By Thomas Gerbasi
There is no turning back for Shawn Porter now. As the main event of Saturday’s Showtime event at Barclays Center, the former IBF welterweight champion is at the point in his career that a return to undercards and off-TV bouts just isn’t a reality anymore.
He’s made his bones, earned his stripes, and that’s an enviable spot to be in as he prepares to face another former champ in Andre Berto.
“I’m blessed,” Porter said. “People love my personality, they love my work ethic and what I can do in the ring. I’m exciting, and I think that’s why people have accepted me and what I’m able to do. I’m over here smiling because it lets me know how blessed I am and what a privileged position I’m in.”
Confident but not cocky, enthusiastic but not obnoxious, the 29-year-old Porter is one of the most likable fighters in the sport outside the ropes, and when the bell sounds, nothing happens to dull that appeal. So even though he’s coming off a loss to Keith Thurman last June, his performance in that Fight of the Year candidate made him a no brainer for another headline gig in Brooklyn.
“You never know what’s gonna happen, especially after a loss, but just to still be in demand for big fights and being put right back into a title eliminator, it says a lot about me, my abilities and my team,” he said. “And even though I am very humbled by it, I’m gracious as well, and I love it.”
So can he put a finger on what is it that makes him stand out in a sport where there are a lot of good fighters who are good guys outside the ring as well?
“I don’t know, man,” he laughs. “There’s a lot of fighters out there, and for some reason I’m one of the ones right now.”
Now all that’s left is to take that appeal and parlay it into another world championship and more big fights. He’s won major bouts over the likes of Adrien Broner, Paulie Malignaggi and Devon Alexander, with his only losses being decisions to Kell Brook and Thurman. And in the Thurman bout, there were more than a few people who thought he had done enough to win, including the man with the gloves on that night.
“We definitely looked at the fight and we saw a few small mental mistakes, but at the same time, we felt like we won the fight by two, three rounds,” Porter said. “It’s definitely bittersweet, but I’m definitely looking forward to moving on past that and getting into the ring with Andre in Brooklyn.”
It’s a fight Porter wasn’t thinking about in the aftermath of his last bout, but as someone who has been fighting the best of the best at 147 pounds for years, he wasn’t about to turn it down either.
“I didn’t really see him as a fighter I would fight,” he said of Berto. “After the fight with Keith Thurman, we were trying to get back in the ring in August / September. That didn’t happen and then slowly, but surely, his name came up and I was like, ‘All right, let’s go after him.’ He’s a two-time world champion, a very likable guy, a very good athlete and boxer, and he’s got a lot of experience. People know his name and everybody’s looking forward to his fight. So I think we’re both in a blessed position to fight each other.”
The blessing is clear. Neither fighter will have to look for the other on Saturday night, setting the stage for a memorable showdown.
“That’s exactly it,” Porter said. “Andre is not much of a mover. He’s fast, but he’s gonna be there. He’s gonna be there to fight. I don’t get that too often. Most guys are retreating, defending, holding, clinching, trying to get away. So I think everybody is looking at this fight understanding that him and I both like to fight, we like to engage, and we like to win.”
But the way “Showtime” sees it, no one likes winning more than he does.
“That’s something I was one hundred percent born with,” he said. “I don’t know how or why I’m this competitive, but I am. (Laughs) And I love it, and I think that’s why when I get in the ring on fight night, you don’t see me do anything different but be me. My understanding is, if this is what I want, I’m going for it. Why would I allow anything to get in the way of me capturing a dream and something that I want?”