LOS ANGELES — Nothing that Errol Spence Jr. can do in a ring will come as a surprise to Kenny Porter. Porter, whose son, WBC welterweight champion Shawn Porter, will meet Spence in a welterweight title unification bout on Saturday at Staples Center, traveled around the world with Spence when Spence was an amateur.
He was also there at the Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas when Spence got the best of the legendary champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. in Las Vegas during a sparring session in 2013.
He thought Spence was terrific then and believes he’s even better now.
“Good kid. Smart kid. Very talented. Hard worker. Listens well to his coach, everything,” Kenny Porter said. “He is where he is for a reason.”
Spence is 25-0 with 21 knockouts and is regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
In Shawn Porter, he’ll face the biggest challenge of his career, a full-fledged welterweight who combines speed and physicality like no one Spence has seen previously.
Porter, who is 30-2-1 with 17 knockouts, will get in Spence’s face seconds after the opening bell and will stay there until Spence finds a way to force him to back off.
The fight may turn on the question of if, how and when Spence can figure that out.
For a big man, Spence has beautiful footwork and is able to move and shift himself into punching position quickly and easily. Against a hard-charging Porter, those feet and a hard jab are going to be critical.
Spence will need to make Porter pay a serious price for attempting to close the distance by popping him with a jab. Porter and his father are savvy and have spent countless hours in the gym drilling on ways to slip the jab and get into his preferred range.
That’s why Spence needs to be diverse. His basic plan is probably going to be to jab, step to the side, jab again and throw his straight left hand. But he’ll also need to lead with his left occasionally to make Porter think and blunt his charge for just a bit.
If Porter is able to pin Spence on the ropes or in the corner, Spence can’t afford to just cover up and let Porter work. Spence has to fight his way out of those situations and his best bet will probably be an uppercut up the middle.
From Porter’s standpoint, he has to bob and weave his way in and avoid the jab, because Spence’s jab is like a power punch. The impact of a repeated, steady jab to the face would be to potentially swell Porter’s eyes and reduce his vision.
If he can’t see what is coming against a fast and powerful guy like Spence, it will be trouble.
The bout is just the 11th unification match in the history of the division, and will put the winner into prime position for a mega-fight in 2020. If Porter wins, a bout against WBA champion Manny Pacquiao for three of the four major belts would become a realistic option.
Porter spent many of his early years as a pro as Pacquiao’s sparring partner and the two have a good relationship. Pacquiao’s team is open to that bout next, though Mikey Garcia remains the front-runner to be Pacquiao’s next opponent.
If Spence wins, it’s far less likely he’ll get Pacquiao next, even though that’s the fight he said he wants.
“Manny Pacquiao is a legend and that’s the fight I think the people want to see, and I want to give it to them,” Spence told Yahoo Sports.
Spence is in the minority in that opinion, though. The talk throughout boxing, among the fan base and the media, is a Spence-Terence Crawford fight in 2020. Crawford, who holds the WBO welterweight title, is No. 1 on Yahoo Sports’ pound-for-pound list while Spence is No. 2.
But because Crawford is signed with Top Rank and Spence is with Premier Boxing Champions, it’s not an easy fight to make, and Spence is showing zero urgency for it to happen soon.
“That fight will happen,” Spence said, “but it’s probably going to be later in 2020.”
Much rides on the outcome of Saturday’s bout. Look for this fight to take Spence to the next level. Even as he’s become a staple on the many pound-for-pound lists, he’s continued to improve.
There is never an easy fight when Porter is in the opposite corner, and Spence will have to battle like he’s never battled before to get through the Porter thunderstorm.
Special athletes, though, find a way and Spence is one of them.
He’ll pull away down the stretch to win a clear unanimous decision and make that 2020 showdown with Crawford loom even larger.
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