By Mark Staniforth
When Ohio welterweight Shawn Porter scored a unanimous decision victory over Devon Alexander to win the IBF welterweight title in Brooklyn in December it was widely considered a significant upset.
Notwithstanding a 2011 technical loss to Timothy Bradley, Alexander had done little wrong at the top level and was still considered a significant player.
In contrast, Porter appeared to be have been plucked out of the realm of also-rans to his title shot - unbeaten, but having hardly done anything to suggest his impending elevation to true world title recognition.
Porter's win was both good and bad news for Sheffield contender Kell Brook, who had seen a projected tilt at Alexander scrapped three times in 2013, and had been hoping an Alexander win would finally pave the way to their belated meeting.
Instead, his team had to look to do a deal with Porter, with the IBF mandating the pair must face off prior to July 19, and Brook forgiven if he thought his route to a title finally looked a lot easier.
However, things started to change when Porter made his first defence against Brooklyn veteran Paulie Malignaggi in Washington DC in April and enhanced his status no end with an emphatic fourth-round stoppage win.
Suddenly, the boxing world seemed to wake up to Porter - and the silence concerning the projected showdown between the champion and Brook became ever more worrying for the British fighter.
Veteran champion Bernard Hopkins, on whose undercard Porter claimed his breakthrough win, was effusive in his praise of the Ohio fighter.
"This guy is the real deal," Hopkins said on Showtime TV. "I must say he stole the show because of a fantastic knockout. He was a disciplined star."
Asked about the prospect of continuing to fight and beat younger fighters, Hopkins added: "If they were Porter, I'd be running the other way.
"That's the best answer and a great answer. They're not Porter, is all I can tell you. This guy is the truth."
While Porter faces the prospect of being stripped of his title if he fails to put his title on the line against Brook, it may no longer be quite so straight-forward.
There is probably more money to be made elsewhere - not least in a projected showdown with Amir Khan, who successfully moved up to welterweight with a win over Luis Collazo, and who believes for one that the Porter-Brook fight will not happen.
No doubt motivated by the opportunity to take a dig at his long-time domestic rival, Khan said: "I don't think Kell has got the bottle to take a big fight like that.
"He's always been all talk when it comes to the big fights. Some fighters are like that."
Time does appear to be running out when it comes to sorting the contest within the IBF-set deadline, and Porter's promoters Golden Boy hardly seemed enamoured with the prospect in the wake of the Malignaggi win.
"If he's next in line, then he's next in line," said Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer. "We're not really worried about anybody."
Mark Staniforth covers boxing for PA Sport.
Tags: Shawn Porter