Saturday 20 January 2018

Kell Brook 'devastated' after losing world welterweight title to Errol Spence Jr in 11th-round stoppage

Kell Brook is knocked down during his IBF Welterweight World Championship bout with Errol Spence at Bramall Lane
Kell Brook is knocked down during his IBF Welterweight World Championship bout with Errol Spence at Bramall Lane

Gareth A Davies

Kell Brook's reign as the IBF welterweight champion ended on Saturday night at the hands of impressive American challenger Errol Spence in the eleventh round in front of his home crowd in Sheffield. Brook was unable to see after his left eye had closed having taken a knee, but the brave British fighter was outboxed and outscored by the southpaw who has slick, fast skills, throughout the championship bout.

Brook, proud to the last, had no answer to the Texan's hand speed and vigour.   

One minute and 46 seconds into the penultimate round, Brook was counted out and referee Howard Foster waved the fight off.       

On a night in the steel city that will live long in the memory, Brook was unable to bring to life the prophecy of his uncle Johnny 24 years ago that he would one day bring Sheffield to a standstill with a world title win at this traditional football ground - once one of the great northern powerhouses of football.

Spence's hand speed, armoury of more shots and angles saw him edge round after round, targeting head and body with Brook unable to impose himself on the 27-year-old, now unbeaten in 22 contests. Brook had sporadic successes, but he was bettered here by the brilliant boxing of the visitor. It was Brook's second defeat after a step up two weight divisions to face Gennady Golovkin at middleweight, who knocked Brook out in the fifth round of their September 2017 fight in London.

There were messy periods in the fight as they clinched again and again in the first world title fight ever in the 162-year history of Bramall Lane. But Spence always looked the busier, as Brook's left eye began to swell from the eighth round.

Spence, who is the first United States boxer to dethrone an Englishman on British soil in nearly a decade, looked brilliant. 

The last American to win a world title in England was Timothy Bradley, who defeated another Sheffield native, Junior Witter, in 2008 in Nottingham. Terence Crawford, though, was the victor against Scotsman Ricky Burns in 2014.

Speaking after the bout, Brook said: "It were a very tough fight. Spence is one of the best kids I've been in with.

"I got caught in the eye. It felt like the Golovkin one.

"I couldn't see out of the eye. I had to stop."

"It was a very competitive fight. I live to fight another today. I'm gutted I've lost my belt in front of my fans in Sheffield. I'm devastated."

Earlier, George Groves secured a world title at the fourth attempt, ripping the heart out of WBA champion super middleweight champion Fedor Chudinov with a brilliant, sustained assault in the sixth round of a fight which was not going his way. Referee Steve Gray had no option as Chudinov had no response to the barrage. "I can put those losses to bed and get on with my life," said an elated Groves. "I'm usually a character who is normally well rehearsed - but this time I have no words. I want to thank everyone who made this happen - Shane McGuigan. He brings the best out of me. I feel like I am the best in the division.

"What a tremendous atmosphere tonight - the crowd has showed me so much respect. I'm over the moon."

Groves strode to the ring with real intent, but it was clear that his jabs were bouncing off the rugged Russia in the opening round, the fight quickly becoming a torrid affair as the two went toe-to-toe, Chudinov winning the first three rounds before Groves found some stinging replies with uppercuts to the body and an assault himself in the fourth. But the sudden reversal from Groves in the middle round of the championship fight came from nowhere, and carried all the frustration of his two defeats to Carl Froch, and the loss to Badou Jack in Las Vegas. It was a brilliant attack and it brought Chudinov to a standstill, many and heavy were the hooks and uppercuts from both hands. It was a barrage that has re-written his boxing career. And his life. The football ground erupted with genuine delight for Groves.

On the undercard the Olympic trio of Joe Cordina, Anthony Fowler - making his debut - and Lawrence Okolie earned first-round victories. Welshman Cordina moved to 3-0 as a professional, and Fowler - cousin of former England and Liverpool footballer Robbie Fowler, and winner of a gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, looked impressive against Arturs Geikins, dropping him twice for a first round victory. Cruiserweight Okolie, who looks very impressive indeed, and also won inside a round to delight the rowdy support and extend his record in the paid ranks to three fights undefeated. As the ground began to fill up earlier in the evening, the likeable Doncaster heavyweight David Allen was unable to win the Commonwealth heavyweight championship after a split decision defeat to Lenroy Thomas.

Allen's rugged, hard-working performance was only enough to sway one judge - he was on the wrong end of a 115-114, 113-115, 115-114 scorecard. "I wanted to win the belt for my dad," said Allen who moved to eleven wins, three losses and one draw. Allen's father had won on Herol Graham's undercard in 1984 when Bramall Lane last hosted a boxing event. Thomas, meanwhile, revealed afterwards that he had been living in a dumpster truck for a year and working in a fast food chain. Boxing may be glamourous for the for the chosen few, but for Thomas, last night was more than just a belt.

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