With IBF welterweight title holder Errol Spence’s dazzling showing and stoppage of former title holder Kell Brook, many are speculating as to where Spence fits within the pecking order among the current elite welterweights…. a list consisting of Keith Thurman 28-0 (22), who holds the WBA/WBC titles, Manny Pacquiao 58-6-2 (38), who is the WBO titlist, along with former title holders Shawn Porter 27-2-1 (17), Danny Garcia 33-1 (19), and Lamont Peterson 35-3-1 (17). I didn’t include Kell Brook, who holds a decision win over Porter, because there’s a belief among boxing insiders that if Brook continues to fight, he’ll move up to 154 and compete as a junior middleweight.
For the first half of the fight last weekend, Brook mixed boxing and attacking beautifully. Kell fought well on the move and had Spence a little bewildered by his unexpected runs at him offensively. After seven rounds, I had the fight 68-66 in favor of Brook. From the eighth round on through to the stoppage in the 11th round, Spence pushed the action, scoring well to the head and body. By the 10th round Brook was slowed to a walk due to Spence’s steady punching and early body attack. In that round, he went down from a series of punches. He beat the count, but succumbed in the 11th due to him being unable to see out of his right eye. He didn’t want to risk it being more severely damaged.
For many fight observers it was their first time seeing Errol Spence and he certainly didn’t disappoint; he was terrific. As it was said on the Boxing Channel prior to the fight, Brook and Spence were most likely two of the physically biggest and strongest welterweights in boxing. Both weighed in on the day of the fight at almost 160 pounds. Just on physicality alone they’d be a problem for the other welterweights, but they’re both highly skilled and on the night of May 27th Brook was outgunned by Spence.
With the fight behind us, the talk in many boxing circles and on social media revolves around whom, if anyone, at 147, could give Spence his most difficult fight, if not beat him. And the quick answer to that is nobody. Had Kell Brook fought Thurman, Pacquiao, Garcia, Porter or Peterson this past weekend, I would’ve favored Brook to come out on top against all five just as I would have had Spence defeating any of them. Picking the winner of Brook-Spence was one of the more difficult fights to handicap. Prior to the fight on The Boxing Channel, I questioned how Brook’s eye would hold up during a damaging fight…..and why Spence was a 2-1 betting favorite in Las Vegas. As we saw, the left eye didn’t hold up and it must’ve got back to Vegas before the bout that Spence could fight.
As of this writing, Errol Spence is the alpha welterweight. Stylistically he matches up favorably against those fighters making up the top five or six. In the aftermath of the fight it’s been highlighted how Brook was successful when he pushed the action and had Spence inching away or, as some like to say, fighting on the back foot. Although that is true, what is missed is the physical toll Brook paid trying to keep Errol off of him. In the early going Brook somewhat neutralized the hard punching Spence, but his body was open and Spence really worked it. And that ultimately wore Brook down and led to Spence working him over pretty effectively during the 8th, 9th and 10th rounds before it ended in the 11th.
As he showed against Danny Garcia in his last bout, Keith Thurman is a fighter who can fight on the move. For eight rounds Thurman was beautiful, but he did slow down and tire from only moderate and almost ineffective pressure. During the last four rounds Thurman concentrated more so on moving than fighting – thus he was able to run out the clock and hold on to win a decision. Spence is a much better attacker than Danny Garcia, a bigger two-handed puncher and much more explosive – and he’s more used to forcing the action. Spence would be in his element forcing Thurman back. Sure, Thurman has wheels but he has to come down off his toes to get any real power, and when he does that, Spence can really force him to engage and that’s advantage Spence. Once they got in the ring, and after seeing the damage Errol did to Brook, Thurman would fight first to survive and not get caught by anything big, more so than to put any real hurt on Spence. In other words, once they felt the presence of each other, it would be Thurman who went away from what he does more than Spence.
Against the other top guys – Pacquiao only knows one way to fight, and that’s attack. Spence would relish that, and once they started trading, Manny would break it off and look more to use his legs instead of getting off. Pacquiao would either be stopped by Spence or lose every round if he went the distance, which I doubt would be the scenario. Porter against Spence would be fun because both guys like to bring the fight. But Porter doesn’t have the power to trade with Spence or force him to break off an exchange. The difference would be Spence’s accuracy and explosive power which would lead to Porter being out-gunned. Danny Garcia would look to counter, and that would have him fighting in retreat. His problem would be that Spence can go forward faster than Garcia can go backward or to any side. Eventually, Garcia’s chin and big heart would draw him into fighting Spence and that would be his undoing. Lamont Peterson’s hybrid in and out attack/retreat style might be Spence’s biggest headache stylistically, but like the rest, at some point Spence would force Lamont to engage with him – and that’s not a fight Peterson can win.
Errol Spence Jr. is the fighter to beat at 147. In his last bout he just may have disposed of the second best welterweight in the world, and he did it in an impressive fashion. As was the case of Anthony Joshua against Wladimir Klitschko, Spence showed that he’s not perfect defensively, but that’s mainly because he’s a fighter whose instinct is to attack. In doing that he puts himself in range to be hit with some stuff his opponent sends his way. But with his ability to put his punches together, his explosive two-handed power, and his ability to adjust when things aren’t going entirely his way, he’s the most formidable welterweight in the sport.
There’s not a welterweight alive who can beat Spence fighting it out and trading – and there’s not one currently who is good enough, strong enough, or slick and smooth enough to out-box him. Spence is the real deal at 147. He has the style, length, strength and power to force the other contenders and title-holders to adapt to him — more so than he has to adapt to anything they offer stylistically or physically.
Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME
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Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com