Errol Spence Jr and Kell Brook were a great matchup on paper, and they delivered a terrific fight in front of 27,000 fans at Bramall Lane in Sheffield, England, with Spence separating himself from Brook down the stretch and scoring an 11th round stoppage.
Spence (22-0, 19 KO) is the new IBF welterweight champion, earning that belt with a tremendous performance against a valiant defending champion on that champion’s home turf. The official time of knockout was 1:47 of round 11, when Brook (36-2, 25 KO) took a knee and the count, clearly bothered by damage to his left eye, which is not the one that Gennady Golovkin damaged last year.
Brook and Spence opened the fight with a high-level chess match, not lacking in action or bad intentions, but one where both were trying to establish dominance over the other man. By the middle rounds, we were clearly heading for a war of attrition, skill giving way to will, and that’s when Spence took over.
In the 10th round, Spence dropped Brook, but the Sheffield fanatics willed Brook back into the fight somewhat, as he charged through the round looking to land big shots. But Brook had taken some real punishment for a few frames at that point, and in the 11th, Spence’s attack was simply too much for him to weather any longer. He took the knee and the 10 count.
“He’s a tricky fighter, he’s awkward, he’s very strong, and he can punch,” Spence said of Brook. “But I proved today that I have a chin and I have true grit.”
Spence wasn’t glowing in his self-review. “I give myself a B-minus. I don’t think I did too good. I think I was a little bit off in my offense and my defense, but I give Kell all the credit.”
Spence added that he was happy to do it on the road in the UK: “This is a legacy-defining fight. That’s what true champions do. You go anywhere to fight. He came to America and took the title, so I came over here to take the title from him. He’s a true champion.”
Asked what he wanted to do next, Spence said, “The goal is to unify the titles. I want to fight Keith Thurman next, Manny Pacquiao next. I wanna fight the champions.”
Brook, 31, was expectedly downtrodden. “It was a very tough fight. Spence is one of the best kids I’ve been in with, if not the best. I got caught in about the seventh round in the eye, and it felt about the same as the Golovkin one. ... In the last round, he caught me, and it just stuck there, double vision, and I couldn’t see out of the eye. I had to stop.”
“I thought it was a very competitive fight,” he added. “I live to fight another day. ... I’m devastated.”
Asked about moving up to 154 pounds, Brook said he can still make welterweight, but he’ll fight anyone.
At the time of stoppage, scores were 95-94, 96-93, and 97-92, all for Spence. BLH had it 96-93 on two cards, both for Spence.