, as I feel him being gallant in defeat against Dillian Whyte and Luis Ortiz have fast tracked him too soon to Championship level. Allen is only 25 after all, and should be steadily re building now in 8 or 10 round fights, building up to English and then British level. Thomas was not World Class by a long stretch, but he was smart enough to outwork Allen and land point scoring shots when he needed to, to fiddle his way to a win. Allen is still a relative novice, and should benefit once again for the experience.

 

Fortunate Olympians

There were major talking points in all three fights involving Anthony Fowler, Lawrence Okolie and Joe Cordina. Fowler made his professional bow against the Latvian Arturs Geikens, and although predictably Fowler won via first round stoppage, there was a case for Fowler to be disqualified. Fowler forced Geikens to take a knee midway through round one, but while on his knee, Fowler followed up with a hard punch, forcing the Latvian over. I saw Roy Jones Junior do near enough the same thing to Montell Griffin in 1997, and Jones was immediately disqualified and lost his WBC Light Heavyweight belt, and unbeaten record also. Maybe an extreme example but still similar in ways. Instead, referee John Latham literally scraped the Latvian off the floor and urged him to continue, as well as not point deduction or warning for the Fowler, paving the way for the Liverpudlian to finish the job near the end of the round. Latham was involved in all three fights, and the controversy continued in the Okolie v Rudolf Helesic, where Okolie hit Helesic on the way down before recording a 70 second victory. This wasn’t as bad as the Fowler fight, but was still suspect refereeing to not admonish Okolie for his actions. Joe Cordina’s fight with Josh Thorne was less controversial. Cordina carried on throwing after Latham’s call to break, and Thorne wasn’t happy with the follow up blows. In this case though Thorne did throw punches himself after the call so wasn’t completely blameless. Thorne retired following the round and signalled a damaged ear. There is a lesson to be learned by all three in that they were probably over keen to impress on a big open air bill, and I’m sure they will learn from the experience.

 

All in all it was a decent open air card in Sheffield, and a pound for pound star in Errol Spence Jr emerged.

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