LAS VEGAS — Shawn Porter’s résumé speaks for itself. This is a guy who has never said no to a fight, the tougher the better, and who has become the standard by which to judge modern boxers.
Shrewd managers and quality matchmakers are like illusionists, with the ability to make a boxer appear to be something he is not. Match your guy with a series of soft touches, put them in against big names when the big names are cruising toward the finish line, and you can create a lot of buzz for a fighter who may not deserve it.
Porter has fought just about every elite welterweight there is other than Crawford, and he jumped at the chance when Crawford was offered as an opponent.
Crawford is approaching legendary status; he was undisputed champion at super lightweight, held a lightweight belt and is 5-0 with five knockouts as a welterweight. He’s No. 2 on the Yahoo Sports pound-for-pound list, and others believe he’s No. 1.
Crawford, though, needs the affirmation that a win over Porter will bring. Crawford has yet to face an elite welterweight, though it’s not for a lack of trying. But trying to get Manny Pacquiao, Errol Spence Jr., Danny Garcia, Keith Thurman or Yordenis Ugas in the ring has been a challenge that has led to frustration on Crawford’s part and created some friction with promoter Top Rank.
Porter has fought Spence. And Garcia. And Thurman. And Ugas. And Adrien Broner, Kell Brook, Paulie Malignaggi, Devon Alexander and Julio Diaz and so many others.
A win over Porter means something, and it would validate everything Crawford has done to this point in his career.
Porter needs Crawford just as much, though not as obviously as Crawford needs him.
Porter is a pit bull in the ring, and exerts relentless pressure from the first minute of Round 1 until the final seconds of Round 12.
But if he loses to Crawford, he’s going to be the one struggling to get a big fight. He’s still too good and he’s far too tough for young guys on the rise to test themselves against. With a loss, he’ll be too much risk and not enough reward, and the coming stars like Vergil Ortiz Jr. and Jaron “Boots” Ennis who need big names on their résumés would likely look in another direction.
That puts particular emphasis on this bout with Crawford. An upset victory — Crawford is up to a -800 favorite at BetMGM, while Porter is now +550 — would not only line up a rematch with Crawford, but would put him in the running for fights against WBA champion Ugas, and Spence, the IBF-WBC champion who is hoping to return from a detached retina.
Porter dropped a split decision to Spence in 2019 in Los Angeles in a bout that Yahoo Sports described at the time as “a fight for the ages.” In beating Porter, Yahoo Sports wrote that Spence “faced a gut-check moment against the gamest and grittiest opponent he’ll ever see.”
That statement will be true for Crawford as well, even though it’s still more than 72 hours until the first bell.
“Everybody knows what Shawn Porter is all about,” Crawford said.
Porter is 31-3-1 with 17 KOs, his losses coming by split decision to Spence, by majority decision to Brook and by unanimous decision to Thurman. He fought to a split draw with Diaz in 2013.
His bouts are tough, grueling affairs that are invariably close. His two biggest wins, over Garcia and over Ugas, were both fights the loser felt he’d won.
He can’t afford to let Crawford squeeze another close one out. There are countless big fights should Porter win, but the road will be a lot rockier should he lose.
It’s not fair. When a guy gives his all every time out the way Porter does and generally puts on highly entertaining fights, he shouldn’t be penalized if he loses an agonizingly close decision.
That’s how boxing can be, though, so the burden is on Porter to step up his game. Few — media, trainers, managers and other boxers — are giving him much of a chance.
He believes, though, and so does his father, Kenny, who is his trainer. Porter has always believed and now is not the time to change things.
“Losing is never part of my thought process,” Porter said.
The consequences of a loss this time around could be more significant than ever. It figures to be a fun fight — “I’ve been around boxing a long, long time and you don’t see a lot of fighters like this kid, who come to fight hard every time and doesn’t care who he [faces],” promoter Bob Arum said — and Porter has this way of imposing his will on his opponents.
Porter’s 34, and has a budding career as a boxing broadcaster and podcaster to fall back on when he’s done.
He’s far from done, though. Few are ever in the kind of condition he routinely gets himself in, and he still loves the challenge as much as ever.
With so much on the line, expect to see a fury from Porter that you’ve never seen before.
And that’s saying a lot.