A crowd estimated at 27,000 surged into Sheffield’s venerable Bramall Lane soccer stadium in hopes of seeing hometown hero Kell Brook turn away Errol Spence Jr. in Brook’s fourth defense of the IBF welterweight title he won in 2014 with a majority decision over Shawn Porter. They left disappointed. Speed kills, goes the old saying, and Spence, from the Dallas, Texas, suburb of DeSoto, was simply too fast for the underdog Brook who made a gallant showing before folding his tent with a badly damaged left eye in the 11th round.
This was Brook’s first fight since jumping up two weight classes to challenge Gennady Golovkin in September of last year. He looked bigger than Spence and there were moments when it appeared that he would wear down his American adversary. But whenever it appeared that the Englishman was shifting the tide in his favor, Spence would answer with a flurry to regain the upper hand.
In what would be the final round, Brook electrified the crowd with an uppercut that clearly shook Spence. But that proved to be a mirage as Brook had been reduced to fighting on fumes. The fight ended with Brook on one knee complaining of double vision. (It was his other eye that was badly damaged in his match with Golovkin.) After the fight he said, “he’s the best kid I’ve been in with.” As for Spence, he lived up to the advance hype and thrust his name firmly into the pound-for-pound conversation.
In the co-feature, the fourth time was a charm for fan favorite George Groves who won the vacant WBA 168-pound world title with a sixth round stoppage of Russia’s Fedor Chudinov. Groves (26-3, 15 KOs) had previously come up short in world title fights with Carl Froch (twice) and Badou Jack. It was a much-needed win for his trainer, Shane McGuigan, who was on the losing side in recent fights involving Carl Frampton and David Haye.
Groves, who was cut over his left eye in round four, ended the fight with a barrage of punches after five relatively even rounds. It was the second straight loss for Chudinov (14-2) who was controversially out-pointed by veteran Felix Sturm in Germany in February of last year. Prior to the bout, the crowd hushed respectfully as ring announcer Michael Buffer called for a moment of silence in honor of the bombing victims in nearby Manchester.
In another bout of note, Lenroy Thomas, a Floridian with roots in Jamaica, scored the biggest win of his career, copping a split decision over David Allen to claim the vacant British Commonwealth heavyweight title. A 32-year-old southpaw, Thomas (21-4) was assisted by cornerman Kenny Porter, the father of Shawn Porter, when his regular trainer was unable to make the trip. The verdict, a mild upset, wasn’t popular with ringsiders.
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