Shawn Porter – What A Career. – A Retrospective.
Shawn Porter might be one of the biggest triumph stories in the past decade, yet not unlike Oscar De La Hoya or Miguel Cotto, Porter never won his career defining fight, but that will stop him from being viewed as one of the great welterweights of his era, at least in my eyes.
Porter, one the best modern boxers coming out of the U.S. amateur system, finished the program with a boxing record of 276-14, but despite in television broadcasts, Porter was never viewed touted as a stand-out amateur, and most looked past the fact that his father, Ken Porter, was a part of the 2012 Olympic boxing team coaching staff. As despite an amateur win over Oleksandr Usyk, Dominic Wade, Fernando Guerrero, Jesse Hart, J’Leon Love, Shawn Estrada amongst others, Porter was always the one with a chip on his shoulder.
As a professional he turned pro, after losing to Daniel Jacobs at super middleweight at the Olympic Trials, Jacobs would go on to lose to Shawn Estrada, as Jacobs would be the alternate.
Porter’s career in summary, though this is just the start was about sacrifice. That sacrifice I felt was disguised by them with a word “The Porter Way”, which I read as, harder than anyone else would push. Porter turned pro a day before my birthday, in October 2008, and was afforded the luxury all great prospects get, a first-round KO of Norman Johnson.
Porter would fight frequently, and if my math is right he had eleven fights in a little over a year of being a professional fighting at 154 lbs.
During this time, Porter was sparring one of the greatest boxers ever, Manny Pacquiao, as Pacquiao went on his historic welterweight run.
In 2010, Porter would fight Cleveland, Ohio defeating Russell Jordan for WBO NABO Super Welterweight title, the first belt of his career. Jordan was also deducted a point for spitting out his mouthpiece in the ninth round of this bout.
Porter would face “The New” Ray Robinson, very early in his career defeating the Philly fighter by a ten-round decision, and dropping him in the sixth round. Robinson has made this win look better over the years with his performances against Egidijus Kavaliauskas, and Josh Kelly. The bout was televised on ShoBox: The Next Generation, as you can see this archival video promoting here. When listening to the verbiage of the preview, Porter though acclaimed wasn’t hailed as the next great American fighter, which for fans watching his fights to come might seem odd.
In October of that year, Porter fought Hector Munoz for the vacant NABF welterweight title in his first professional bout at welterweight, stopping Munoz in the ninth round.
Porter made his first defense of this title against Anges Adjaho in the first boxing match ever televised in “3-D” or whatever that meant, as he soundly outpointed Adjaho.
Porter would then face Alfonso Gomez at 147 lbs in San Jose, California, on a Robert Guerrero undercard, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. The fight was rugged and uneventful, with Porter getting cut early in the fight from an accidental head clash. The fight left fans with muted expectations as Porter had to dig deep to beat the veteran by a narrow margin on the cards.
This was followed by his draw against Julio Diaz in Los Angeles, California, four month later, in December of 2012. Porter looked flat in this performance, and coming off a hard fight with an aging veteran, some observers felt Porter had hit his ceiling as a tough, rugged guy, who had a good amateur style, but would struggle against certain-type of fighters.
That couldn’t have been further from the case.
Porter would steamroll Phil Lo Greco, an undefeated Italian fighter, who had some buzz, dropping him in the tenth round to cap off a ten-round decision win, in which he won each, and every round. This was followed up by winning the World Boxing Organisation NABO Welter Title against Julio Diaz, who had previously drew with before the Lo Greco bout. Porter won the fight decisively and looked much improved.
Porter would travel to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, to face Devon Alexander, the IBF welterweight world champion, who won the belt in that very arena against Randall Bailey, in which Porter came in as a three-and-a-half to one underdog to the champion, Alexander who was much more well-known than Porter at the time.
In the build-up to the fight, Alexander was dismissive of Porter calling him “Manny Pacquiao’s sparring partner,” and essentially portraying himself as on another level from Porter.
Porter would have a career defining performance, and become an overnight star as he battered and beat Devon Alexander, who often used holding to negate fights, but in this bout, Porter would not let him, and overpowered him en route to a winning his first world title. At the time, this was considered shocking as Alexander had just had a big fight with Tim Bradley Jr., that was consider a fight that was creating the next American boxing star. I remember talking to Porter after this fight, and remember him telling me he “…took the title from Alexander.”
His first world title defense came against Paulie Malignaggi, and this was also during a time Porter trained in San Carlos, California at the SNAC facility, well Undisputed Boxing Gym at that time, and worked with Victor Conte a lot. The Malignaggi fight was young versus old, as Porter was too strong for Malignaggi, who claimed after the fight Porter was on drugs, because of how hard he hit in the fight, despite Porter never once failing a drug test in his career. In many ways, that is a compliment to the training Porter did for that camp I suppose. This might be the best pure performance of Porter’s career as no one had done that to Malignaggi before or even after.
Porter was on the verge of being the Fighter of the Year in 2014, when he ran into Kell Brook, a rather unassuming, world-level U.K. fighter trained by Dominic Ingle. It could have been a bit of arrogance, or Brook rising to moment, as well as Brook being allowed to hold on the inside an awful lot, but Brook did the unthinkable and came to Carson, California, and defeated Shawn Porter to win the IBF welterweight world title. The loss was unfathomable as just as Porter’s star had ascended, new doubts were circulated once again, a seemingly constant of his career.
No matter what Shawn Porter did, outland opponents with jabs, win against the favorites, an expert or detractor always had something to say, rather than looking at him as one of the divisions best.
Porter would return in March of the following year, in one of the first Premier Boxing Champions fight events, originally set to face Roberto Garcia, Porter would knockout Erick Bone as a late-replacement opponent via fifth-round stoppage. The bout was confusing as Karim Mayfield of San Francisco, CA, was also set to get the fight, but somehow Bone got the bout over Mayfield with both fighters being at the venue on that given night.
Porter would return just three months later, at a catchweight of 144 lbs. to face Adrien Broner in a fight that was looked at as crossroads fight. Porter would outwork Broner, but get caught with a hook in the final round, but was able to secure a decision win. This was probably the last time Broner was thought of a legitimate a-side against a top-tier opponent in hindsight. Porter simply outclassed Broner in this bout.
One year after the Broner fight, Porter would face undefeated Keith Thurman for Thurman’s WBA welterweight world title. The fight which took place on CBS, was a major event, and looked to crown the next great welterweight after Floyd Mayweather had retired. The bout saw Thurman win early rounds boxing, but Porter ran away with the second half of the fight. It is one of those fights in which it comes down to how you scored the bout, but I always felt Porter edged this bout barely, yet in the end, Thurman would get a 115-113 decision on all three cards.
Porter would return in 2017, ten months later, against Andre Berto in a sloppy bout. Berto had seen better days, but obviously came in motivated for Porter, and the two kept clashing heads in the bout. Porter would drop Berto in the second, and stop him in the ninth, but it was a fight that more than likely fueled further training camps rather than was something to write home about. Porter would decision Adrian Granados as well via a 12-round decision, a fight that I quite frankly forgot even happened.
Porter would meet Danny Garcia, who also had lost to Keith Thurman for a vacant world title fight. Porter would use new tactics in this bout, as he was elusive and methodical winning rounds against Garcia who sometimes has a low punch output. With the win, Porter became a two-time world champion, and the newWBC welterweight world champion.
His first world title defense was against surging Cuban Yordenis Ugas, who was and still is to this day heavily avoided. Porter and Ugas would have a close fight that will be heavily debated about who won, but the fact that a knockdown in round twelve was not scored for Ugas will sit poorly with some fans, Porter edged the decision, and won a fight against a game challenger who recently beat Manny Pacquiao. Porter fighting Ugas at this time was noteworthy, as many wouldn’t have.
Porter’s most career defining fight might have come against 2012 U.S. Olympian and IBF welterweight world champion Errol Spence Jr. in a title unification bout which he battled evenly with Spence thru twelve hard fought rounds with a 12th round knockdown scored by Spence seemingly being the difference in the contest to me. Porter despite losing to Spence, won in most people’s eyes, because in the build-up to this bout he was largely disrespected, and looked up as a journeyman, and not as a fellow world champion.
Porter would return to the ring in August of 2020 against Sebastian Formella, as he Formella lasted all 12-rounds, but didn’t win one.
Last night, we saw what looks to be Porter’s last fight against a generational great in Terence Crawford, as Porter did all the Porter things, and gave Crawford issues, but when he hit the deck in this fight twice, it was different. His father, Ken, had seen enough or seen something he didn’t like in Shawn.
A lot of criticism has been throw towards Ken Porter, but Ken raised Shawn to be the person he is, and Ken is a direct communicator. Whenever a father is in the corner things can get weird, and giving any fighter or a trainer a microphone after a fight, only adds fuel to the fire. What I heard reading between the lines from Ken Porter was, Shawn just doesn’t have that same drive he used to, and he knew it, and he didn’t want to see his son get hurt.
Porter not unlike Tim Bradley seems too interesting to be a pro boxer anymore. He is intellectual in terms of his thinking of the sport of boxing, and has a lot of interesting being drawn to his on-screen broadcasting ability. In short, how can Porter still be the same guy with a great podcast, the voice of boxing on multiple platforms, as well as raise a family. Porter is not the same guy, going to the same place or at least, that is what it appears for the outside looking in.
Historical Context: Shawn Porter to me in a historical context was a fighter, who the great fighters had to face to prove they were great, and a great fighter who willing to fight the fellow greats. Porter could possibly have a bit more luster to his career if he hadn’t faced the hardest challenges, but that is also what made him a great. Porter was most of the great fighters in this eras toughest fight, or their career-defining win. Porter at his best was a confusing pressure fighter who had an annoying jab that was active enough to force the opponent to respect it, but strong enough to force his opponent back if he wanted to.
Porter was a true athlete in a sport of boxing that we rarely see world-class fitness on display. Porter was an ambassador for the sport of boxing and is still to this day with his work with WBC Cares, as well as a true professional – unapologetic in his approach.
As much as people want to get on Ken Porter today, both Shawn and Kenny Porter, are a success story of a family, who stuck together, and made a dream come true. If I had a vote for the hall-of-fame I would vote for Porter, but I doubt I will ever get one of those type of things.
In short, Shawn Porter is the every man, who did something great, and we need to preserve his legacy rightly, even in a loss, he was a good fighter. Even more so in an era in which your record was everything the general public choose to stay with Shawn Porter, and watch Shawn Porter throughout his career as fighters like Keith Thurman never fully got the support that Porter got even with a win over him.