Shawn Porter’s boxing style isn’t elegant, but it is oh-so effective. He races out of his corner at the bell like a sprinter in the 100 meters, and he’s rarely more than six or nine inches from his opponent’s chest.
It leads to some wild exchanges and more than a few headbutts, but it also leads to plenty of victories.
The muscular 29-year-old simply overwhelmed Andre Berto by sheer force of will, dropping the two-time former champion three times and stopping him at 1:31 of the ninth in their WBC welterweight title eliminator Saturday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The fight was action-packed throughout, and though most of the contact came from punches, there were a few headbutts. Porter put on a devastating body attack, and Berto deserves an exceptional amount of credit for standing up to them and fighting back the way he did.
The headbutts, though, did take a toll.
“Listening to him [Berto] talk, I’m shaking my head for only one reason, the headbutts,” Porter said to Showtime’s Jim Gray in the ring after the fight. “We come in and we try to fight flawlessly. Outside of the headbutts, our game plan worked out very well. I can only shake my head about the headbutts. It’s very unfortunate and yes, I am very sorry.”
But he put on an excellent performance, raking Berto with punches that literally came from all angles and directions. Other than in the first minute or so, Porter rarely stayed back and got right in Berto’s face. He dropped Berto in the second and then twice more in the ninth before referee Mark Nelson stopped it.
The victory makes Porter the mandatory for Keith Thurman’s WBC welterweight belt. Thurman and Porter engaged in one of the best fights of 2016, with Thurman emerging victorious in a thrilling affair.
Thurman, who also holds the WBA belt, entered the ring after the match and seemed to indicate he’d give Porter a rematch later this year.
“He’s my mandatory and they were adamant about getting the rematch,” Thurman said. “Now, they fought themselves into position for the rematch. He does deserve it. Now, there’s nothing to do but sitting down and talking to Al Haymon and making the fight happen.”
Porter’s victory over Berto wasn’t without a bit of controversy because of the headbutts. Both men were cut, with Berto cut by the right eye and Porter over both eyes from the butts.
In the final sequence, the fighters clashed heads as Porter moved in aggressively, and the impact sent Berto staggering into the ropes. Nelson didn’t give Berto an opportunity to recover and seconds later, Porter blasted him with back-to-back left hooks and again sent Berto into the ropes. Nelson ruled that the ropes held Berto up, so he scored it a knockdown.
Berto, who fought hard and competed well, took the mandatory eight count, but he had little left. Another flurry from Porter dropped Berto and Nelson stopped it.
He said the headbutts bothered him but didn’t make a huge issue of them.
“Shawn, I got to give him credit, of course,” Berto said. “He’s a real fighter. That’s him. He has great skills, but there are times he’s going to be rough and try to handle you and he can’t control himself. There were a lot of headbutts.”
Kevin Iole, Combat columnist