By Vinny “Glory Days” Lucci
There is a kinetic energy in the air like a magnetic storm that has put on a lightshow and everyone stands mesmerized waiting to see it again. Hard to capture lightning in a bottle but Promoter Eddie Hearn on Kell Brook’s wishes is trying to ignite a stadium to host the challenge of his number one contender Errol Spence, JR. As of this writing the IBF has mandated that purse bids be submitted by February 14th, with a target date of May 20 in Sheffield England.
This fight has been touted as a possible gem for 2017 since Spence, JR. rose to number one status with the unremarkable win over Chris Algieri who has visited canvas 11 times in last four bouts. After that Errol showcased his extraordinary skills against 41 year old Leonardo Bundu stopping him in six rounds. This kid is the “goods” but if this was the Leonard/Hearns era he wouldn’t have cracked the top ten with his resume.
To be fair, besides taking Shawn Porter’s title in 2014, Kell has feasted on IBF freebees like JoJo Dan, Frankie Gavin and Kevin Binzer who all somehow managed to secure number one status. Brooks ill-advised foray into the Lion’s den against Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin last September left as many questions as answers when he was stopped in five gallant rounds of fistic mayhem. Kell hurt “GGG” more than any ranked middleweight ever did as he landed cleanly and left welts and purple fistic impressions on the champion’s face. Brook was stopped due to fractured skull, (broken eye socket.)
In what could have resulted in a ring tragedy, had the bout not been stopped, by Kell’s trainer he went to the hospital that night only to be seen in training again just five weeks later. Speculation arose as to his next move. Would he rise the logical seven pounds to the more comfortable weight limit of junior middleweight or accept one last challenge at 147 and oblige Spence, JR. to a night of fisticuffs. There was also the phenomenal payday awaiting him in the guise of Amir Kahn who was last seen left for dead courtesy of a Canelo Alvarez right hand last year. While no one outside Kahn’s family gave him a shot in hell at pulling off an upset, yet Brook had a percentage of believers who thought he could make fools of the odds.
Amir has been foolishly playing Genghis Kahn in the board room of negotiations and making outrageous monetary demands his ass can’t handle. Asking for a 75/25% split in his favor is pure hyperbole or Kahn’s colossal ego simply doesn’t want the fight unless he has enough retirement money for several lifetimes. This bout could have sold out Wembley Stadium where gullible fans would believe it was a pick- em’ match up. Kahn insisting he is the “A” side of promotion needs only to be reminded of the stark reality of being counted out by a Canelo cross. Hardcore fans point to his being stopped cold in one minute by unknown Breidis Precott as well as his tko loss in four to Danny Garcia and common sense dictates to take this match before another loss buries his career altogether. These outlandish demands of parity or Lion’s share has caused the forfeiture of mega bouts with both Floyd Mayweather, JR. and Manny Pacquiao.
Onward, the world is being treated to a far superior bout with much more unpredictable conclusion. On the heels of some highly entertaining bouts on the calendar year, we can add Brook Vs Spence, JR. to DeGale /Jack, Garcia/Thurman, Joshua/Klitschko, Golovkin/Jacobs and Alvarez/ Chavez, JR.
The champion stands 5’9” with a reach of 69.” The Brit fights from the Orthodox stance and owns a highly respectable record of 36-, 26 KO’s. His moniker of “Special K” doesn’t get bandied about anymore as he has universal recognition and his birth name carries the weight of respect.
The challenger from America stands a half inch taller but possess a three inch reach advantage. Spence, JR.’s record of 21-0, 18 KO’s brings him to the doorstep of greatness. His name tag of the “Truth” has also been lost as he has developed a rabid fan base who see him as the future of the division.
Several questions will linger in fans minds and be left to open debate until our two heroes contest this on canvas. First off, will Spence, JR.’s southpaw style present a problem for Kell? Does Spence, JR. possess the speed to offset the champion’s timing? Is Errol’s jab a better offense weapon? Who has the better beard and whose will be tested more?
Spence, JR. has a tight defense from the afore mentioned southpaw stance, but when he jabs to the body or loads up on power shots he often neglects to cover his chin. Bundu reached him often with power shots but at 41 didn’t have power behind it. The challenger averages 9 jabs a round, while Kell will throw upwards of 30. The American has a faster jab, more whip on tail end but his British rival packs more power and weight behind his and also uses it as a defensive counter punch also.
The champion has better balance and is always in position to throw, and never neglects changing up his combinations. His uppercut is rivaled only by Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez. Once the heavy artillery comes out it’s the champion’s playground. He has literally destroyed mere welters as if they were lightweights. For all of Shawn Porter’s power, he was unable to bully or hurt Kell. The challenger who rose to prominence over two gift wrapped stepping stones will find his lack of experience on the big stage is going to hurt him when Brook steps up his game.
