By Jake Donovan
It’s Showtime for Shawn Porter this weekend, but his headlining bout versus England’s Kell Brook is hardly a challenge for which he’s not prepared. In fact, his entire career to date has allowed him to prepare for this moment and treat it as if it’s just another fight.
“I've pretty much fought the who's who of young fighters out there,” insists Porter, who makes the second defense of his version of the welterweight title when he faces Brook at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. “With that being said, it's just another step up. He's the guy that is mandatory for the IBF title, and the guy that we were told we had to fight. We go in there with a great game plan and we'll execute it and fight him and move on from there.”
A brilliant amateur while growing up in Akron, Ohio, the foundation for Porter’s rise to prominence came early in his pro career. The journey officially began in Oct. ’08, but experienced in front of a nationwide audience for the first time when he pitched a four-round shutout over Cory Jones on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights series.
Saturday night marks the 16th time that Porter (24-0-1, 15KOs) plies his trade in front of a TV camera, including his third straight appearance on Showtime Championship Boxing. The 26-year old has looked brilliant in each of his past two bouts on the network, beginning with a convincing points win over Devon Alexander to claim a welterweight belt last December, and then going on to tear through former two-time champ Paul Malignaggi this past April.
It wasn’t always that simple for Porter, whose lone blemish came in a 10-round draw versus faded former lightweight titlist Julio Diaz in Dec. ’12. The fight marked the first time Porter was in with a former champion, and his inexperience at that level showed in barely escaping with his unbeaten record still intact, in a fight many felt he was fortunate to have not suffered his first loss.
The performance was hardly indicative of the future star many claimed was upon, a fighter who first gained fame in his role in helping Manny Pacquiao prepare for his historic title win over Miguel Cotto in Nov. ’09. A significant growth period was expected between that point and what was supposed to be a Showtime showcase for the welterweight known as ‘Showtime.’
Instead, the night served as a wakeup call.
“I think after the draw, obviously, I didn't perform the way I liked to, the way I wanted to and that just motivated me to work even harder, and right all my wrongs that I did in that fight,” Porter admits. “Not that I put that fight behind me, but it's not something that I look at all day every day or anything like that. Yes, I understood that I didn't perform the way I should have, and I didn't make the fight the Shawn Porter fight that it should've been.
“Since then I've focused on working harder in the gym, and just coming out being exciting.”
Four straight impressive showings have followed, including a clear-cut points win over Diaz in their rematch last September. Saturday will mark Porter’s fifth fight in the past 15 months, and his first headliner on Showtime’s flagship series. The fight with Brook (33-0, 22KOs) comes becomes it was mandated by the sanctioning body who claims Porter as its champion.
The reality of the situation is that a win adds to his growing popularity, as every little bit helps considering his division boasts boxing’s two biggest stars in the world today in Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. With that, a win won’t merely be enough on Saturday, but one generating further demand for a star on the rise.
Porter gets that, and is fully prepared to rise to the occasion.
“No, there's no added pressure at all,” Porter claims. “This is what I love to do, and I'm having fun with it right now. We work extremely hard, and you know my dad, you know my trainer, my manager, Kenny Porter; nobody sets the bar higher than him. I'm working extremely hard every day, and the pressure is put on me all in the gym and on the track and in the swimming pool and in camp. Once I get to the fight all the pressures, I've already felt them all. There's no pressure to deal with in the fight, just going out there and doing everything the Porter way and getting the job done, as we have.”
There has been growing talk of a win possibly leading to a showdown with another unbeaten red-hot welterweight, all-action slugger Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman. It’s a challenge Porter openly embraces (“I’d fight ‘One Time’ two times!”), though like every other welterweight in the world, his sights are set on the division’s highest prize – Mayweather, the division’s lineal champ and by far the biggest draw in the sport today.
Even with the thought of big game waiting in the wings, Porter doesn’t feel like he needs to prove his worth in order to land such fights. Instead, he treats each fight as a reminder of why his name comes up first these days in the list of young fighters to challenge the division’s absolute best.
“I don't consider my fights as auditions, I consider them performances. I go out there and I give it my all, I don't go out there and give it my all with expectations of getting something bigger and better, but with the expectations of making that fight the biggest and best fight that I've had, and then going from there.
“Again, you know this is boxing, we don't look ahead of ourselves, but at the same time, yes, Mayweather, we all know he's on the clock and we're all right there standing there hoping that we're next in line.”
With another impressive performance on Saturday, Porter can only hope to move that much closer to the top of the queue.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox