Updated: Feb 26
Errol Spence has never been one to be reticent with regard to his own boxing capabilities and prowess and being matched with Shawn Porter did nothing to quell that air of conviction with which he spoke.
Despite the fact that the scheduled fight between the pair was a unification fight, Spence, the IBF welterweight champion was ultra-confident during the press conferences in the lead up to the fight and refused to show much respect towards Porter, aiming a fairly personal shot at the style of his opponent, telling him, "You fight like you're drowning and you don't know how to swim". Making reference also to his 'windmilling' style of punching.
WBC champion Porter was bullish about his own chances, frequently talking about the encounters he has been in and the fact that his fights are always entertaining. He also served up a sharp riposte to Spence's criticism by stating "people complained about you not knocking out a 135lb Mikey Garcia. If he couldn’t knock out 135 Mikey Garcia he ain’t knocking out 147-pound ‘Showtime’ Shawn Porter.”
Bullish is probably an apt word to describe 'Showtime' Shawn Porter, not only in the way he defended himself and promoted his own cause in the press conference, but also his style of fighting. swooping in low, head first on many occasions, over-hand rights. He doesn't give his opponents a moments rest, which may go someway to explaining the countless close decisions he has encountered. One of those close decisions was a loss to Britain's Kell Brook, a fighter who Errol Spence outclassed.
So, if Kell Brook defeated Shawn Porter and Errol Spence took care of Kell Brook, then this fight should be straightforward, a mere formality for the man nicknamed 'The Truth' right? well, boxing doesn't quite work like that. Although you could see where Spence would get his confidence from having knocked out 21 of his 25 opponents and with people rather ignorantly pre-occupied with the proposition of a Spence v Terrence Bud Crawford fight.
Errol Spence was billed as much more the technician, with accuracy and skill his biggest forte. A tall southpaw, he was surely the stuff of nightmares for most opponents.
Both fighters came into the fight in good form, with Spence Jr having defeated unbeaten Mikey Garcia (unanimous decision) in a mismatch of size and talent, and Porter having claimed his WBC belt with a victory over Danny Garcia (unanimous decision) however Porter did have a less than entertaining affair in his first defence against Yordenis Ugas, leaving with a split decision and a few boos.
So, the stage was set, two Americans, two welterweight belt holders, only two defeats from 33 for Porter and zero defeats in 25 from Spence. A unification fight that would show just where Spence is in relation to the world's best welterweight operators.
The first round saw both competitors stay out of range, quarter feints, Porter weighing up the southpaw stance and figuring out the most effective way of closing the distance. Nothing really separating them. Spence is renowned for taking a little half step back in order to counter but Porter was acutely aware and chose his moments in the early rounds to move in and back Errol Spence up. He bounced on his toes, dipped low and closed the distance with a spring-like action. IBF champion Spence is no stranger to working on the inside and will have surely expected such a tactic and was content to catapult a left uppercut to the body on the occasions that Porter came in too crudely.
Through rounds three and four, Porter continued to foray forward , such was his insistence to manipulate the fight into one he was comfortable with and in fairness, his attacks were purposeful, ensuring he wasn't caught in 'no man's land' where the taller Spence could seize the advantage by picking him off at distance, he moved his feet quickly which also gave the impression that he was the aggressor. In the fourth, Porter started a mini period of success, planting his feet, standing in front of Spence and giving a glimpse of the power he possesses, landing hooks to the body and head. Spence had, for whatever reason stopped using his own footwork and just covered up. Spence did retaliate with hooks of his own, but Porter will have been the happier, particularly tactically.
Into the fifth and 'Showtime' Shawn Porter continued to roll under the punches of Spence, subsequently allowing him to get close to the 29-year-old. Lots of grappling ensued but with the strength of Porter and the artistry of Spence, it was clear who preferred this type of scenario.
The breath-taking intensity didn't relent through the half-way stage, Porter was a difficult target to find, with Errol Spence demonstrating glimpses of class when he managed to manoeuvre himself into enough space to deliver his silky repertoire. Those moments were fleeting moments though as Porter once again stepped up the work rate in 7. He stepped on Spence with a barrage of punches on the inside and then peddled around the perimeter of the ring out of range, flicking the jab from the waist and showing his own supreme boxing skills. Not just a brawler, I caught myself saying.
It's little wonder that Spence looked bamboozled, fathoming the distance against someone who, one minute was on top of you and the next was bouncing around the ring like it was round one, must have been infuriating.
Round 8 saw a response from Errol Spence, working the jab more enabled him to be first and dictate the exchange thereafter. Leather was traded at will as both men became a little jaded. Every round up to this point was highly competitive and no doubt contestable.
You would expect that going into the final third of the fight, that with tiring, weary bodies, that class would tell and Spence would begin to come into his own. Porter however had other ideas and decided it was time to ram home his unchallengeable desire and rocked back the head of the unbeaten Spence several times in the tenth with strong left hooks.
The fight was becoming one of those 'what you like' fights with regard to scoring it. Both had elements of success, Spence with classy shots and Porter edging the fight in terms of punch volume.
Then came the huge moment of the fight, a moment many would describe as pivotal. As both men battled on the inside, looking to have the final say in exchanges, a short, chopping left hook from Spence made Porter momentarily touch down on the canvas. He quickly gathered himself but the significance was worn all over Porter's face as he banged his gloves together, shouting over to Spence "Let's go!". For those who were wavering as to who had done enough in the fight, it was a real momentum swinger.
Both Porter and Spence went for it in the final round, no doubt understanding that they have been in a very close contest, a contest that surely eclipsed all boxing fans' expectations, a fight that had Spence as a huge favourite.
One judge had the contest 116-111 in favour of Errol Spence, the second 115-112 in favour of Shawn Porter and the third agreed with the first judge and also gave Spence the nod 116-111. It seemed a little harsh on Porter who had surprised many, but surely not himself with an exhilarating display of commitment and intensity. A fight many would like to see again, but for the sake of boxing politics, probably wont.
With the fight only taking place little more than two months ago, you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing major had happened since, nothing could be further from the truth with reports of Errol Spence Jr being involved in a high speed car crash in the early hours of Thursday the 11th October. CCTV images and footage showed the horrific moment his sports car careered off the road flipping several times. Miraculously, Spence did not sustain life-threatening injuries but the proposal of a Spence/Crawford showdown are-for the moment-on hold, especially given that further investigations meant that Spence was charged with being intoxicated whilst in control of the vehicle.
Shawn Porter has been touted as a potential opponent for Terrence Bud Crawford. He has certainly cemented his position as a top fighter in the welterweight division and can hopefully look forward to opportunities to win back a world title.