IBF Welterweight World Champion Kell Brook and undefeated rising star Errol Spence face off this Saturday live on SHOWTIME (5:15 p.m. ET/2:15 p.m. PT) in the latest in a series of significant welterweight matchups between the best fighters in one of boxing’s deepest divisions.
Six of the top eight welterweights in the world will have fought in the first five months of 2017 – all on SHOWTIME or CBS – as a de facto tournament continues in the 147-pound class to determine the No. 1 fighter in a division long controlled by the retired Floyd Mayweather.
WBA and WBC Welterweight World Champion Keith Thurman unified the titles on March 4 with a split-decision victory over Danny Garcia in a rare matchup of undefeated champions. Lamont Peterson picked up the secondary WBA Regular title on Feb. 18, and on April 22 Shawn Porter knocked out Andre Berto to become the mandatory challenger to Thurman’s WBC belt. The remaining welterweight champion, Manny Pacquiao, is set to defend his WBO title against Jeff Horn on July 2.
Now it’s Brook and Spence’s turn to take center stage in boxing’s glamour division.
This Saturday in Sheffield, England, Brook (36-1, 25 KOs) will make the fourth defense of the IBF belt he won via majority decision over Porter in 2014. The 31-year-old, who has never been knocked down, will be the decided hometown favorite in front of what is expected to be 25,000-plus fans in the first world title fight in the 162-year history of Bramall Lane.
The 27-year-old Spence (21-0, 18 KOs) has long been considered one of boxing’s most prized prospects. The IBF’s No. 1 contender has knocked out eight straight opponents and has improved as his level of opposition has risen – his last six opponents held an impressive combined record of 151 wins against just eight losses. The Dallas resident travels abroad for this long-awaited title opportunity as he attempts to become the first American to dethrone an Englishman on British soil in nearly a decade.**
With both Spence and Brook affirming their intention to unify the division after May 27, see below for what legendary Hall of Famer Sugar Ray Leonard and current top welterweights have to say about Saturday’s IBF title matchup.
SUGAR RAY LEONARD – Former Undisputed Welterweight World Champion
“I’m really excited about this fight in particular, mainly because both fighters have to be on their A-game. I know there is talk about Kell’s eye surgery being a psychological problem, but from personal experience, I don’t see that being the case. I never thought about my eye once the doctor gave me the green light.
“To ask me who is going to win this fight, I have my favorite in Errol Spence. But, based on the each fighter’s physical artillery, one punch can turn the tables around. That being said, I am going to sit back and watch a great night of boxing.”
KEITH THURMAN – Unified WBA & WBC Welterweight World Champion
“This is an interesting fight. I have not followed Kell too much, but I have obviously seen Errol fight in the U.S. Errol is a tough, young fighter who is just getting into the public’s eye, and Kell obviously has the strength of the British crowd on his side.
“It should be a tough fight that really speaks to the strength of the welterweight division. Both fighters are men that I would be open to fighting as I continue to unify the division in 2018. As a fight fan, let’s see what’s ‘Special’ about Kell Brook, and we’ll see if Errol Spence can show us he’s ‘The Truth.’ It should be a great fight and I’ll be watching.”
DANNY GARCIA – Former Welterweight World Champion
“I think this is a 50/50 fight. I think the person with the better game plan is going to win. There is a lot of pressure to go into someone’s backyard like Spence is doing, and he’s never faced a fighter in his prime before like Brook. It is definitely a test for him and a big step up in competition. If he is ready, he can do it. He just has to go in there and stay focused.
“The welterweight division is the best division in boxing. I still feel like I am one of the best welterweights in the world even though I came up short. I never thought I would say a loss would make me stronger because I didn’t see myself losing. I want my titles back and to be seen as the best in the best division.”
SHAWN PORTER – Former Welterweight Champion & Current WBC No. 1 Contender
“I’m glad Errol is getting his title shot, and I’m happy he’s going to England for it. I’m obviously pulling for the American. Errol is a phenomenal athlete and a great boxer. I think he’s ready to show the world something, but Kell is right up there in that top tier of welterweights. People who tune in should be thrilled. I know I’m looking forward to it.
“The welterweight division is awesome, top to bottom. We’re right where we need to be and should be. Boxing returning back to the masses with PBC came at the perfect time for me and the rest of the top welterweights. There are so many of us capable of winning a title right now.”
LAMONT PETERSON – WBA (Regular) Welterweight World Champion
“This is going to be a tough fight, but I think Errol should win. At least I’m pulling for Errol to win. He’s got to overcome the idea that there will probably be 30,000 people cheering against him, so he has to show the judges that he deserves to win.
“Brook is a good fighter and is going to bring his best, but I think Errol, in the end, is the better fighter. But he will have to prove it.
“The welterweight division is one of the best in boxing right now. We’ve got a lot of good fighters in their prime making the division strong. And guys are willing to fight each other. We are seeing the kind of fights the fans want to see. If this keeps up it could bring boxing back to where it was in the days when Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler all fought each other. So it’s really good for boxing right now.”
ANDRE BERTO – Former Welterweight World Champion
“I’m going with Errol Spence. He is young, strong, hungry and full of fire and a great technical fighter as well. Brook will be his biggest test to date. Being in front of his hometown crowd, Brook he has a lot to fight for but I’m giving Spence the edge.”