Ever since Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao ventured into the welterweight division in the mid-to-late 2000s, the 147-pound division has been the center of the boxing universe. One could argue that the welterweights have ruled the roost since the 1999 “Fight of the Millennium” between Oscar De La Hoya and Felix “Tito” Trinidad. However, star heavyweights like Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield were still active at the time.
Regardless, it is impossible to deny that welterweights have carried the sport for well over a decade. Today, the division is as strong as it has ever been with four proven champions. Pacquiao (WBA), Terence Crawford (WBO), Errol Spence Jr. (IBF) and Shawn Porter (WBC) have each defeated talented fighters on their way to claim and defend their titles. Each fighter knows that becoming a unified, or undisputed, champ at welterweight could give them a legitimate claim as the best pound for pound fighter in the world.
Therefore it’s a big deal that two of those champions will meet in the ring Saturday night. The process of unifying the welterweight division has begun as Spence and Porter will square off in a battle of skill versus will at the Staples Center in Los Angeles (televised by FOX PPV).
Porter (30-2-1, 17 KO) enters the fight as a pretty heavy underdog. Some betting sites have Spence (25-0-0, 21 KO) as high as a -1000 favorite.
Being an underdog is nothing new for Porter. He was an underdog versus STL’s Devon Alexander in 2013 and again versus Danny Garcia in last September. Porter emerged victorious in both bouts.
Porter’s biggest strength is his unrelenting pressure. It is not uncommon for the stocky Porter to throw his fists, head, shoulders, knees and toes at his opponents for an entire fight. He has made more technically skilled fighters wilt by out-muscling and out-hustling them over 12 rounds.
The 31 year-old “Showtime” also boasts an edge in experience. Saturday night’s contest will be Porter’s seventh major world title fight. His 29 year-old opponent will be participating in his fifth world title fight.
“I think experience is going to play a major role in this fight,” Porter told Spence in a face-to-face promo for PBC on FOX.
“I don’t think you’ve been in the ring with anyone who has made you adapt, has made you make adjustments, has made you get out of your comfort zone,” Porter continued.
Porter has arguably made his entire career by dragging opponents outside of their comfort zone. He has a solid chin and often controls the ring by backing up his opponents using his broad shoulders, looping punches and a constant body attack.
Nobody will ever confuse Porter with Mayweather or Sugar Ray Leonard. However, we’ve all heard the saying “pressure breaks pipes” and Shawn Porter is a human vice. If there is any weakness or bend in an opponent’s will, he will find it.
Spence is more of the classic boxer-puncher. Like Porter, Spence often uses constant pressure to pummel his opponents. However, unlike Porter, the southpaw Spence is technically sound. He often works behind a stiff jab and a bazooka straight left hand. His punches and combinations are tight, compact, crisp and accurate.
Rather than relying on a stiff chin for his defense, Spence keeps his hands high and possesses solid head movement. He also appears to be equally competent fighting while moving forward or backwards.
In his most recent fight against former multi-division champion Mikey Garcia, Spence showed his incredible boxing acumen by dominating his smaller opponent. Going into the bout, many expected Spence’s path to victory would be to bully Garcia. However, Spence decided to prove his technical superiority and out-boxed the previously undefeated Garcia from the outside – and he made it look easy.
While Garcia managed to stay upright until the final bell, Spence has stated several times that he plans to knock Porter out.
“I’m going to punish you, watch,” Spence told Porter.
“I’m better than you talent-wise, skill-wise and I know I got more dog than you,” he added.
Who has the most “dog” is really going to be the key in this fight. In a technical battle, Spence should box circles around Porter. However, the same can be said for many of the opponents that Porter has run through.
No one can rightfully question Porter’s grit and grind. Up to this point, Spence has not shown anything that would suggest he will wilt under the pressure. However, he hasn’t been tested at the same level. At some point in the fight, Porter will make him prove he has the will resolve to fight through adversity.
In that regard, Porter may have unsuspectingly predicted how the fight will go in one of his pre-fight quotes.
“You can still have your legacy and everything, I’m just going to slow you down a little bit,” Porter told Spence.
Porter meant that Spence can still go on and have a successful career and become a legend in the sport after he takes an “L” Saturday night. My prediction for the fight though, mimics that sentiment.
Spence should cruise in the beginning, utilizing distance well to keep the lunging Porter at bay. Sometime around the middle rounds, Porter will connect with something that will make Spence dig deep. It could be a body shot. It might be an inadvertent head butt that opens a cut. It might just be a clean, powerful, looping punch.
I do believe Spence will weather the storm. He will use his boxing skills to regain his advantage before dominating the second half of the fight. All the talk about knockouts is great to sell fights, but I just don’t see him ending Porter’s night early. I’m taking Errol Spence Jr. by unanimous decision.
Who do you think will win? Let me know by dropping me a line on Twitter @ishcreates or commenting at stlamerican.com.