After whispers and speculation, one of the better match-ups that could be made in professional boxing's most competitive division was recently finalized. The bout will take place March 12th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. It will air on CBS at 8:30 p.m. ET, the first prime-time fight on the network in nearly 40 years. The last such boxing match on CBS was Muhammad Ali vs. Leon Spinks on Feb. 15, 1978.
The bout will be for Keith Thurman’s WBA 147-pound title and his opponent will be the ever willing and ready to go Shawn Porter who upset Adrien Broner in his last bout. The interest in the fight peaked after Porter 26-1-1 (16) impressively handled Broner in June and Thurman 26-0 (22) took apart Luis Collazo in July. The Thurman-Porter bout will go a long way toward clearing up the confusion regarding who reigns at the top of the food chain in the welterweight division.
“Thurman vs. Porter is a marquee matchup of two elite boxers in the prime of their careers, and the winner will establish himself as arguably the No. 1 fighter in boxing’s glamour division,” said Showtime Sports boss Stephen Espinoza.
Most of the time when network executives speak like that, it should be taken with a grain of salt. Less than a year ago, Espinoza tried to convince anyone who would listen that Mayweather-Pacquiao was this generation's version of Leonard-Duran. As it turned out, there was more action and world class fighting during the first round of the first Leonard- Duran fight than during the entire Mayweather-Pacquiao bout. However, with the exception of a handful of other fights that could be made in 2016, Espinoza is not overselling Thurman-Porter which should be a drama filled and action packed bout.
It's a rarity in boxing today when fans get to see two upper-tier contenders and title holders share a ring while both are in their physical prime and on the upswing. During the 1980s it was almost par for the course to see bouts like that. There were fights on CBS/ABC/NBC practically every weekend featuring such matches as Donald Curry vs. Marlon Starling and Frank Tate vs. Michael Olajide. And after those bouts everyone knew who those fighters were and shortly after that the winners fought for the title. Back then we saw the likes of Larry Holmes and Marvin Hagler while they were in their physical prime defend their titles on network television. Even a diva like Sugar Ray Leonard defended his WBC welterweight title against Dave "Boy" Green of the UK on prime time network TV in 1980.
That's why the Thurman-Porter match is so compelling. Both are entering their prime and are vying to be the face of the welterweight division andperhaps, in Thurman's case, the overall sport. Sadly for Porter, even if he beats Thurman he'll never have a chance to be considered one of the best of the best because he's not undefeated. One of the drawbacks of the Mayweather Phenom was that Floyd wrongly hypnotized boxing fans into thinking the only fighters that matter are the ones who are undefeated, which is a complete joke. Then again, if the top guys in this particular division fight each other, anyone who looks good--win or lose--benefits. For me, all Shawn Porter's loss to Kell Brook told me was that Kell Brook is a hell of a fighter. It didn't make me want to watch Porter any less, but it sure made me look forward to seeing Brook again.
Everyone looks back at the 1980s and relishes how almost every weekend there were competitive bouts on the three networks between up-and-coming fighters who fans watched as they evolved into contenders and, in some cases, world champions. Many of those fighters suffered close defeats in thrilling bouts with other young contenders without being written off as worthy of watching again.
Boxing is a sport that is only exciting and fun to watch when it features competitive and give-and-take match-ups. When those dynamics are in play, it's the greatest sport in the world. However, when there is an A side and a B side in every pairing it loses its luster, and that pertains to the big fights as well.
Whoever comes out on top between Thurman and Porter will have a plethora of young lions waiting in the wings to be next. In line behind the Pacquiao-Bradley winner are quality fighters in which hotly contested bouts can be made featuring the likes of Kell Brook, Amir Khan, Danny Garcia, Lamont Peterson, and Sammy Vasquez, along with Terence Crawford and Adrien Broner when they move up.
With Mayweather out of the picture and Pacquiao perhaps one or two fights away from leaving the scene, the welterweight division is stacked. Do I think there are any greats currently in that mix other than Pacquiao? Perhaps Crawford, but it's way too early to say. What I do know is that the welterweight division could turn out to be a launching pad for really good and highly contested fights. And if that happens, those fighters will become more well-known....and if that happens, the fighters in the other divisions will notice and just may begin to fight each other, which in turn will be a moderate resurgence in the sport of boxing.
Just in the welterweight division alone we could see a quality match like Thurman-Porter every other month for the rest of the year on network and cable TV. How great would that be?
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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