News May 2017

Spence, Brook and Groves. Perseverance is the secret of all triumphs


By @John_Evans79

Perseverance is defined as ‘the steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.’

Errol Spence is from broiling Dallas, home of the space age Cowboy Stadium but fighting thousands of miles away from home in a nippy, traditional Yorkshire football ground held no fears for the unbeaten 27 year old.

Kell Brook wasn’t anywhere near his best on Saturday night but he remains a world class fighter and for the first time in his professional career, there were brief moments when things weren’t going exactly as Spence had planned. But in the face of his toughest challenge, ‘The Truth’ persevered with the tactics and mindset which have been instrumental in his rise towards the top of the welterweight division. Jeff Lacey he wasn’t.

His fast accurate jab and left hand helped him when the pair fought at range. Renowned as a hurtful body puncher, he attacked Brook’s body at every opportunity and when he got inside, he trusted in his belief that he was also the bigger, stronger man as he outworked Brook at close quarters.

Spence may not have the same special effects as his compatriot Gervonta Davis who glittered last week at The Copperbox, but he may be even more difficult to unseat.

After being outboxed and out thought for the best part of eleven rounds, Kell Brook could persevere no longer. Spence’s educated fists may have damaged his left eye but they had also beaten the resistance and ambition out of him. Had the 31 year old been able to see any possible way forward [no pun intended], he would surely have found some way to continue. He couldn’t and he decided to take matters out of Spence’s hands and bring the fight to an end himself

‘Quit’ is the ugliest word in the sport. Accusing a fighter of quitting is the dirtiest piece of mud you can throw. That one word casts a boxer into the darkest of places but most observers sling it around from the greyest of areas.

Professional boxers - Tony Bellew, Terence Crawford and Gervonta Davis to name just three - are ideally placed to voice their disappointment at Brook’s surrender but most fans and observers have no idea of the pain and discomfort involved and so have to base their opinions of such matters on history and there is an endless list of fighters who have battled on through similar - and worse - injuries. Anything can happen in a fight but the willingness and determination to battle on through suffering and misfortune is seen not only as a prerequisite for success, it is taken for granted. It happens so rarely that when a fighter fails to live up to the ridiculous standards set by his contemporaries, the flaw is magnified.

It seems especially difficult to level the accusation at Brook after he picked himself up off the floor and took the fight to Spence during a brutal tenth round. Nicholas Walters quit against Vasyl Lomachenko. Roberto Duran quit against Sugar Ray Leonard. Strictly speaking, Brook did quit on Saturday night but it seemed to me that, at that moment, he had simply had enough of fighting, full stop.

Brook’s decision to leap up to middleweight and face Gennady Golovkin last October secured his future but may have hastened the end of his career. The broken bones he suffered against the Khazahk were repaired but although he looked as good as new physically, the biggest changes may have happened mentally.

The decision to once again grind himself down to the welterweight division was a financial one. If there had been a light middleweight capable of generating Brook the type of money he had grown accustomed to after the Golovkin fight, there can be little doubt that he would have had 7lbs less to worry about stripping off. The 154lb division lacks any real box office stars and bigger purses are only generated by big challenges.

Brook entered his training camp for Spence happy with the magnitude of the fight and his financial recompense but filled with dread about melting himself down to 147lbs. After being able to eat and drink relatively normally for the fight with Golovkin, he once again found himself surviving on meagre rations.

Should he decide to persevere, there are plenty of potential avenues for Brook to go down but all involve sacrifice.

Staying at welterweight means bigger purses but more deprivation and risk. Going to light middleweight would provide hard, lower profile fights and smaller paydays [unless the elusive Miguel Cotto can be tempted into the ring]. There is money to be made at 160lbs but after sustaining severe facial injuries in successive fights, the physical risks of competing at middleweight will probably consign that idea to the scrap pile.

Unless common sense breaks out and Brook and Amir Khan put talk of stadiums and purse splits to one side and agree to a fight later this year, the thought of retiring and being able to enjoy a few of his favourite things without the grind of training and pain of broken bones may seem like the most attractive option to the financially secure Brook.

If Brook does fight again, he would be fighting for his legacy as well as money. He is a very talented fighter but he hasn’t been able to prove it. A poor run of world title defences - helped/hindered in no small part by the IBF’s ridiculous run of mandatory challengers - leaves Brook’s resume looking surprisingly thin. He has faced three ‘elite’ operators. He eked past Shawn Porter to claim the title and has surrendered to Golovkin and Spence.

A fighter with Brook’s physical gifts should be remembered for much more than he currently is.

George Groves’ sixth round stoppage of Fedor Chudinov was a microcosm of his entire career. There were ups and downs, moments where he looked to be veering off track and difficulties to overcome - some of his own making. Eventually, Groves got the ending he desperately wanted and needed.

Right back to the earliest days of his professional career, Groves’ belief that he would become a world champion has never wavered. He has maintained that perspective despite two defeats to Carl Froch, one to Badou Jack and upheavals in training and promotional teams.

Groves shot to prominence by employing a thudding jab and laser guided right hands. On Saturday night, his jab was rendered useless as Chudinov bulled forward and those fast, straight right hands became arcing thuds. It was as if his high tech sniper rifle had been replaced by a medieval catapult.

‘The Saint’ always has a look of loose kneed vulnerability as fights wear on but Chudinov’s aggressive start got Groves to than point quicker than ever before. Nonetheless, he continued, attempting to catch the Russian on the way in and waiting for the opportunity to push him on to the back foot. Eventually, he managed to keep an arms length between himself and the Russian and muscle memory took over. Groves suddenly became fast, accurate and vicious. The minute long barrage that bought the fight to a conclusion saw Groves pour years worth of frustration out of Chudinov.

As Groves stood posing for photos with his new WBA title belt, it struck me that I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen him with a relaxed, happy look on his face. His journey from precocious talent to world champion and from figure of scorn to fan favourite is complete.

Why? Perseverance.

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