Being an obsessed follower of the sweet science since 1964, when I was five years old, there have been a plethora of fighters that I’ve rooted for and some I’ve rooted against. I don’t mind guys who are cocky and braggadocio, as long as they always show up in top condition and mostly back up their words.
I never lose sight of the fact nobody backs it up every time. The greatest trash talker in sports history, Muhammad Ali, talked more trash than any fighter I can recall before his first fight with “Smokin” Joe Frazier, saying he’d leave the United States for 30 days if he lost the “Fight of The Century” which he did. No, he didn’t leave the country, instead the loss to Frazier was the beginning of the Ali legend and he came back and exceeded the hype.
The fighters I have the biggest problem with are the ones who squander their ability, especially if they’re extremely gifted. Fighters like Riddick Bowe who had all the ability in the world but couldn’t control his weight. Adrien Broner is another example. Broner has world class talent but never attempted to get better, nor did he maintain staying in condition. Add to that his personal life was/is a disaster, which undoubtedly stunted his progression as a fighter at the elite level. Ironically it’s one of Broner’s opponents who defeated him, Shawn Porter, who is perhaps the easiest active fighter in boxing to root for and hope to see have success at the highest level.
Porter turned pro in 2009 and has compiled a career record of 28-2-1 (17)…a record that indicates who he is more so than any other fighter in the sport. In nine years fighting pro he has fought 31 times, which just about averages three or four times a year. A majority of his fights were bunched together like most other pros early in his career, then averaging roughly two a year after winning a world title when facing title holders and top contenders.
A closer look at Porter’s record reveals some telling facts about him. Shawn has defeated five fighters who held a world title: Julio Diaz, Devon Alexander, Paulie Malignaggi, Adrian Broner and Andre Berto, winning by stoppage against Malignaggi and Berto. The telltale here is his two stoppages came against one fighter who was nearing the end of his career, Malignaggi, and the other against Berto whose will he broke before overwhelming him in the ninth round. Porter’s only losses occurred in title bouts against the two best fighters he’s been in the ring with, both of whom were undefeated when he fought them. Kell Brook was 32-0 (22). Keith Thurman was 26-0 (22).
The Brook-Porter fight was close for the first six or seven rounds, but during the last third of the bout Brook stymied Porter’s aggression and landed the cleaner shots resulting in a majority decision in his favor. The Thurman bout was also close, and it could be said the difference was again Thurman’s greater physical strength and him landing the cleaner punches as Porter was trying to impose himself. All three judges saw it 115-113 for Thurman in what was a fight of the year candidate. Evidenced by his record, unless he’s facing a gifted opponent, Porter doesn’t lose, and even then it’s very close.
Porter, who stands 5’7”, actually fought at middleweight as an amateur and had great success. As a pro he’s competed at welterweight and brings it every time. His Premier Boxing Champions bio describes him as follows: “Relentless in the ring, high-energy former 147-pound world champion Shawn Porter brings the heat with an intensely physical style.” And that couldn’t be more accurate. Shawn is an aggressive high volume puncher who prefers fighting on the inside. Once inside he’s great, changing his position and banging from the other side. He sometimes commits a foul, but that’s an accidental foul due to his ruggedness.
His spirit and conditioning are great; he trains his a** off and has the heart of a wounded lion defending food for her cubs. His problem is that he lacks fight altering pop, which was exhibited in his last bout with the always tough Adrian Granados. He won the fight by unanimous decision and at worst lost only four of the 12 rounds. Porter beat Granados at every turn, out boxing, out thinking and even out working him. He caught Granados with some massive right hands and left hooks, but never once made Adrian do anything he didn’t want to do other than break off the exchange and look to regroup. Porter does everything as a fighter better than Granados but was still forced to go 12 rounds.
Porter does everything the way a fighter should regarding his training and how he lives his life day to day. But at the upper echelon of the world class level, despite squeezing out every ounce of his ability, he’s limited. He does everything well but nothing great and there’s nothing that a different trainer or workout regimen can change about that. His workmanlike effort against Granados kept him as the mandatory challenger for unified WBA/WBC champ Keith Thurman. He could have run out the clock in 2017 waiting for the Thurman rematch, but risked his position by fighting Granados because he didn’t want to only fight once in 2017 as he did in 2016….which says something more about him and his mental constitution.
Porter hurt his hand during the sixth round versus Granados but he should be okay to fight Thurman — who is recuperating from surgery on his right elbow — next year. Both fighters say they want a rematch and that’s easy to see since their first fight was so close. However, Porter cannot change anything stylistically from the first time they met, other than trying to bring more of what didn’t quite get it done for him the first time. Thurman is the more versatile fighter and has the skill to offset Porter’s aggression by boxing and, if forced, has the punching power to stand his ground and trade with Porter and get the better of it.
Thurman is probably the most beatable big name opponent at 147 for Porter, and yet Porter will still be the underdog. Since he last fought Thurman, Errol Spence 22-0 (19) has won the IBF title that Porter lost to Kell Brook and former undisputed junior welterweight champ Terence Crawford 32-0 (23) will be fighting for the WBO welterweight title, most likely in March of 2018. In the eyes of this observer, Porter, regardless of how hard he trains or tries to alter or add to his style, doesn’t match up favorably with either Spence or Crawford.
Shawn Porter is the easiest fighter to root for in boxing and for all the right reasons. His only chance to regain the title at age 30 would be against Thurman, and that’s a long shot. And if he did, he’d be a monumental underdog defending the title against Spence or Crawford in a unification bout. This is just another layer of proof that hard work and toughness are great, but can only take you to a certain point in boxing. Porter has already been a world champ and in that may have exceeded his own limitations.
And lastly, there’s always room in boxing for a guy like Porter. You don’t have to be undefeated, you don’t have to be a world champion, but if you give a great effort, make every fight an exciting one, and have the kind of upbeat attitude that Shawn has, the fans will always show up for your fights.
I hope he gets a chance to become a two-time champ and gets a second shot at Thurman, because he is a delight to root for. I wish him the utmost success.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel