In the preview for Saturday night’s fight, welterweight titlist Errol Spence was acknowledged for the talent he’s displayed to date while still lacking a depth to his ring record, leaving questions only answered one fight at a time. Shawn Porter asked some big questions. (photo by Ryan Hafey)
Spence provided enough answers to win and picked up the sort of twelve rounds of action that will only serve him well from here. Because Spence wasn’t in the ring with Terence Crawford, and because of the struggles Porter had in his last fight against Yordenis Ugas, there was a contingent of fans approaching Spence-Porter with unfair cynicism.
Unification fights are rarely something to scoff at. Yes, the volume of titles can make for mismatches on occasion. Porter had seen enough top welterweights to merit better than the assumption he would be no contest.
ON one of the best nights of his career, Porter stayed in the fight from bell to bell and could well have been dead even as late as the last third of the fight. Both men landed big stuff, took the measure of each other, and may have finished in the clubhouse as the Fight of the Year leader for 2019. Altogether, it was a damn good night for the sport.
The pay-per-view offered a bit of everything: a clash between veterans near the end, a pair of undefeated young tigers, and a crossroads match between a young talent and tested veteran. It was one of the most anticipated cards of the year and each of the four fights delivered in its own way. That the main event blew them all away meant a card some decried as unworthy of top dollar ended up being worth every cent.
Now we arrive at the only question that ever matters when a fight is over: what’s next?
Let’s get into it.
The Future for Spence: Punctuated by a knockdown in the eleventh round, Spence added Porter’s WBC belt to the IBF strap he’s held since besting Kell Brook. Apparently, Spence’s immediate future will be in the form of former Jr. welterweight champion and WBC welterweight beltholder Danny Garcia. Reporting Sunday put that fight on the calendar for January. It opens the possibility of a three or four fight schedule for Spence. Hope for at least the former. Spence is still in his prime and lacking in rounds as he heads towards thirty. It would be a shame not to see him maximize his talents. Garcia is 2-2 in his last four fights but both losses were competitive with some of the best welterweights out there (Porter, Keith Thurman). Spence-Garcia might not be the most desirable fight in the class but it’s a fresh match and a new riddle for Spence to solve. After Saturday, it’s not hard to imagine the Manny Pacquiao who bested Thurman also being a handful for Spence but one wonders how many nights like that Pacquiao really has left.
At the post-fight press conference, Spence also mentioned unified Jr. middleweight titlist Julian Williams. If Spence elects to move up in weight, that could be a fantastic battle. Then, of course, there is Crawford. Keep an eye on Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder II as it could be the gateway the fight needs. If the combined might of Fox and ESPN can pay off in a serious revenue multiplier for the heavyweight rematch, there will be a blueprint for future business. Top Rank and PBC may not do a ton of big fights together but Fox and ESPN is a different dynamic than HBO and Showtime. The volume of available homes and cross promotion opportunities is something boxing hasn’t had in the US in a long time.
It could lay a groundwork where making fights across the aisles is more valuable than not but might take a little more patience before we get there.
The Future for Porter: Porter is the sort of fighter every era benefits from. He works hard, leaves it all in the ring, and overachieves in a way that makes the sum greater than the parts. He gained in defeat Saturday and would be an exciting opponent for anyone else in the welterweight class. If Spence is facing Garcia next, Porter could challenge Pacquiao. Crawford’s team would be wise to see what they can do to offer him a crack at their WBO belt, even if the PBC is mostly ignoring the WBO right now. Comparison-shopping works in boxing and Porter would be a great way to further interest in a Crawford-Spence fight or upset the apple cart and create the chance for his own rematch with Spence. Porter could also face Keith Thurman again in a rematch of their excellent first battle.
Porter gave fans everything he had on Saturday and has done so more than once in the past. He’ll likely do it again a time or two before he’s done.
Rold Picks 2019: 60-14 (Including Picks for Benavidez-Dirrell, Barrios-Akhmedov, Lopez-Molina)
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]