Dream night turns into a nightmare for Brook
Andrew Harrison reports from ringside in Sheffield as Kell Brook's dream night turns into a nightmare at the end of Errol Spence Jr's accomplished fists...
As Kell Brook lit up the night sky above Sheffield's Bramall Lane on his way into the ring, he traversed his childhood dreams.
Unfortunately for the IBF welterweight title-holder, his American opponent, Errol 'The Truth' Spence Jr, produced a brand of awkward power punching that flipped Dominic Ingle's pre-fight cautionary tale about dreams and nightmares, to leave Brook vanquished amid both.
"[Kell] has always talked about this fight being his dream, you know, to fight here at Bramall Lane," Ingle, Brook's trainer, had forewarned mid-week. "But one man's dream is another man's nightmare and on Saturday night, it's going to be Errol Spence's nightmare."
Unfortunately for the Wincobank contingent, the 27-year-old Spence is a nightmare. The highly-acclaimed southpaw was a menace throughout the fight. Hard to read, he blasted away at Brook's body whenever he was able to set his feet before taking over the contest after round seven.
Inexorably, his unrelenting, hammer-fisted attacks and sheer brute strength forced Brook to the canvas twice before referee Howard Foster called time, one minute and 47 seconds into the penultimate round, after Brook – complaining about an injury to his left eye that was later confirmed to be his second orbital fracture in as many fights – took a knee and was effectively counted out.
Wearing the red and white stripes of his beloved Blades, Sheffield United, Brook had started well and arguably took the first two rounds as he jabbed incisively over the top of Spence's lead right, while largely smothering and parrying the visitor's own eager attacks inside. Spence, though, powered by his own dream not yet realised, would not be denied.
As early as round three, Brook was struggling to contain the younger man. Upping his work rate and forcing his way on to the front foot (where he is far more comfortable), Spence began rattling off clubbing right hooks and his deadly left hook to the body. But it was Spence's steadfast commitment to body punching that impressed most of all. The rest of the welterweight division will struggle to contend with it.
Brook, 36-2, 25 KOs, steadied the ship in the fifth and shaded rounds six and seven (Spence, 22-0, 19 KOs, took the latter of those off completely). Any notion that Spence's best spells were behind him, though, was quashed in the eighth, when Spence put his foot to the floor and never looked back.
The New York-born Texan tightened the vice with a sweeping right hook amid a barrage of blows that had Brook, once again, dabbing at a wounded eye in the midst of battle. The hell of his sole defeat to middleweight dreadnaught Gennady Golovkin last year, when the Kazakh smashed his right eye socket en route to a fifth round TKO, was upon him again.
As Brook conjured with fatigue, pain, survival and the memory of how close he'd come to irreparable sight damage against the dreaded 'GGG', Spence continued to dominate: working the older man over with wave after wave of pitiless assaults. The abuse continued into the tenth, where an accumulation of spiteful shots forced Brook to take a knee momentarily in order to find respite.
As Spence surged, seemingly as strong as when he'd first started, Brook made his last stand, battling back with arm weary hooks and uppercuts to claw himself back from the brink and survive the round. Spence, though, just kept on coming, and when Brook, in obvious distress, took a knee without being hit to inform his corner he could no longer see, he was led back to them a beaten man.
Whether he'll return to the ring remains to be seen. For while Brook, in tackling two of world boxing's danger men in back-to-back fights, could never be accused of a narrowness of outlook, the ring is no place for a one-eyed fighter.
In the night's other world-title bout, George Groves finally achieved his own ambition of winning a super middleweight world title belt at the fourth time of asking, with a heroic sixth-round stoppage win over the implacable Russian Fedor Chudinov for the vacant WBA version of the crown.
For three rounds, fought under sullen grey skies, it appeared as though Groves, 26-3, 19 KOs, who has looked fragile since being KO'd by Carl Froch three years ago, was on the verge of unravelling beneath the gloom. Though he managed to edge rounds four and five - gritting them out with bursts of heavy counter punching off the ropes - he was cut, bleeding and still being walked down.
Groves, though, had already set up the finish. After succeeding with some crunching, two-fisted raids to the body that hurt the stoic Chudinov more than he was letting on, Groves caught his man guessing and went for broke: tearing into Chudinov, 14-2, 10 KOs, with an electrifying, sustained barrage that forced referee Steve Gray to call time at the 1:14 mark.
An hour before the 27,000 attendant fans' hopes had been tossed to the wind with the plastic pint glasses that swirled around ringside, it was a moment to savour.