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A Defining Spring for the Welterweight Division

By Ashley Kates

In recent years the landscape of boxing has been vague, a lack of distinction has caused confusion and dispute amongst boxing fans over where the sport is heading, and who the characters spearheading that movement would be. Wladimir Klitschko’s eventual demise at the hands of Tyson Fury in 2015 lead many fans to believe that the heavyweight division would once again lead the way in offering 50/50 fights and blockbuster events.

Sadly, but somewhat predictably, that belief was short lived. Failed drugs tests, politics, pay splits, whatever the excuse, the fights have not been made and fans have been left to dwell over what could have been, and although an April date at Wembley between IBF Champion Anthony Joshua and a rejuvenated Wladimir Klitschko may go some way to relieve the tension, questions over the motivation of ‘Dr Steelhammer’ have dampened the excitement for boxing’s more pessimistic followers.

Movement in the heavyweight division was short lived

Events in the 147lb division have followed a similar path whereby the long reign of Floyd Mayweather Jr came to an end after reaching the landmark of a 49-0 record. The activity within the welterweight division had long been determined by the actions of the self-proclaimed ‘best ever’, as a long line of gunning challengers attempted to manoeuvre themselves into position for a guaranteed career high payday. After his retirement top contenders including Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, Kell Brook and Amir Khan were expected to battle it out for the supremacy, though what followed left little to be desired.

It does seem however, that there is change on the horizon, an announcement that a fight between Kell Brook and Errol Spence Jr will take place on May 20th at the Sheffield Arena follows the already confirmed bout between Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia, which is set for March 4th at the Barclays Centre, New York.

Spence at the time of Money May’s retirement wasn’t much more than an exciting prospect, but an impressive victory in April 2016, which also saw him become the first person to beat the durable Chris Algieri by stoppage ensured his right to battle at the top of the division. Following that came a trickier than expected encounter against Leonard ‘The Lion’ Bundu, but one that he ultimately ended with a KO victory.

Spence had too much for brave veteran Bundu

Kell Brook on the other hand has been on a somewhat different path. A string of derisory defences of his IBF strap against mandatory challengers Jo Jo Dan and Kevin Bizier highlighted the need for reform in the way governing bodies rank their fighters. With the gentle simmering of a domestic showdown with Amir Khan at Wembley in the background, neither fighter nor their promotional teams did anything significant enough to convince the public that it would ever actually happen.

Brook was however handed a gift-wrapped ticket back into the limelight in the summer of 2016, when it seemed like a contest between Chris Eubank Jr and Gennedy ‘GGG’ Golovkin was all but signed, only for the Eubanks to pull out in the final hour.

Bottled it: Eubanks didn’t really fancy Golovkin clash

Brook was given the opportunity to step in for Eubank Jr and fight Golovkin at middleweight live on Sky Sports Pay-per-view. What followed was a surprisingly resilient challenge from the Sheffield man, who also managed to land some effective shots of his own. The bout ended when trainer Dominic Ingle somewhat controversially threw in the towel following an eye injury that was visibly causing Brook serious distress. An unfortunate injury took nothing away from the fact that it was a sterling effort from Brook in a contest where few gave him a chance.

It could be said however that the match up with GGG could prove detriment to his cause against Spence in May. When broken down, there seem to be far more questions surrounding the champion in this instance than the challenger which isn’t common in such an eagerly anticipated world title bout. The first question surrounding Brook is whether or not the eye injury will withstand the threat of Spence. Orbital fractures are relatively simple for surgeons to repair but their unpredictability in terms of healing time and response to impact make it a definite cause for concern for ‘The Special One’.

The vulnerability of Brook’s eye becomes even more of a factor in this fight when you consider the extreme punching power of the man who calls himself ‘The Truth’. Spence’s KO victory over Leonard Bundu was something that another proven welterweight power puncher in Keith Thurman failed to achieve. That coupled with the impressive KO win over Algieri, who admirably lasted 12 rounds in punishing encounters with both Amir Khan and Manny Pacquiao, makes for an extremely dangerous challenger. The step up to 160lb was a big one for Brook, but one that he seemed to meet comfortably.

