For the better part of boxing history, British fighters have needed to come to America to prove themselves.
Things are a bit different now that 10 British boxers can currently claim at least one world title. Throw in the unrivaled support British fighters receive on home soil—such as when 90,000 fans witnessed Anthony Joshua’s recent heavyweight title defense over Wladimir Klitschko at London’s Wembley Stadium—and suddenly it’s America’s top-rising talent that needs to cross the Atlantic.
That’s not a problem for Errol Spence Jr. (21-0, 18 KOs). The top-ranked contender will fight for his first world title against 147-pound champ Kell Brook (36-1, 25 KOs) on May 27—and he’ll do so at Bramall Lane, an outdoor soccer stadium in Brook’s native Sheffield, England (Showtime, 5:15 p.m. ET/2:15 p.m. PT).
“It’s gonna be fun for me,” Spence said. “I’m very enthused about going there and upsetting him in front of his crowd, have everyone suddenly screaming and crying. I’m gonna upset his fans, I’m gonna upset him.
“It’s a lot of pressure on him to perform well in front of his family and his hometown crowd. As much as the pressure is on me, there’s a lot of pressure on him, too.”
Spence, 27, has good reason to be confident.
While some contenders have inflated their records against marginal competition, Spence has challenged himself on the way up. Not only has the powerful southpaw scored knockout wins over skilled fighters such as Phil Lo Greco, Chris van Heerden and Leonard Bundu, Spence is the only boxer to ever get a stoppage against Chris Algieri. Not even future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao could knock out Algieri, who was stopped in five rounds by Spence last year.
“He’s a hungry, young lion,” Algieri said after Spence knocked him out.
“He certainly lives up to the hype,” Bundu said after losing to Spence, who turned pro after representing the United States at the 2012 Olympics.
Given his recent success, Spence has every reason to be confident.
The problem is, he will be fighting on enemy territory on May 27, and that means a convincing win is likely the only thing that gets him out of Sheffield as an undefeated world champion.
“ It’s a lot of pressure on him to perform well in front of his family and his hometown crowd. As much as the pressure is on me, there’s a lot of pressure on him, too. ” Errol Spence Jr., on fighting Kell Brook for his 147-pound world title in England
“Going overseas, you're going to have to make a statement,” said Florida native and unified 147-pound world champion Keith Thurman. “He's definitely going to have to win the fight hands down, probably with a knockdown if not a stoppage. But I don't know if it's going to be as easy to break down Kell Brook as it was to break down Chris Algieri and Bundu.”
The 5-foot-9 Brook won’t have a size edge against Spence, who is a half-inch taller and has a three-inch (72-to-69) reach advantage over his British counterpart.
However, Brook is an undeniable bruiser, and even though he suffered a broken eye socket in his September loss to Gennady Golovkin, the fact that he was willing to go up two weight classes to challenge a unified 160-pound world champion is impressive in itself. Golovkin earned a fifth-round TKO, but Brook was in the fight early on.
“Kell Brook jumped up two weight divisions to fight the most feared fighter on the planet and gave him a hell of a five rounds,” said Brook’s promoter, Eddie Hearn. “What it’s done for his career is that he’ll go on to sell [32,000 tickets] for the Errol Spence fight.”
The bad news for Brook is that he won’t get any relief by returning to 147 pounds. Spence is generally credited with prodigious power for the division, and the talented Texan even sparred with Jermell Charlo before the 154-pound champion defended his world title against Charles Hatley last month.
But despite his length and punching power, Spence has no immediate interests beyond the 147-pound division. Brook could soon fight at 154 pounds, but win or lose, Spence is staying put to face the likes of former champion Shawn Porter, former two-division champion Danny Garcia and, of course, Thurman.
“Right now, this is the only division I want to be in,” Spence said. “This is the deepest weight class. I feel like the best talent is at 147. Floyd [Mayweather] retired, so there’s no No. 1 right now. I feel like I can fill that spot. Then, after I fill that spot, then I’ll move up.”
For a complete look at Brook vs Spence, visit our fight page.