On Saturday night, former U.S. Olympian Errol Spence Jr. successfully unified the WBC/IBF welterweight titles by defeating Shawn Porter via split decision at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Fox Sports Pay-Per-View. The official scores read 116-111(X2) for Spence, with one leaning towards Porter, 115-112.
After a tentative first two rounds, both fighters turned up the heat in round three. From that point on, both combatants stood in the pocket and hammered away in what many fans and pundits are calling “fight of the year” candidate.
Porter (30-3-1, 17 KO) fought in his typical mauling style, pushing Spence to the ropes/corner at times and landing power shots to both the head and body. The power punching and constant aggression are probably what earned Porter the rounds he won on the official scorecards.
But Spence (26-0, 21 KO) stood his ground, maintaining position in the pocket with Porter and firing clean effective shots of his own, even pushing Porter back at times. Spence was able to land cleaner punches on a more consistent basis, which most likely earned him the victory on the cards. According to CompuBox, he outlanded Porter 221 punches to 172.
In the 11th round, Spence dropped Porter with a left-hand shot, further separating himself from Porter on the scorecards. Porter rose from the canvas quickly, not terribly hurt from the blow.
Both Spence and Porter stood toe-to-toe and battled it out in the 12th and final round, with the crowd on their feet as the final bell arrived. In the end, the boxing world got exactly what it was hoping for: a closely contested fight between two exceptional fighters in their prime, at the summit of the welterweight division.
“Shawn Porter is a rough, awkward fighter. He made [the fight] real awkward for me,” said the new unified welterweight champion to Fox Sports’ Heidi Androl. “I didn’t look how I wanted to look. I looked kinda sloppy in there and get off how I wanted to. But that's just credit to Shawn Porter. He’s a true champion, he’s rough, he’s rugged and he always comes to fight.”
In the co-main event, unbeaten super middleweight David Benavidez regained his WBC title at 168 lbs by stopping Anthony Dirrell in the ninth round.
While Dirrell was able to land clean shots here and there, he simply was unable to deal with the constant pressure and volume punching of the 22-year-old. Benavidez pressed forward throughout, forcing the 34-year-old Dirrell to move around the perimeter of the ring and expend energy.
In the sixth round, Benavidez opened up a big cut over the right eye of Dirrell. With blood obstructing his vision, Dirrell found it increasingly difficult to defend against Benavidez’s attack.
Finally, in the ninth round, Dirrell’s corner decided to pull their fighter from the bout, as he had taken too much punishment to continue the distance. The victory over Dirrell makes Benavidez a two-time champion at just 22 years of age.
Also on the card was Mario Barrios, winning a controversial unanimous decision over Batyr Akhmedov to win the secondary WBA “regular” super lightweight title. The scorecards—which were booed by spectators at ringside—read 116-111, 115-111 and 114-112, all for Barrios.
In the early rounds, Barrios employed his superior height and reach, keeping Akhmedov at the end of his jab and scoring points. Barrios also scored a flash knockdown in the fourth round, but Akhmedov appeared unbothered. Akhmedov was able to close the distance a little more in the middle rounds, getting on the inside and landing some punches.
Akhmedov continued to push the pace and wear Barrios down in the championship rounds. But in the 12th and final round, Barrios scored another knockdown in the last 10 seconds of the round, dropping Akhmedov with a right hand.
Despite Akhmedov appearing to control the majority of the bout, the two knockdowns may have been the deciding factor in the judges’ decision to reward the win to Barrios. Akhmedov landed 238 punches to Barrios’ 135.