By Michael Rosenthal
Shawn Porter is already perceived as an accomplished fighter.
The one-time amateur standout has been among the best welterweights in the world for six-plus years, he has won two major titles and he has victories over Devon Alexander, Paulie Malignaggi, Adrien Broner, Andre Berto and Danny Garcia. And his two losses, to Kell Brook and Keith Thurman, were close, competitive battles.
Most boxers would be thrilled to have such a resume. Porter? He’s not content. He has a plan in place to radically change the way he’s seen by pundits and fans. And it seems feasible, assuming he beats Yordenis Ugas on Saturday in Carson, California.
Porter, the WBC titleholder, wants to fight – and plans to beat – fellow elite 147-pounders Manny Pacquiao, Keith Thurman and Errol Spence in the near future.
That’s a big wish list, particularly the “beat” part, but it could happen. One, all four principals fight under the Premier Boxing Champions banner, meaning negotiations shouldn’t be difficult. And, two, Porter is an attractive opponent for any of his rivals.
Pacquiao needs a fighter who will come to him at this stage of his career. That’s Porter, a high-energy opponent who stays in your face from beginning to end. If I were advising Pacquiao, I would strongly recommend that he choose Porter over the quicker, more-careful Thurman and Spence.
Thurman narrowly outpointed Porter (115-113 on all cards) in an essentially even fight in June 2016. Thus, their rematch already has a back story. Fans would embrace that matchup. Plus, Thurman, the WBA champ, would be motivated to unify two titles.
The same goes for Spence, the IBF titleholder. Porter and Thurman are equally attractive to Spence because they both hold major belts.
Of course, I have no idea whether Porter can get any of these potential opponents into the ring. Everyone and their mothers want Pacquiao because of the money the popular Filipino generates. And money supersedes anything, including titles.
Porter could win the Pacquiao sweepstakes but there is a lot of competition. Maybe it’s him, maybe it’s Thurman, maybe it’s the winner of the Spence-Mikey Garcia fight on March 16. Garcia, if he upsets Spence, would be an ideal opponent for Pacquiao because of his smaller stature.
And if Porter doesn’t fight Pacquiao, again, he would be attractive to whichever titleholder doesn’t face Pacman.
(Terence Crawford, who defends his WBO welterweight title against Amir Khan on April 20, seems to be out of the Pacquiao-Porter-Thurman-Spence mix because he fights for competing Top Rank.)
All that said, let’s assume for a moment that Porter gets all three of his targeted opponents. How does he do against them?
I think he beats the 40-year-old version of Pacquiao, who will have trouble keeping up with Porter’s work rate. I don’t think Porter would win without resistance – Pacquiao can still fight, as he demonstrated by outpointing Broner in January – but I would be surprised if the younger man didn’t win a clear, unanimous decision.
Then, with a big payday and victory in his pocket, let’s say he moves on to the Thurman rematch. I think it would be a 50-50 fight, much like the first one, but I might give Porter a slight edge because of Thurman’s injury-related hiatus from boxing and so-so performance in a majority-decision victory over Josesito Lopez in his comeback fight in January.
So, to recap, victories in the first two fights of his three-fight plan are realistic.
Spence? That’s more unpredictable. Porter has called Spence the “Bogeyman” for a reason – he’s scary. He seems to have a combination of tools that are superior to his rivals. He’s skillful, unusually quick and a particularly strong welterweight, which could be too much for anyone in the division.
One can ask a legitimate question about Spence, though: Who has he fought?
The biggest names on Spence’s resume are probably Kell Brook and Lamont Peterson, who Spence stopped in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Neither was at his best. Brook was coming off his disastrous move to middleweight to face Gennady Golovkin, which ended with Brook’s face broken. Peterson hasn’t won a big fight in many years. And while the gifted Garcia has pound-for-pound status, consensus says that his diminutive size makes him a minimal threat to Spence.
Beyond Brook, Peterson and Garcia? Spence’s resume is relatively thin. Porter arguably would be the stiffest challenge of Spence’s career if they were to meet after Garcia. I would pick Spence to win the fight for the reasons stated above but it wouldn’t be easy, as Porter’s swarming, relentless style can be difficult for anyone to solve.
Remember the problems Jose Luis Castillo and Marcos Maidana gave Floyd Mayweather? That keeps coming to mind when I think of a Porter-Spence matchup.
The bottom line is this: Porter could conceivably land and defeat all three of the opponents he wants. Is it probable? No. Perfects plans often die because of the variables in boxing. Is it possible? Yes.
Porter could retire now and be remembered as one of the better welterweights of the past decade. If he can somehow pull off his trifecta, he would climb onto pound-for-pound lists and be remembered as one of very best of his era.
Michael Rosenthal is the 2018 winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism. He has covered boxing in Los Angeles and beyond for almost three decades.