After welterweight contender Errol Spence Jr. became a mandatory challenger for a world title by virtue of his sixth-round annihilation of Leonard Bundu in their August title eliminator, he strutted around the ring making the motion of putting a belt around his waist.
He said he was coming for titleholder Kell Brook next, or whomever else he might be mandated to fight should Brook vacate the belt, as many suspected he might.
While Brook thought about other potential fights, in the end he could not bring himself to vacate or allow himself to be stripped. He said he worked too hard to get the strap and wasn’t about to give it up without a fight, so on Monday their camps made a deal -- this avoiding a Tuesday purse bid -- for one of the most intriguing bouts that can be made in boxing.
It matches the established British star Brook against Spence, the 2012 U.S. Olympian, 2015 ESPN.com prospect of the year and a fighter many believe will someday rise near the top of the pound-for-pound rankings.
Their camps struck a deal that calls for Spence, who is from Dallas suburb of DeSoto, Texas, to fight in Brook’s hometown of Sheffield, England, probably on May 27.
“I’m excited. This is something I’ve been working for my whole life for, through the amateurs, training 24/7 just for this opportunity,” Spence told ESPN in a telephone interview shortly after the deal was made. “It’s a dream come true and I will not let this opportunity pass me by.”
As for going to England to fight Brook in his hometown, the laid back Spence sounded as though he did not have a care in the world about such a daunting mission.
“My manager [Al Haymon] asked me if I would go over there to fight him. I said, ‘Yeah, that’s what true fighters do.’ I’m a challenger, he’s the champion,” Spence said. “That’s what he did when he [traveled to California] and fought Shawn Porter. He took the title and brought it to the U.K. and now I’m going to the U.K. to bring it back to the United States.
“(Haymon) left it up to me. He said, ‘You feel comfortable going to fight him in the U.K.?’ No problem. I got family in the U.K. on my dad’s side of the family. My grandfather’s brother moved to the U.K. from Jamaica. It’s a pretty big family. I’ll have there.”
Spence said the idea of bringing the fight to the United States was never brought up to him, which he said he did not care about.
“I was only asked if I minded fighting in the U.K.,” Spence said. “I didn’t care where the fight was at. I’m going to put my head down and get ready. I’m not worried about the judges or the referee. It’s not up to his camp to pick who they are. All I can do is get ready and go in there and do what I’ve been doing, which is win.”
Besides being a boxer, Spence is also a fan of the sport. He watches it regularly and attends fights. He said he is quite familiar with Brook.
“I’m a boxing fan. I’ve seen Kell Brook fight. I’m not one of those boxers who says he doesn’t watch other guys fight or follow the sport. I do,” he said.
Spence said he watched as Brook pulled a mild upset to take the belt from Porter by majority decision in August 2014 and that he has also seen his three defenses against Frankie Gavin, Jo Jo Dan and Kevin Bizier.
“I watched all those fights,” said Spence, adding that he also saw Brook’s audacious move up to middleweight in September for an ill-fated challenge of unified titleholder Gennady Golovkin, which ended with Brook being stopped in the fifth round.
“Kell Brook is a strong fighter. He likes to dictate the pace, which most boxers like to do,” Spence said. “He likes to use his jab to set up other punches like the left hook. He likes to bait you in, sort of like he did with Golovkin, and hit you with an uppercut.”
Spence (21-0, 18 KOs) is pleased that Brook (36-1, 25 KOs) elected to remain at welterweight and defend against him.
“There were no big names for him to fight at 154, Canelo (Alvarez) already had another fight and he couldn’t make a deal with Amir Khan,” Spence said. “There really wasn’t anyone else for him to fight but me. But I give him credit for fighting me even though he didn’t have a lot of choices. Kell Brook has a lot of heart. He showed it against Golovkin and when he came over here to the States and fought Shawn Porter. He’s a real warrior in the ring. Come May, I’m going over there to take the title away from him.
“Trust me, this will be a better fight than Danny Garcia and Keith Thurman [who meet in a March 4 welterweight unification bout]. I know I’m definitely coming back with the belt. It might be a knockout, it might be a win by decision but the end result is I’m coming home with the belt.”