By John J. Raspanti
In 57 professional fights, IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook and top contender Errol Spence have iced 43 opponents and lost one bout between them.
Brook’s lone loss happened last year when he was stopped by middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin. Now, Brook is determined to show that the Golovkin loss was a more a case of lofty ambitions—than pugilistic proficiency.
The 30-year-old captured the welterweight title in 2014 by holding off Shawn Porter over 12 competitive rounds. That wasn’t easy. Porter always brings it, but Brook was able to use his legs and sharp punching to win a decision. The defending champion will have two significant advantages when he steps between the ropes to face Spence this Saturday.
Brook, who was born in Sheffield, England, will literally be fighting in his backyard at the Bramal Lane Football arena in Sheffield. The ringside judges could be swayed by the masses cheering Brook’s every move. The pressure will be intense, but Brook has been on the big stage before. He’s also been in with better fighters.
"All I’ve ever wanted to do is to give the fans the fights they want and they have it right here on May twenty-seventh,” said Brook at a press conference a few weeks ago. “I’m going to show the world that I’m the best welterweight on the planet and I’m going to do it right before my people’s eyes."
Spence, 27, first garnered attention in the amateur ranks-capturing the U.S. National championship three consecutive years in the welterweight division. After a disappointing loss in the quarter finals 0f the 2012 Olympic Games, Spence turned professional.
His rise in the rankings has been swift and dramatic. He knocked out perennial contender Samuel Vargas in four rounds at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., two years ago. His performance was methodical and menacing. He followed up by stopping his next five opponents, including former welterweight champion Chris Algieri, and, in his last fight, one-time title challenger Leonard Bundu -, who was knocked out for the first time in his career.
Spence’s loss in the Olympic Games happened in London.
“The last time he lost was in Britain in the amateurs,” said Brook. “When he comes here, he will see a very hostile crowd in my back yard. The thing is that I am more experienced and he has never faced anything like me.”
Brook is right. Spence has never faced a fighter as talented as Brook, but the Texas resident is ready.
"This is something I have been fighting for my whole life and a lifelong dream of mine," said Spence. "I won’t let it slip.”
Brook uses his athleticism to set-up his punches. He doesn’t punch as hard as Spence, but his blows are sharp and accurate. His work rate could cause problems.
Spence, a southpaw, will enter the ring with a three-inch reach advantage. He’s packed with power in both hands. Brook is coming back down to the 147-pound limit—after going up to 160 to fight Golovkin. Many are questioning if he’ll be a weakened version of himself on fight night. Spence’s chin is still is also a question mark. Brook will certainly test it.
Brook is a good fighter, but Spence could be a special one. I see him stopping Brook late in the fight.