Spence, JR. is most vulnerable when he reaches to jab a body shot. He displays his stance too far apart giving away balance in order to set up a head shot. If Kell starts timing the frequently used tactic it’s going to cost him dearly. Otherwise he has a tight defense and lets his hands go while he circles the entire ring taking advantage of as much real estate as possible. The champion does not waste energy or footwork and works nicely pivoting on front foot and taking just enough back or side steps to allow himself proper punching room. His adjustments are flawless and not showy.
When tagged hard, Errol is more likely to tie his man up whereas Kell will free a hand and fire power shots from clinch and quickly establish a new angle. Kell will not only start his combos off a jab, he is old school and ends many the same way while he adverts counters and changes angles.
While no analyst can claim the challenger, wastes punches it’s astounding how Kell makes every punch count. He also presents a tight defense.
What to look for on fight night:
The first round can either be a feel out round in order to gain a perspective on timing and gage each other’s power and tempo but don’t count on that scenario. If Spence, JR. is foolish enough to believe he can hurt the champion because Golovkin did, his corner wasn’t paying attention to the core of the fight. Kell may also question a challenger whose best credentials to his throne come off stoppages of Algieri and Bundu. Kell mentally has an edge here to go with his power and will be more likely to trade ring center in a quest to draw first blood.
While the challenger appears to be a hair faster, Kell can wreck his timing and rhythm by simply applying more deliberate jabs. The fight itself pits perhaps the two best welterweights in the game. While nobody can claim to be better than WBO champ Manny Pacquiao until they prove it in ring time is running out on his storied career faster than sand in an hourglass. As Danny Garcia and Keith Thurman prepare to electrify the world with their welterweight title unification in a few short weeks, the victor can’t claim to be the best until he has vanquished the victor of Brook/Spence, JR.
Both should make the weigh in comfortably. Neither is a slouch in gym like Adrien Broner who on just a few days’ notice insisted his junior welterweight clash with Adrian Granados be contested 7 pounds north at welterweight or walk. Chances are Broner doesn’t hit the scale under 147. If he needs to fight at welterweight, he needs to pick on welterweights. Every time I try to like this kid I take a step back and lose respect for him… OK, back to our boys. Spence, JR. is a natural welterweight. Kell may have outgrown the division but his freakish body allows him to make weight and rehydrate muscle, not water. At 160 pounds in his fight against “GGG”, He was ripped, strong, and didn’t lose any speed. My guess is he’ll enter ring at fight time around 159 pounds and carry it well.
In an attempt, not to be manhandled, Spence, JR. probably enters as a junior middleweight. As the rounds unfold Errol will try to make the most of his natural gifts of speed, pace and timing. He will have effective moments that score and keep him in the fight but in actuality he’ll have a hard time getting Brook’s attention much less his respect. Brook has an armor-plated body and whiskers to envy. The harder Spence, JR. tries to hurt his foe the more he is playing in the danger zone.
By round nine the blue prints of both corners will have been displayed and executed. The telling difference will be the effects of Brooks’ power and his ability to soak up Spence, JR.’s cross fire. Errol’s corner will be imploring him to box the rest of the way in hopes of snagging a decision.
The chances of a draw are predicted at 25 to 1. As of this writing early Vegas odds are nearly pick ‘em with 11/10 bets going either way. When fight night draws closer the odds will tip one way or another depending on which fighter is getting more betting action.
Some fights are as easy as choosing what’s for dinner. Others carry too much intrigue, intangibles, and open questions leaving handicapping an art of guesswork as much as calibrated reasoning. Too many times before the boxing world waited on baited breath for the coronation of a new prince only to be beguiled by the hard fact they simply weren’t ready. Lightweight Tyrone Crawley from the early 80’s comes to mind. My gut says great fight but my head tells me Kell will not be denied and wins by SOS. (Stoppage or scorecards.) OK you can put me down for officially adding a new lingo to your boxing vocabulary.
Those that think Brook can’t reduce muscle mass or suffered too much against Golovkin are mistaken. Kell had a five week rest letting body and orbital bone heal and was fit as a fiddle returning to gym the first day of week six. He is used to shedding his walk around weight of 160 to the welterweight limit and rehydrating into the perfectly balanced beast inside the boxers body. He has been on the world stage for three years already and knows how to deal with the magnitude of event. Knowing he has a serious challenger in his crosshairs he will take challenge as serious as his middleweight challenge and prepare accordingly. Brook has stones. He easily could have moved up a division claiming he was incapable of making the weight and no one would have questioned him. His desire not to vacate belt or deny a true challenge is awe inspiring in today’s world of cherry pickers.
Errol Spence, JR. will have nothing to apologize for. The kid is still better than most and just needs some seasoning to bring his talents to fruition. I’d love to see him tackle a real contender before challenging again for a title.
Quick shout out to Darren Harris and Derrick L. Brown. Two cats who keep the pulse of boxing alive on Facebook with fairness and clarity amid the plethora of rabid fans.
In the next few weeks the boxing world will be a meteor shower of don’t blink or miss it action.
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