Photo by Amanda Westcott/Showtime
On Saturday, May 27, 2017, 27,000 plus fans filled the soccer grounds at Bramall Lane and all but a hand filled cheered for the hometown hero, Kell Brook (36-2, 25 KOs).
Thunderous boos filled the stadium as the challenger from Texas, Errol Spence Jr. (22-0, 19 KOs), made his way into the ring.
It’s rare to see a world champion who’s fighting in his hometown be considered an underdog heading into a bout. It’s also rare to see a challenger who’s willing to jump into the lion’s den and come out victorious.
The man known simply as “The Truth” did just that on Saturday night.
Brook vs. Spence, to the hardcore boxing fan, was a match made in heaven. It pitted arguably the top two Welterweights together in what was a display of tremendous heart, skill and marvelous boxing technique.
The bout was evenly matched from the get go. The moment one fighter landed a stellar combination; the other would retaliate with one of his own.
As rounds progress in a boxing match, more often than not, a ring general is established. For Brook-Spence, the tide switched virtually every round.
By the middle rounds, most experts had the bout narrowly even and it was about time for one fighter to make a statement. That statement came to fruition in the 10th round when Errol Spence Jr. seized the opportunity of an opening and laid out a combination that put Brook onto the canvas.
It seemed as if Brook had found himself in some real trouble and looked to just survive the round. Midway into the round, Brook found a home for his uppercut and began to make a comeback. The pro-Brook audience cheered their countryman on, hoping to see a turnaround in the fight.
Brook would survive the 10th, only to be finished off in the following round. As both fighters came out of their corners in the 11th round, it was evident that Brook’s left eye was a cause for concern.
Spence had made a habit of landing his stiff right jab, that caused sever swelling and possible injury to the champion. Brook began to take significant punishment and elected to take a knee.
After a few words with the referee, Brook retired from the bout, crowning Errol Spence Jr. the new IBF Welterweight champion of the world.
“There were no doubts coming into the fight,” said Spence.
“I give myself a B-. I don’t think I did too good. I was a bit off on my offense and defense, but I have to give all the credit in the world to Kell Brook.”
Prior to the fight, Spence had made it clear that this was his coming out party to the sport of boxing and his performance tonight is a testament to that.
“It’s a legacy defining fight. This is what true champions do. You go anywhere to fight. He came to America to get the title and I came here to take it from him,” said Spence.
With the victory, Spence becomes only the fourth US Olympic fighter to win a title outside of the United States.
While Brook carried the body language of disappointment, he recognized his fans and gave it all he had.
“I’m gutted that I’ve lost my belt in front of all these great fans. I’m devastated,” said Brook.
“It was a tough fight. My eye started to hurt in the middle rounds and it the last round he caught me and I couldn’t see anymore. I had to stop.”
With the victory, Errol Spence Jr. places himself in the upper echelon of talent, not just in the Welterweight division, but also in boxing as a whole.
Spence wasted no time calling out his next opponent and claims he would like to unify his title and face off against the likes of Keith “One Time” Thurman and future hall of famer Manny Pacquiao.
Regardless of who Spence elects to fight next, its evident that the sport of boxing may have found its next superstar.
Peter Nieves is a sports journalist who's been writing for Round By Round Boxing since 2012. When he's not covering the sweet science, he's busy twirling his mustache and writing a screenplays. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @pnieves90