BY John J. Raspanti
Cool and confident Errol Spence Jr. lived up to all the pre-fight hype Saturday night, by stopping IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook in round 11 before 27,000 disappointed fans at Bramall Lane football arena in Brooks hometown of Sheffield, England.
Respect was the word in the early rounds. Brook boxed and fired his sharp jab. Spence stalked and popped, but his blows were a little short. A few body shots did land. Brook connected with a number of right hands leads.
“l came out the first round and tried to force my jab,” Spence told Sky Sports Box Office in the ring following the fight. “I was over-shooting it and he was countering me with [his right hand].”
After being outboxed in round two, Spence, a southpaw, upped the pressure in the next heat. He skipped after Brook, strafing the defending champions head with crisp shots.
Brook went back to firing his right-hand in round four. A number landed. Spence (22-0, 19 KOs) countered with a sweeping hook and more work to the body. Brook (36-2, 25 KOs) used his edge in strength for parts of rounds five and six. Spence kept looking to land his money punch, a left hook, but Brook was beating him to the punch.
Through six rounds Brook appeared to have the edge, but Spence continued to work and stand his ground. He was searching for his rhythm and in round seven, he found it-using his legs and faster hands to nail Brook with blows.
Brook followed, but wasn’t letting his hands go like he had earlier in the contest. Spence connected with short hooks and a fine left hand. His jab was paying dividends. Brook founds some success on the inside, but Spence was consistently connecting with rights and lefts. Brook had another problem. His left eye was rapidly swelling up.
Spence continued to get off first in rounds nine and 10. His accurate punching was causing Brook all kinds of issues. A big left hook wobbled Brook. Seconds later, a volley of blows sent him to the canvas.
Brook beat the count, but a wicked left sent him stumbling back into the ropes. Brook, showing the heart of a champion, fought back with rights and lefts.
Since childhood, Spence had dreamed of winning a championship. He was close now and knew it. He wasted little time going after Brook in round 11. He ate a solid left, but backed Brook up with a wicked combination. As Brook languished on the ropes, blinking his left eye, Spence ripped home clean shots. Finally, Brook, went to one knee. He gazed at referee Howard Foster as he counted over him—his left now grotesquely swollen.
Brook stood, but Foster waved off the contest.
The time was 1:47 of round 11.
“He was hurt,” Spence said. “He was tired. He came firing shots, I came firing shots. But there was a moment I realized I had to step up my game and I did.”
“It was a competitive fight,” said the visibly disappointed Brook. “He got some rounds. I won some rounds too. I felt I was winning, but my eye didn’t allow me to continue.”
All three judges had Spence ahead at the time of the stoppage.