By Keith Idec
Kell Brook couldn’t handle “The Truth.”
The brave Brook fought well Saturday night, but Errol Spence Jr. ultimately wore down the defending champion and stopped him in the 11th round of their IBF welterweight title fight in Sheffield, England. Spence, a heavily hyped American southpaw, hurt Brook early in the 11th round and made Brook take a knee with 1:28 left in it because he had trouble seeing out of his left eye.
Brook (36-2, 25 KOs) reached his feet before referee Howard Foster counted to 10, but Foster stopped the fight. Brook, who had a lot of swelling around his left eye, indicated to Foster that he couldn’t continue, despite the urging of a loud, proud crowd of roughly 27,000 at Bramall Lane, a soccer stadium in Brook’s hometown.
Meanwhile, the 27-year-old Spence proved he was more than ready for the biggest challenge of his four-year pro career. Brook’s mandatory challenger appeared poise throughout his first world title fight, even though Spence fought in his opponent’s hometown.
“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]. I think the layoff had me kinda shaky in there, you know, the nine-month layoff. But, you know, he’s a tricky fighter. He’s awkward, he’s very strong and he can punch. But, you know, I proved today that I have a chin and I have true grit.”
A round after Brook went down for the first time, Brook snapped back Spence’s head with a right uppercut early in the 11th round. He couldn’t keep the younger, stronger Spence (22-0, 19 KOs) from coming forward, though, and eventually succumbed to Spence’s pressure.
Brook, who lost a second straight bout by technical knockout, said he started suffering double vision in the 11th round. The former champion said the pain wasn’t as bad as when he suffered a fractured right orbital bone against Gennady Golovkin in his previous bout, but the vision issue proved insurmountable.
“It was a very tough fight,” Brook said. “I would say 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 like the same as in the Golovkin [fight]. Probably not as bad as that time, but I was getting hit on it over the rounds and it was getting worse. The last round, he caught me in it and it just stood there, double vision, and I couldn’t see out of the eye. I couldn’t see, so I had to stop.”
All three judges – Adalaide Byrd (97-92), Alejandro Lopez (96-93) and Dave Parris (95-94) – had Spence ahead at the time of the stoppage.
Despite winning a world title in hostile territory, Spence wasn’t particularly pleased with his performance.
“There was no doubts at all,” Spence said regarding his confidence before the fight. “I kinda give myself a B-minus. I don’t think I did too good. I think I was a little bit off, on my offense and my defense. But, you know, I give Kell a lot of credit. You know, I give these fans here – they’re beautiful fans, they’re hardcore fans. They came out here to support their hometown champion.”
Spence landed many power punches early in the 10th round, an accumulation of shots that made Brook take a knee. An opportunistic Spence pounced on Brook and landed several more power shots once he got up, but Brook came back to land several hard right hands of his own before that extremely entertaining round ended.
“Definitely, that was one of the best rounds [of my career],” Spence said. “He showed he was a true champion, just like he did with Golovkin. He was hurt, he was tired, he was fatigued and, you know, he pushed it out. He came back firing shots, I came firing shots and that was an awesome 10th round.”
Foster called for a brief break in the action with 2:02 to go in the ninth round, so that Dominic Ingle, Brook’s trainer, could fix the tape around one of Brook’s gloves.
By then, the swelling around Brook’s left eye was obvious, the consequence of Spence continually landing his jarring jab. Spence might’ve produced his best round of the fight to that point in the ninth, as he landed several combinations.
Spence and Brook kept fighting from close distances in the eighth round, when Spence landed a effective combination with about one minute remaining.
Brook knocked Spence backward with a right hand early in the sixth round, but Spence appeared to be off balance more than he was hurt. Spence quickly came back by landing a stiff right jab and a hard left to the body near a corner.
Spence connected with another hard jab later in the sixth, but Brook countered with a straight right hand. Brook and Spence traded power shots just before there were 30 seconds remaining in the sixth.
Brook landed two effective right hands in the fifth round – one near a corner with just under two minutes to go and another near the center of the ring with less than a minute left in it. Spence rallied late in the fifth by rocking Brook to the body.
Brook drilled Spence with a straight right hand early in the fourth round, but Spence took it well. Spence pressed the action later in the fourth, as he backed Brook into the ropes.
Brook appeared to affect Spence with a combination with about 30 seconds to go in the fourth round.
Spence attempted to establish his jab early in the third round, which led to several clinches. Brook connected with a good overhand right later in the third, near a corner.
Foster also warned Brook in the third round for leaning down on Spence’s head during awkward exchanges.
Brook landed a solid lead right hand early in the second round that got Spence’s attention. Brook landed a good right hand to the body later in the second round, but Spence quickly fired back with a straight left hand to Brook’s head.
Spence and Brook both tried to land to the body during a mostly uneventful first round in which neither fighter appeared to land an effective power punch.
Before beating Brook on Saturday night, Spence’s most noteworthy win had come against former WBO junior welterweight champion Chris Algieri (21-3, 8 KOs). Spence stopped Algieri in the fifth round 13 months ago in Brooklyn, New York.
Those that doubted the hype that has accompanied Spence during his rise through the welterweight ranks questioned whether the 27-year-old DeSoto, Texas, native was ready to travel overseas and take a title from a more experienced, proven champion.
Brook could’ve vacated his title and moved up to 154 pounds rather than facing Spence.
He suffered his first defeat and a serious injury in his last fight against Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs), who stopped Brook in the fifth round of their middleweight title fight September 10 at O2 Arena in London. Brook took several months off from boxing to recover from surgery to repair a fractured right orbital bone, which required a surgeon to insert a titanium plate into Brook’s face.
The 31-year-old Brook refused, however, to give up his championship. He instead instructed promoter Eddie Hearn to set up an IBF-mandated match against Spence, and Hearn came to an agreement 3½ months ago with promoter Tom Brown, who represented Spence in negotiations.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.