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June 16, 2017

Errol Spence Jr. TKO11 Kell Brook & George Groves TKO6 Fedor Chudinov

by Matt O'Brien

The Brook-Spence fight report was published on on May 28th, 2017. Thanks to Michael Carbert for his help in editing and publishing the final version:

As they made their way to the ring, the American challenger looked confident and relaxed, as he has done for the duration of the buildup to his biggest ever fight; meanwhile the champion wore a tense but focused expression throughout the pre-fight introductions.

The opening round began with both fighters looking to establish their jabs, with Spence leading with a fast southpaw right and Brook attempting to counter immediately with his own left. The champion made a positive start and looked to mix in a few right hands, but there were also early warning signs as the challenger began to whip in fast left hooks to the body behind his own jab, which probably shaded a close first round in the visitor’s favour.

Both boxers jockeyed for position in the second, as each man sought to impose a dominant position with their outside foot. Spence moved forward on the front foot and displayed the faster jab once again, but Brook came back with some sharp right hand counters, digging in some effective shots to the body and even throwing out a few uppercuts and hooks in a decent second round for the champ.

The American came out more aggressively in the third and looked to assert himself, letting some snappy hooks and straight lefts flow behind his jab. As Brook backed up onto the ropes he was caught by a clean, eye-catching right hook – the best punch of the fight so far. The champion battled back at the end of the round but it was clear the challenger’s speed was causing him problems.

After a fairly tactical first three rounds, the action intensified in the fourth as neither man wanted to cede ground. Spence still pressured but the Englishman’s underrated boxing brain and physical strength began to tell as he landed some hard shots on the inside, with blood from the visitor’s mouth providing the first visible signs that he was in a real fight.

The fifth was another competitive round, though the champion was matching Spence’s greater speed with some sharp right hand counters and heavier looking single shots to the body. It seemed that the American’s demeanor shifted ever so slightly and the confident glow he had exuded all week subsided. Perhaps sensing the champion’s ascendancy he rallied with some fast combinations to end the round, but it wasn’t enough to swing it in his favour on my card.

Both men unloaded hard shots in the sixth; Brook having some success upstairs with his right hand and Spence persistently working hooks to the body with both hands and pecking away with his quick jab. A couple of eye-catching uppercuts landed for the home fighter as he put in a strong finish to the round, and on my card took a 4-2 lead in rounds going into the second half of the fight.

However, it would be the last round that did not clearly belong to the challenger. The American began to re-assert himself in the seventh, controlling the distance and boxing more effectively from range while landing accurate, spiteful hooks in close in probably his best round of the fight up to then.

In the eighth the champion began to noticeably tire and it appeared that Spence’s dogged and consistent work to the body was beginning to take its toll. Crisp left crosses and combinations from the challenger began to find their target with increasing regularity; Brook’s work became more ragged and as his left eye started to swell the first discernable signs of distress became evident.

“He’s had his best bursts, he’s had his best bursts” insisted a concerned Dominic Ingle in the Brook corner between rounds, imploring his man to take back control of the fight. The champion tried to do just that at the start of the ninth, but it soon became clear that the momentum had shifted decisively in the Texan’s favour. Looking more relaxed than he had since the start of the contest, the challenger’s class really began to shine as he unloaded with a variety of fast, accurate punches to head and body. Brook raised his hand in defiance at the end of the round but was shipping punishment and looking tired.

The beginning of the end came in an amazing tenth round, as Spence continued to fire away and the champion was forced to take a knee. The knockdown seemed more an attempt by Brook to escape the accumulation of hurtful shots that were raining down on him than as a result of a single, solid hit, but as he stood in the corner and received the mandatory eight count his left eye bulged from the swelling and it looked like he was nearly finished. Incredibly, the champion battled back from the verge of defeat, showing true grit and even pushing Spence onto the back foot towards the end of an electrifying round.

They traded hard shots again at the start of the eleventh, but Spence was beating the challenger to the punch with his faster and more accurate shots. A minute into the round Brook showed real signs of distress and began to noticeably blink his damaged left eye. Suddenly, with the referee separating the two boxers, the fight unraveled from the defending champ and he went down to one knee clutching the damaged eye. He stood at the count of nine but it was clear there was no more fight left in him, and referee Howard Foster waved the finish as Brook walked back to his corner.

Praising the awkwardness and strength of his defeated foe, the newly crowned champion awarded himself a “B minus” in the post-fight interview. “I proved it today that I have a chin and I have true grit”.

George Groves TKO6 Fedor Chudinov

At the fourth attempt, Britain’s George Groves finally fulfilled his dream of capturing a world title with an impressive stoppage victory over Russia’s Fedor Chudinov, to claim the WBA’s 168lb championship in the chief supporting bout at Sheffield’s Bramall Lane.

Chudinov was coming off a majority decision loss for the same belt against Germany’s Felix Sturm, all the way back in February 2016. However, in the months after that fight Sturm tested positive for a banned substance and was stripped of the title – meaning effectively Chudinov was undefeated against “clean” opposition in the ring.

Moving forward in the stiff and sturdy style that seems to be typical of so many Eastern Bloc fighters, the Russian boxed well for the first couple of rounds and used his high guard, solid jab and effective aggression to put Groves on the back foot. Meanwhile the Englishman used his long reach and sharp counters to keep the former champ at bay, as they appeared to split two fairly close opening rounds one a piece.

In the third, Groves’ tighter defence and educated jab that he switched from head to body was the difference between the fighters; Chudinov was still pressuring, but was far less effective. “St. George” was cut from an accidental clash of heads in the fourth, which appeared to spur the visitor further onto the attack. The fighters exchanged some big shots, but it was the Russian who was taking the worst of it and, for the first time in the fight, started to look like he was being affected by the sharp counters coming his way.

The fifth followed a similar pattern with Chudinov moving forward behind a stiff jab but Groves landing some hurtful counters towards the end of the round. Then, in the sixth, Groves smashed home some big right hands in the first minute and the visitor was visibly shaken. The Englishman proceeded to unload the proverbial kitchen sink and the referee was forced to call a halt to the action, with Chudinov’s feet seemingly planted in cement and Groves landing a barrage of unanswered blows to the head.

Afterwards, an emotional Groves dedicated his title win to former opponent Eduard Gutknecht, who suffered severe bleeding on his brain following their fight in November 2016 and who is still fighting to make a full recovery from his injuries.

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