For years, Kell Brook was desperate to participate in a major bout. He practically begged Amir Khan to fight him, but Khan smiled smugly, declined (or didn’t answer) and went out on his own pursuing bouts against Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao that never occurred.
But as his defense of the IBF welterweight title against unbeaten American uber-prospect Errol Spence Jr. nears, Brook is in a situation where he never needs to beg again.
Brook has done what so many fighters won’t do. He’s taken unnecessary risks, and put himself in the line of fire, in pursuit of stardom.
And while he’s a star in the boxing-mad country of England, where 27,000 fans will fill a soccer stadium, Bramall Lane, in his hometown of Sheffield to see him defend against Spence, he has a way to go globally.
Showtime will televise Saturday’s match live at 5:15 p.m. ET, and from an American perspective, it’s more an angle of the would-be coronation of Spence.
Brook, though, is a fascinating side plot. He came to the U.S. in 2014 and won the IBF belt from Shawn Porter in a bout that he never got much credit for, and he’s coming off a fifth-round TKO loss to Gennady Golovkin in September in which he performed surprisingly well before Golovkin’s sheer physical strength took over.
He’ll never be as beloved elsewhere as he is in England, but if he defeats Spence to retain the title and raise his record to 37-1, it’s a pretty good bet respect for him in the U.S. and elsewhere will skyrocket.
“I don’t feel like I have to go out there and prove anything, I just have to be myself,” Brook said. “But of course, I know that Errol Spence is a fantastic fighter with all the tools. Beating him would put me on top of the world.”
It’s been a banner year for boxing and the first half of the year isn’t complete, but the Brook-Spence fight will only add to it. It’s two of the four or five best fighters in the division going head-to-head in a high-stakes battle.
Spence’s rise has been as glorious as it has been carefully planned. From the day the 2012 London Olympic Games ended, boxing promoters around the world tagged him as the sport’s next superstar.
Manager Al Haymon moved him carefully to get to this point where Spence is the favorite despite going on the road to Brook’s hometown.
For Brook, this fight is the end of the line in his battle for relevancy. He’s fought much of his career in Khan’s considerable shadow, and hasn’t always gotten the hero’s welcome he’ll undoubtedly receive on Saturday.
He competed in a division in which Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto also resided, and they took up nearly all of the oxygen in the room.
But Brook was bold, chased every big fight he could, and finally hit the jackpot when he landed the Golovkin fight.
His courage and competitiveness opened many eyes, and though it was his first loss, much more good than harm came out of it.
“This fight is one that has really lit up the world of boxing,” promoter Eddie Hearn said. “ … It’s a clash, in my opinion, between the No. 1 and No. 2 welterweights in world boxing.”
These kinds of events are great for the sport. They show well on television, when the emotions are high, the fans are fervent and the action is of high quality.
Brook has made no secret of his respect for Spence, but he’s also made clear he intends to make a statement and win the fight. It’s hard to doubt him after he delivered so much in the fight against Golovkin.
His corner stopped that bout because the sheer force of Golovkin’s punches to Brook’s orbital bone. It simply proved that Golovkin’s power is on another level and that Brook is not a middleweight.
He’s quite a talented welterweight, though, and believes the overflow hometown crowd could be the difference.
“I’ve been pushed to the limit in training because I know Errol Spence is one hell of a contender,” Brook said. “I’ll have my hands full Saturday night, but I’ll draw energy from everyone who is watching the fight here and all the fans at Bramall Lane. You need that extra energy when there’s a lot on the line, and there is a lot on the line here.”
But he’ll need to be precise and land the lead right, in particular, as often as he can.
He didn’t use his right much Wednesday at an open workout, which drew a significant crowd, but said it isn’t injured.
He’s saving his right, which he dubbed “The Chocolate Brownie,” for Spence.
“I wasn’t chucking the right hands because ‘The Chocolate Brownie,’ I didn’t want it to be damaged; I wanted to give it to Errol Spence clean cut, just being baked,” he said, as Spence chuckled. “I wanted it to be baked perfectly, which is why I didn’t let that right hand go [at the public workout]. I want it to be crisp so he tastes every bit of that sugar in there.”