Errol Spence Jr broke Kell Brook’s eye then proceeded to break his heart as he became the new IBF welterweight champion in a fight which poses questions of what’s next for both men.
In Brook’s case, many are contemplating the prospect of retirement, having suffered back-to-back beatdowns and consecutive orbital breaks following the damaging defeat at middleweight to Gennady Golovkin.
For Spence, the future is decidedly more certain as the 27-year-old more than justified his heavy hype with a performance of supreme maturity.
Indeed, the American has long been held up as his country’s next big boxing hope and he preserved that status and his unbeaten record with an 11th round stoppage in Brook’s backyard of Sheffield at Bramall Lane on Saturday.
While it was the ballooning left eye of the 31-year-old, who had his right eye brutally battered in September, which forced him to take a knee in submission, the prior pummelling body work from Spence played a major role.
In what seemed like a high-speed chess match for the first six sessions, Spence perpetually ripped hooks to the body and his tremendous work on the inside paid dividends as Brook faded into the later rounds.
The Texan had never previously gone beyond 10 stanzas but in the second half of the fight he stepped up another level as Brook regressed before abdicating his crown.
“[Brook] is a tricky fighter, he’s awkward. He’s very strong and he can punch,” said Spence who stretched his record to 22-0.
“But I proved today that I have a chin and that I have true grit. It’s a legacy-defining fight and that’s what true champions do. You go anywhere to fight. He came to America and took the title, so I came over here to take the title from him.”
He added: “I watched some of his fights and he liked to fight at a certain pace. But once you pick up the pace on him, he kind of breaks down a little bit and can’t throw a lot of punches.
“I decided to press the action, make him fight at a pace he didn’t want to fight at and he started breathing hard and slowing down. I knew that I had him.”
And respect to @SpecialKBrook. He's a real fighter. So am I. Gonna defend the belt against whoever, whenever, wherever & unify the division.— Errol Spence (@ErrolSpenceJr) May 28, 2017
The pre-fight build-up was dominated by the narrative of a young prospect up against a proven world champion, but it was Spence who managed the rounds better.
There were periods in the opening half of the fight when he was outboxed as Brook started aggressively and tested his chin with stiff shots.
Yet Spence remained committed to working the body and eventually chopped down Brook with bludgeoning blows in the 10th for the first knockdown before finding the finish in the 11th.
It was a victory built on poise, patience and power, one which will gain Spence pound-for-pound recognition. But make no mistake, while ‘The Truth’s’ reign as world champion begins, Brook’s presence among boxing’s elite has not come to an end.
Providing the Sheffield pugilist can regain full fitness – he will likely require a titanium plate akin to one in his right eye – there is no doubt he possesses the skill to take on other elite names, most notably domestic rival Amir Khan.
Yet before the dust had even settled in the Steel City, immediate doubts were raised about Brook’s mental fortitude.
WBC cruiserweight champ Tony Bellew led the questioning in his role as pundit for SkySports as he said: “[Brook] had the fight beaten out of him. You’ve got to remember he’s been through a bad injury. He’s probably thinking in the back of his mind ‘I could go blind if I don’t do this’…
“But you have to expel all those things from your mind.”
Bellew’s assessment was harsh, though. Having had a similar injury before, one which nearly left him blind, Brook was well aware of the risk in continuing.
I got beat in the war I had with Canelo, Brook showed no respect! but I wish him and his family all best and hope he has no serious injury— Amir Khan (@amirkingkhan) May 27, 2017
Ultimately, health must always prevail and expecting anything different is borderline barbarous. There is bravery and then there is stupidity.
The consequences of the Golovkin fight may well be deeper than just aesthetic scars, but regardless of that loss, the result on Saturday may well have been the same.
The excellence of Spence, rather than Brook’s vulnerability, proved the difference and the former champ is already looking ahead to a ring return.
“I couldn’t leave the sport like that. I need to get back in and get back to winning ways and show I have plenty more to give,” Brook told SkySports the morning after the fight.
“I think the time is now maybe to move up. I’ve been making welterweight since I was a teenager. My first fight I was about nine or 10.
“I went up to middleweight in my last fight, I put a lot of muscle on and it was so hard to get to welterweight.”
Terence Crawford dismantled the respected Felix Diaz with a display of such quality that it left you wondering why he isn’t already a household name.
The 29-year-old American toyed with Diaz – an Olympic gold medallist with a 19-1 professional record – like a child pulling the wings off of a fly, eventually forcing his corner to pull him out after 10 painfully one-sided rounds at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
Crawford, as is his way, effortlessly switched stances, glided in and out of range and punished Diaz from distance and especially on the inside. The rugged Dominican’s durability and determination kept him upright but the compassion of his trainer Joel Diaz was timely and judicious.
“I stopped the fight because I didn’t want him to take any more punishment,” the trainer said. “Enough was enough.”
It showed once again that Crawford, now 31-0 with 22 knockouts, badly needs a step up in class. Diaz is a sturdy, skilful fighter but Crawford is truly elite and you feel that only the very best could potentially trouble him.
One such opponent would be Manny Pacquiao, and ‘Bud’ admitted afterwards that it’s the fight he craves most. “I’ve been saying for years now. It’s the only fight we are really looking for,” he said. “But that’s not up to me. I’m a fighter. That’s up to my promoter, Bob Arum.”
Indeed, if Arum had his way then it would have been Pacquiao in the ring last night, not Diaz. The veteran Top Rank supremo promotes both men, and what better way to cash out your faded star attraction than to anoint his successor by having the younger man clobber him into retirement?
