LOS ANGELES — It was a welterweight unification clash that won’t soon be forgotten. Errol Spence Jr. added the WBC belt to go along with his IBF title with his victory over Shawn Porter at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The scores read 116-111 twice for Spence, and 115-112 for Porter.
The fight was as close and competitive as the split decision indicated. It wasn’t until Spence scored a knockdown of Porter in the 11th round that many felt as though Spence had any breathing room on the scorecards.
While many expected Spence to have an easier time in defeating Porter, he was pressed both physically and psychologically like never before. There was a hard price paid for this victory. At the end of the day, it was his superior skills and power that proved to be the difference at the end.
For Porter, while he took another defeat, he earns a measure of respect that had been absent in all his previous victories. He lost his belt, but he walks away with a heightened stature with the boxing public.
So what have we learned tonight?
Was the way the fight played out surprising?
I have to be honest, my belief was that while Porter is the consummate ‘try hard’ guy, I didn’t think he had the overall skill set and talent to really press Spence to the brink the way he did. Sure, many believed that the former high school running back from Akron, Ohio, would make it difficult and uncomfortable for Spence early on, but the expectation was that the southpaw from Texas would pull away in the second half.
Well, that clearly wasn’t the case.
Porter was more than just hanging in the fight by being awkward and difficult. He was landing clean right hands and left hooks to the body that were visibly impacting Spence. There had never been a fight prior where you saw Spence’s head jerk back from getting struck so clean.
Spence had been able to dismantle foes late with his two-fisted attack in past fights, but outside the knockdown in the 11th, you never got the sense that Porter was ever on his way out. Even after his short trip to the canvas, he fought back valiantly to finish the round on his feet.
Many will remember this as a Spence victory, but what will truly define this night was the heart and determination of Porter.
Danny Garcia vs. Errol Spence? Discuss.
While Danny Garcia was brought into the ring and talked about as the next dance partner for Spence, that fight is underwhelming on several fronts.
Garcia hasn’t been very active in recent years, and last September he lost to Porter in a rather forgettable affair. There are a lot of deserving welterweights on the scene, why should Garcia jump the line?
This matchup is a letdown and there are better fights to be made for Spence at 147, who will move up in weight sooner rather than later.
The bottom line is that Spence wants in on the Manny Pacquiao sweepstakes, but that interest doesn’t seem mutual. With the dramatic nature of the bout on Saturday night, who would complain about Spence-Porter II?
If Pacquiao wasn’t going to fight Spence under any circumstance — even if Spence has two welterweight straps — why not run this fight back? It was not only unexpectedly competitive, but it was extremely entertaining. There would certainly be public interest in the rematch and it’s an easy bout to make.
That said, while there’s also still plenty of interest in Spence facing WBO welterweight champion, Terence Crawford, but that fight will now probably be even further on the back burner.
So whats next for Porter?
While no longer a world champion, his stock has never been higher and he absolutely stays in the mix at 147 for the time being. There are several compelling possibilities that exist for him. A rematch against Keith Thurman, who beat him in a razor thin decision in 2016, stands out, or as noted before, a return bout with Spence.
But you wonder, given the physical nature of what took place on Saturday, does Spence really want to go through that again? There’s a reason why those who have faced Porter in the past do not want to give him rematches. Fighting Porter is something you do once when you absolutely have to. It’s not something you do again because you choose to.
Is Spence the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world?
No, but he added another solid resume’-building victory to his ledger. As of now, he is the only unified welterweight champion in the division (with Pacquiao and Crawford as the other belt holders at 147). Spence is clearly among the best fighters in the world, but for the time being based on his overall accomplishments it’s hard to put him above the likes of Naoyo Inoue, Canelo Alvarez and Crawford, who have all won titles in multiple divisions.
Again, beating Porter is a good win, but you could argue that Porter didn’t shine in his last bout to Yordenis Ugas back in March, and before this weekend, Spence fought an outmatched Mikey Garcia, who was stepping up two weight classes. Spence is certainly an elite boxer, but you get the sense that where he makes his run to atop the pound-for-pound rankings will come when he’s fighting at 154 and eventually 160.
Is David Benavidez back on the right track? Can he put his past troubles behind him?
David Benavidez wins by technical knockout in the ninth round vs. Anthony Dirrell to regain the WBC super-middleweight title belt.
Benavidez (22-0, 19 KOs) captured the WBC super middleweight title by wearing down the game Anthony Dirrell over nine rounds. Benavidez has never lost and he certainly is one of the elite 168 pounders in the world. He is like a snowball — once he gets started rolling downhill and gathering momentum, he is very tough to hold off as the fight continues.
However, he’s also a bit flat footed and methodical in his approach, and takes a while to get started at times. How would he would deal with the deft movement of IBF champion, Caleb Plant, or the offensive tools of WBA belt-holder, Callum Smith?
But keep this in mind, Benavidez, at age 22, he still is developing in many ways.
In Dirrell, he was facing a veteran who had a lot of mileage and on the back end of his career. You hated to see that shellacking he took in the ninth round and it seemed unnecessary for him to come out after the eighth where it was clear that everything was one way traffic by that point. He’s 34 and it’s about time to wonder if this was the last time we’ve seen him at the world-class level.
Who impressed you most tonight?
Despite not getting the nod versus Mario Barrios, it was clearly Batyr Akhmedov.
Akhmedov came into the night with just seven bouts to his credit and, in the eyes of most observers, did more than enough to defeat Barrios for a version of the WBA 140 pound belt. While he suffered two knockdowns, the southpaw from Uzbekistan pressured Barrios throughout and laid a two-fisted beating on him.
As the cards were read and Barrios was name the winner, a loud chorus boos reverberated at the Staples Center. It was clear who won in the court of public opinion. It’s just too bad there will be a blemish on Akhmedov’s record and a belt that should be around his waist, on Barrios.
Akhemdov showed a pressure, swarming style that is fan-friendly and will certainly make for many good fights in the future. He is a fighter that isn’t afraid to stick his nose into the pile and get to work, and he showed against Barrios that he can consistently work his way inside and chip away at a bigger foe. Despite the unfortunate results of the fight, Akhmedov showed that he will be a player on the 140 scene for the foreseeable future.
It’s time for John Molina to call it quits
After losing in eight rounds to Josesito Lopez, it’s time for Molina (30-9, 24 KOs) to walk away from boxing.
From the very beginning of this bout, where he was floored in the first, then again in the seventh, he looked like a old, faded fighter, one that simply doesn’t have his legs underneath him anymore. His punch resistance, one of his calling cards, has seemingly left him. He’s not just 36, but with his hell-bent-for-leather style, its an old 36.
Molina never really fundamentally sound as a fighter, but relied on his natural raw boned power to carry him through tough moments. So with that, it was never going to be an easy ascent for him as a fighter as every bout for him was a grueling test of wills and toughness.
Molina was never a great fighter, but someone who provided some memorable moments. Who can forget his late round comebacks against the likes of Hank Lundy and certainly his 10th round miracle versus Mickey Bey, where he was able to hit the proverbial 10-run home run to make improbable comebacks? There was his 2014 fight of the year against Lucas Matthysse, where he floored ‘the Machine’ twice before succumbing to the overall arsenal of the hard-punching Argentine.
But since his big upset victory over Ruslan Provodnikov in 2016, he has lost three of his last four and looked more and more diminished each time. Back in February he lost to Omar Figueroa, where he lacked his usual pop. On Saturday night, he looked like a fighter who simply had nothing left in the tank.
He’s had a colorful career, but it should now come to a close.