Boxing guru Al Haymon has taken more than a little heat for the lack of compelling match-ups on his Premiere Boxing Champions series. Indeed, many of the fight cards Haymon has been presenting on “free” broadcast television have been far from must-see affairs. But this Saturday night is different because every self-respecting fight fan will be tuned in when top welterweights Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter face off at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for Thurman’s WBA world title.
The bout was originally supposed to happen in March in Connecticut, but was postponed when Thurman got into an automobile accident. Now the two are ready to go, with a new date and new venue. There’s a lot to be excited about here, for the welterweight division is nothing if not in flux right now, and Thurman and Porter are without question two of the very best at 147.
Indeed, since Floyd and Manny threw down over a year ago, there not only hasn’t been an heir apparent to the welterweight throne, there haven’t been many fights to be excited about, either. Sorry, but Mayweather-Berto and Pacquiao-Bradley III just didn’t cut it. But with this match between two young, hungry champions, there’s finally something for fans to sink their mouthpieces into at 147.
Thurman, at 26-0, could be a rising star in boxing. With the vast majority of his bouts ending in knockouts, the man has been pegged for a while now as likely the future of the welterweight division if not one of the biggest names in the entire sport. Porter, on the other hand, boasts a record of 26-1-1, and arguably has faced better competition than Thurman.
Porter, after all, is the former IBF champion, having scored convincing wins over the likes of Devon Alexander, Paulie Malignaggi and Adrien Broner. Further, in his lone defeat he came very close to also besting the now highly regarded Kell Brook. No one can deny that Porter has been at or near the very top of the division for going on three years.
That said, there may have been a time not so long ago when Thurman would have entered the ring as the prohibitive favorite. For “One Time” is considered far more skilled than the ultra-aggressive Porter by many observers. On top of that, Thurman’s confidence and lights-out punching power appeared to give him a clear advantage. However, many now feel that Thurman’s self-assurance may be faltering.
Whether this is true or not of course remains to be seen, but Thurman’s public persona has gone through a strange trajectory in the past several months. As recently as a year ago, the Florida native was known as a brash, talkative, “take on all comers” type. But once serious talk arose of a Thurman vs Porter showdown, the man seemed to quiet down in a hurry. Needless to say, the bout took forever to be set.
Then, of course, came the automobile accident which forced the lengthy postponement. It appears, to this author at least, to have been a pretty reasonable excuse to postpone a fight, but there are those who took to the internet claiming it was Thurman’s way of putting off the inevitable, that he really didn’t want to face Porter in the ring. While absolutely zero evidence has been presented with which to back up these speculations, that doesn’t mean they will simply fade away. Words, and perceptions, count, perhaps even more today than ever before.
Still, Thurman appears to be his usual quirky, attention-loving self in interviews leading up to this bout. He also appears sharp in training. For here is a man who not only can hit with power, but who also puts his punches together and possesses sound defensive skills. Should he pull out the win on Saturday, the welterweight division may finally have a new top dog, at least in the eyes of the public.
But don’t count out the man they call “Showtime Shawn.” Make no mistake about it, he is the real thing. Strong and aggressive, his style has proven difficult for opponents slicker and, arguably, more talented. Porter is also the very picture of fitness and athleticism, a fact evidenced earlier this year by the exhibition bout he held for the sole purpose of staying sharp.
Indeed, exhibitions aside, both men have been inactive for almost a full year and we can only hope this won’t translate into an awkward chess match where both men need several rounds to shake off the ring rust. If not, and we get the exciting and dramatic high-stakes battle we deserve, it will only bode well for a welterweight division which is really coming to life. Floyd is gone. Manny, too. And now Thurman, Porter, Brook, and Bradley all vying for dominance, with Garcia in the mix as well.
But all that aside, what Thurman vs Porter really comes down to is a truly intriguing match-up between two of boxing’s best. We haven’t had enough of those lately. Which means we’ll be watching on Saturday night. — Sean Crose
Thurman vs Porter: The Fight City Picks:
Manny Montreal: Thurman by TKO.
Lee Wylie: Ultimately, I suspect Porter’s aggression will work against him. Thurman will set traps and make a reckless Porter fall in with his punches, resulting in “One Time” scoring a knockout courtesy of a precise, well-timed counter.
Patrick Connor: Porter by close decision.
Matt O’Brien: Thurman by close decision.
Robert Portis: Thurman hasn’t faced this kind of pressure and aggression in a long time. Porter by late round TKO.
Daniel Attias: Porter by split decision.
Rafael Garcia: A pick’em fight in which either Porter’s impetus and work rate overwhelm Thurman, or “One Time” figures out and subdues the fiery “Showtime.” All other things equal, I usually give the edge to brain over brawn. Thurman by close decision.
Chris Connor: Love Porter’s demeanour and aggression, but Thurman has shown his power can carry and Broner was able to drop Porter. Thurman by close decision.
Alfonso Jasso: Porter comes on strong in the early rounds but once Thurman makes adjustments and finds a comfortable distance, it’s over. Thurman by TKO
Jamie Rebner: Porter by decision. He’s going to out-hustle the heavier puncher.
Eliott McCormick: Thurman by close decision.
Thad Moore: Thurman by decision. I expect him to be quicker to the punch and thus outbox Porter.
Rene Ricardo Bernal: Thurman by decision.
Ronnie McCluskey: Against “One Time,” I see Porter’s marauding style being his downfall. Thurman will pick him apart with counters, buzz him and win unanimously.
Michael Carbert: Thurman by decision.
Final tally: The Fight City contributors and staff pick Keith Thurman to defeat Shawn Porter by a margin of 10 to 4.