A victory over the 38-year-old Filipino would provide a big pay day from a highly-marketable payper-view event, legitimise Crawford’s stellar credentials and give his profile the mainstream boost it so sorely needs.
“Would Pacquiao and Crawford be a good fight, a big attraction? You bet your a** it will,” said Arum this week, before adding that he “felt an obligation” to make the deal.
It’s the perfect scenario for everybody – except Pacquiao – who at this stage of his career doesn’t need problems like that, and is far happier topping up his pension with soft touches like Jeff Horn, who he faces in Brisbane on July 2.
You get the feeling if it does happen then it will be on Pacquaio’s terms, in his very last fight, and at the earliest that might be next year. However, Crawford for once has an extremely creditable ‘Plan B’ in the shape of the awkward and heavy-handed Namibian, Julius Indongo, who sat ringside in New York.
With ‘Bud’ holding the WBO and WBC light-welterweight titles and Indongo the other two major straps – the IBF and WBA – the winner of their bout would emerge as the first unified and undisputed 140-pound champion since Kostya Tszyu in 2003.
“Indongo’s here, he came to my fight,” said Crawford in his post-fight interview. “Let’s get it on Indongo, wherever you are, let’s do this.”
Capturing all four belts in one division is such a rarity in modern boxing – it hasn’t happened since Jermain Taylor relieved Bernard Hopkins of his four middleweight straps in 2005 – that in itself it would be a significant accomplishment.
That could be the perfect way for Crawford to sign off from the division before entering the fray at welterweight, where he’d cause major problems for any of the top contenders. Competing at 147 lbs would then give him the chance to win a world title in a third weight class and enhance his legacy.
“That’s what we do it for and it’s why we bleed, sweat and put our lives on the line – to be remembered in the sport of boxing,” said Crawford, who is surely only an elusive marquee victory away from fulfilling that aim.
Oscar De La Hoya’s reverential status with Mexican fight fans might have been tarnished for good had it not been for the ultimate ace he had safely tucked up his sleeve.
His Cinco De Mayo fiasco between Saul Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr had just concluded to a chorus of derision when he made his big play, beckoning Gennady Golovkin to the ring for the announcement of a September 16 super fight against his man Canelo.
The mood changed instantaneously as attention switched from the fight nobody had wanted to see, to the fight everybody wants to see.
De La Hoya and all those involved in Saturday night’s promotion had been talking up this Mexican feud for weeks, using a tangible animosity between Alvarez and Chavez to give it the big sell.
But the powerful narrative couldn’t mask the harsh reality of this mismatch once the first bell had sounded and Canelo tore into his opponent like a spiteful child setting about a bargain basement piñata.
The gulf in class was reflected by the 120-108 whitewash on the cards, and Michael Buffer’s postfight proclamations were accompanied by audible venting from a crowd of almost 20,000 who had shelled out big bucks to watch a show which had peaked two hours earlier with Lucas Matthysse’s knockout of Emmanuel Taylor.
But then came the drama, a stirring video teaser on the big screens and Triple G’s entrance to the strains of ‘Seven Nation Army’. It was pure theatre and jeers turned into cheers as those in attendance quickly forgot about the epic swindle they had just witnessed.
Indeed, what did it say about how De Le Hoya viewed the Chavez fight that the Golovkin deal was signed in advance, and the Kazakh was positioned yards away ready for the WWE-style ring rush?
In fact, Saturday night’s event boiled down to little more than a lavish commercial for September’s middleweight showdown, with the humiliated Chavez ushered out of view to leave the tantalising sight of Canelo and Golovkin standing nose to nose for the first time.
“GGG, you are next my friend. The fight is done,” said Alvarez, playing to the crowd. “I’ve never feared anyone, since I was 16 fighting as a professional. I’m happy to give the fans another great fight.” Golovkin, 35, the unified WBA, WBC and IBF 160lb champion, replied: “In September, it will be a different style. A big drama show. I’m ready. Canelo looked very good tonight, and 100 per cent is the biggest challenge of my career.”
A venue is yet to be confirmed with De La Hoya touting all sorts of exotic possibilities. The likelihood, however, is that the lure of Las Vegas will bring the action back to the T-Mobile Arena, or the potential of a monster gate will see it land at the 80,000-seater AT&T Stadium in Texas.
De La Hoya said: “I’ve already had several calls from people interested in staging this fight. I have a missed called from Dubai. I have a missed call from the UK where Anthony Joshua and Klitschko just sold out 90,000 people. There’s interest from all over the world.”
First of all, Canelo had a score to settle. Class is often rooted at the heart of Mexican rivalries and this was no different.
Erik Morales relished using Marco Antonio Barrera’s privileged upbringing as an extra reason to froth at the mouth heading into battle and, likewise, Canelo made no secret that his dislike of Chavez was amplified by the nepotism his rival was afforded by his celebrated bloodline.
Chavez’s career has unravelled in the past five years but this seemed like his chance to right the wrongs, a 36-minute shortcut to respectability. A night when one authentic ‘Mexican’ performance could permanently alter perceptions.
As it transpired, he delivered the absolute antithesis. Canelo immediately seized the centre of the ring and punished Chavez with his jab. Soon came the right hands, the uppercuts, the nasty left hooks to the body.
Canelo could not miss and the combinations got flashier and more hurtful. As early as the third round it was evident Chavez wanted none of it.
Canelo looked magnificent, but in contrast to the pre-fight hyperbole, this wasn’t a defining night for his career. That comes in September.