Insider: Amir Khan associate spills the beans on Brook negotiations during Asylum pod

It could be said that Brooks natural weight falls within the super-welterweight and middleweight divisions, so it will be interesting to see what sort of shape he is in come fight night. Struggling to make the drop in weight could have a major impact on Brooks conditioning which could see him suffer in the later rounds of the contest with Spence should the fight last that long.

Whether or not Errol Spence can target and exploit these possible weaknesses remains to be seen, but a well-executed game plan could catapult him to the top of the division. After making it clear that he would like to unify the welterweight division, fight fans could finally get to see the best in the division battling it out amongst each other should Spence get the victory on May 20th.

Kell Brook has made it clear that he would like to make a permanent step up in weight sooner rather than later, so a successful defence of his crown in this instance could be shortly followed by the belt being vacated and won by one of the IBF’s questionable pool of ranked fighters.

The script on the night is anyone’s guess, however what comes next for this great and historic division is fundamentally dependant on whether or not Spence can pull off a small upset, and take the IBF title back to the States.

Image Credits: Sky Sports

 

ByBoxingAsylum

Is Kell Brook ducking Errol Spence?

By Steven Donnell 

“Dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge.” These famous words of dodgeball guru Patches O’Houlihan seem to have been adopted by IBF welterweight world champion Kell Brook when it comes to facing his mandatory, Errol Spence Jnr.

For well over a year now, I’ve been shouting to anyone who would listen that this fight needs to be made. It did look like it was going to happen when Spence beat Chris Algieri (very convincingly with a fifth-round stoppage) then called out Brook.  Now with Brook having a long lay off with injury, then coming back to defend his strap against Kevin Bizier, this looked like a great a fight and at the right time for both. As loud as Spence shouted, the silence from Brook was deafening. Then we had Eddie Hearn say in an interview that: ”No matter how loud Spence shouts for the figh,t behind closed doors him and his people don’t want it and we would have no problem making the fight otherwise.”

Now anyone who has watched Spence over the years knows this is a down right lie; the kid has always looked to challenge himself and move up as fast as possible. As for Kell Brook, he has one world level win against Shawn Porter to his name, which was in August 2014, and although that was great win for Brook it was a close fight – in fact I know a few people who scored it the other way. Brook was supposed to fight Jessie Vargas which would have been fine with me but then we find out Brook never actually signed to fight Vargas in a unification fight, instead he elected to fight Pound-for-Pound superstar GGG at middleweight. Now this was ballsy -as he didn’t really have a chance in the fight- or was it? Brook went into that fight knowing no matter what, he had a pass and not only that but his IBF title was safe at home where he likes it.

Now onto this week, we finally see Errol Spence Jnr brought up in an interview with Brook as the IBF have ordered him to take the Spence fight next. As it turns out Brook only wants big paydays if he’s to bother making the weight but I can’t imagine he got paid big cash to fight Bizier. The massive stadium fight with Amir Khan is on for the end of the year, but Khan says: “only if he fight Spence first.”

I was once a big Kell Brook fan, right the way up to the Porter fight. I thought Brook might just be in the top three welterweights in the division but as it turns out Brook getting his hands on that IBF title was the worst thing that could have happened for the division, and for his fans. He didn’t want to go on the road to get the big names, like Garcia or Thurman, but he would rather stay in UK and hold the title hostage while becoming an irrelevance. If I am being honest, I cannot see this Brook-Spence fight happening now which is a real shame as it would be a great fight. I can, however, see Brook going up to 154lbs to try his luck.

Follow Steven on Twitter @dinobhoy86 @Djayboxingblog

Image Credit: Sky Sports