Two of the four recognized welterweight titles will be at stake on Saturday when Errol Spence Jr. and Shawn Porter square off in a unification fight at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The unbeaten Spence enters as a massive betting favorite despite this arguably being the toughest challenge of his career on paper when he faces the aggressive and athletic Porter (Fox PPV, 9 p.m. ET) for control of the 147-pound division.
The biggest question coming in, from a tactical sense, centers around which version of the 31-year-old Porter we will see in this fight and whether he can vary his attack enough to keep the southpaw Spence from dictating the terms of the fight.
Porter, who captured the vacant WBC title in a 2018 decision win against Danny Garcia, has added new wrinkles of boxing from the outside and relied on his footwork in recent wins despite the fact that he’s most known for being a reckless attacker.
“The short answer is I plan to be it all,” Porter told CBS Sports’ “State of Combat” podcast. “The short answer is it takes me being everything that I have ever been to beat Errol Spence. It takes me being aggressive and not stopping. But it also will take me using my feet, hand speed, ring intelligence and my reflexes. Knowing when to push forward and when to be a counter puncher.”
Spence has been largely dismissive of Porter’s abilities throughout the promotion of the fight and went as far as calling him “an in-shape street fighter” who fights like “you’re’ drowning and you don’t know how to swim” during Wednesday’s final press conference. Spence has also referred to Porter’s aggressive style as nothing short of illegal at every turn.
“Is Shawn dirty? Definitely,” Spence told CBS Sports. “Much to the gentleman that he pretends to be outside the ring, inside he is dirty and rough. He’s a guy who will use head butts and elbows and basically use anything to pull out the victory. It has worked for him, and he’s a champion for a reason, but he showed it in the Andre Berto and Devon Alexander fight — cutting them with elbows and head butts. He’s a guy who can be dirty if you let him.”
The fight marks the second straight as a pay-per-view headliner for Spence, just six months after he dominated then-unbeaten Mikey Garcia over 12 rounds. Porter, meanwhile, enters his first fight at this level, although he did lose a competitive 2016 title bout to Keith Thurman on CBS that peaked at more than 5 million viewers.
The surprising war of words between the two boxers, who referred to each other as friends before the fight was announced, continued to escalate during fight week. There was even a near skirmish between Porter’s father and trainer Kenny and Spence trainer Derrick James over comments made to the media.
What’s at stake
The winner will be the new power broker in boxing’s most consistently glamorous division, holding two of the four recognized titles. Not only would an even bigger super fight against WBA champion Manny Pacquiao potentially be at stake in a de facto final to this unofficial PBC tournament, demand will only increase for fans to see the winner against unbeaten WBO champion Terence Crawford to crown the best 147-pound fighter in the world.
For Spence, this fight is also a test of his true brand power coming off a successful PPV debut against a Mexican-American fighter in Garcia and now being put in a position to carry a second PPV as the true A-side. From a pound-for-pound perspective, a win for Spence — particularly in dominant fashion — could give him acclaim to some as the best fighter in the world. For Porter, a win would elevate him from a very good fighter historically to a potentially great one.
Who has the edge?
1. Power: While the hard-charging Porter can certainly bang, it’s Spence who clearly enters this fight with the biggest weapons. Yes, Porter can often blur the lines of decency by leading with his head, forearms and elbows. But Spence is a born finisher with fight-changing power in both hands. If he can discipline Porter early with hard counter shots, he just might be able to convince him not to fight so recklessly. And should the fight reach the later rounds, Spence is so effective at breaking opponents down to the body that a stoppage is certainly in play. Edge: Spence
2. Speed: Whichever fighter can use this aspect most to their advantage could end up deciding the fight. While Spence is faster from a more traditional sense in terms of hand speed and setting up his jab, Porter is much more explosive and relies on foot speed to vary his attack and keep opponents guessing. Edge: Even
3. Technique: For as varied and evolved a fighter as Porter has matured into in recent years, he’s still a bit of a tweener against elite foes. He’s not powerful enough to be a full-time bulldozer and not technical enough to purely outbox the very best unless he holds a big advantage in terms of speed. Spence, on the other hand, is as pure a boxer as the sport has seen in recent memory. He’s nearly flawless in his attack and has yet to show any form of a weakness as a professional. That’s scary. Edge: Spence
4. Defense: Porter’s best defense is very often his mauling style. He hopes to get you before you do the same to him and has effectively used his barbaric ways to unhinge opponents who aren’t wired to deal with it. For Porter to be most effective, he needs to open himself up to be hit by taking risks. That’s simply not the case for Spence, who is as responsible as they come for a fighter so effective at walking down and finishing his opponents. Edge: Spence
5. Intangibles: Although Porter is equipped with the kind of dangerous style to keep him competitive against any fighter in the world, it’s difficult not to overlook how outgunned he is in specific categories against such a special fighter in Spence. Porter has talked often of how he plans to frustrate Spence and expose his lack of experience. The problem with that is Spence might be even better than he has had to be up to this point. The guy not only has no flaws, his mental intangibles in terms of toughness and focus are off the charts. Spence has claimed he’s not only faster and stronger than Porter, “I know I’ve got more dog than you.” It’s that nasty streak of unyielding confidence, the kind that doesn’t need to be screamed from rooftops, that lets you know Spence is the real deal.
Source: Brian Campbell