This Saturday night on CBS (9:00 p.m. ET), Keith "One Time" Thurman takes on "Showtime" Shawn Porter in a highly-anticipated welterweight main event from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, with an intriguing clash of prospects in the junior middleweight division as the co-feature.
Here’s a look at the matchups.
Keith Thurman vs Shawn Porter
Record: 26-0 (22 KO) ... Streak: W19 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'7½" / 69" ... Age: 27
Thoughts: Keith Thurman has been one of the more interesting fighters to come into some level of fame over the last four years, since his HBO debut in July 2012, where he won the 18th fight of his career, stopping veteran Orlando Lora in the sixth round.
He’s a somewhat unusual guy for the modern boxing world. He’s not excessively PR coached, or at the very least doesn't come off like he is. He’s got the gift of gab, but unlike many doesn’t use it only to talk trash and hype fights. He’s got an analyst’s soul, it seems; he's someone who likes to dissect the fight game and his rivals, or potential rivals.
Thurman has also fashioned himself something of a throwback fighter, saying for years that he's ready for anyone and everyone at 147, or if he has to go up for the fights, 154, doing that once against Carlos Quintana in his second HBO appearance in 2012.
But truly major fights have eluded him, too. He fought Lora, Quintana, and Jan Zaveck on HBO airwaves, before Golden Boy made the migration to Showtime, something that would later turn out to be Al Haymon and Richard Schaefer taking that company’s name for a ride as much as anything. In Showtime-televised bouts promoted by Golden Boy in 2013-14, he beat Diego Chaves, Jesus Soto Karass, Julio Diaz, and Leonard Bundu. Once the Golden Boy/Schaefer/Haymon relationship collapsed, Thurman became a key player for PBC’s first year, facing Robert Guerrero on on NBC and Luis Collazo on ESPN.
There has been a sense, at least that I've felt, that Haymon has perhaps been holding Thurman back and waiting for the right time to push him forward as The New Star at welterweight. With Floyd Mayweather still around, Haymon’s boxing brand had the top guy in the division, and pushing Thurman too hard might have made people demand that fight, which wouldn’t have meant that it had to be made, necessarily, but that more people would have asked, "Hey, why doesn’t Floyd fight Keith Thurman?"
There was a good opportunity for that last September. But instead of fighting a fresh, young welterweight coming into his prime, Mayweather fought a tired Andre Berto, a rehashed former titleholder from what you might call the previous era of young welterweights. Berto was never seen as any kind of threat to Floyd, and the fight was as expected. Thurman may or may not have been any kind of threat to Floyd, but he certainly would have been seen as more of one going in, if only because Thurman has not failed against Victor Ortiz, Robert Guerrero, and Jesus Soto Karass; in fact, he beat the latter two, after they’d both beaten Berto.
But now that Mayweather is effectively retired, and at the very least is out of the boxing world save for a potential half-novelty return of some sort, Thurman is free and clear to be promoted as The New Star at 147. The fights that might be asked for on his end, and from fans, are now all pretty much doable. One of them is the fight he has on Saturday, against Shawn Porter.
We’ve been waiting for this fight since last fall. It was originally said to be happening in December, then January, and then it was signed for March. A minor car accident forced Thurman out of that date, and here we are in June, with this finally happening.
In the ring, Thurman has one of two paths to travel from this point on. Either he’s going to prove he’s every bit as good as he says that he is, or a step up against better competition might show some cracks in his armor. "One Time" has a record that indicates a monster puncher, and he's got power, but he's more of a skilled boxer-puncher than anything. Thurman enters fights to win them, period, and if sometimes it winds up not being the best fight, he can live with that. Take his 2014 win over Leonard Bundu, a crafty veteran who did his very best to not give Thurman anything. Thurman took what was available, didn't take any big risks, and won a shutout decision. It was, objectively, a boring fight, but Thurman won.
Last year, we saw Thurman against two very different fighters, a pair of tough pros who have been around the block. He battered Robert Guerrero, but couldn't break him. Whatever you might think of Guerrero, he is elite level tough. When Guerrero made a spirited charge in the final three rounds of the fight, after being dominated by Thurman for the first nine, Keith didn’t press. He just picked Guerrero off at range and did his best not to let Guerrero have a miracle rally.
In July, Thurman fought Luis Collazo, a tricky southpaw. It wasn’t an easy fight for Thurman. Collazo hurt him with a body shot, which Thurman openly admitted after the fight, but was able to score a stoppage after seven rounds of action when Collazo said he couldn’t see out due to a cut. Collazo said that Thurman was good, but that he wasn’t sure he could be called "great" just yet.
And that’s really what we’re waiting to see: is Keith Thurman great, or is he just good? What he’s done so far in his career has been good, with flashes of potential greatness, but not the sort of opposition to date that can make a case for greatness. Facing the other top guys in a changing division is how he can prove that, and he starts on Saturday.
Record: 26-1-1 (16 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 8-1-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'7" / 69½" ... Age: 28
Thoughts: Boxing is a sport that leaves plenty of room for interpretation, given the fact that not everyone fights everyone. That means there is also room for skepticism and questions. And I have one about Shawn Porter: how good is he, really?
Shawn Porter is a good fighter. No doubt about that. But is he really one of the best fighters in the division, or is he more pretender than top-flight contender? His record is solid, and I believe he’s good, a legit top contender in the division. But for some reason — and I really mean "for some reason," because I can’t pinpoint it -- I have a weird bit of question about him in my head still.
Why is that? OK, so Porter fought to a draw with Julio Diaz in 2012. Certainly that was a red flag. In 2012, anyway. Since then, he’s been very good. He trounced Phil Lo Greco, showing some renewed fury, and then won a clear decision in a rematch with Diaz to get that monkey off his back. He beat Devon Alexander for the IBF welterweight title in December 2013, demolished Paulie Malignaggi in 2014, and then he lost a good fight to Kell Brook.
So he lost to Kell Brook. That wasn’t even a red flag. Brook’s a good fighter. Porter’s a good fighter. They were put together in a good fight, which wound up being a good fight, and Brook was the better man that night. It’s really that simple. And logically, I understand that, but for some reason, my idiot brain keeps going, "I dunno if Porter is quite as good as he’s being billed."
It’s complete nonsense. Porter has proven he’s a good fighter, repeatedly. Since losing to Brook, he’s beaten Erick Boné and Adrien Broner, pretty much dominating the majority of the Broner fight, though he did get dropped in the 12th round.
So I’m basically trying to ignore my goofy ass thoughts about Porter still having something to prove. He does, but so does Keith Thurman, and so does Kell Brook. Top fighters are always fighting to prove something -- that they are, in fact, a top fighter.
If I do have a legitimate question about Porter coming into this fight, it’s the layoff. He’s been out for a year now, since beating Broner on June 20 of last year. But Thurman has been off since July himself, and Porter got in an exhibition fight with Lanardo Tyner, a crafty veteran fighter, when the original Thurman date was scrapped. That was a smart move by his father and trainer, Ken Porter, who felt Shawn shouldn’t waste a training camp, and could stand to be in as close to a real fight atmosphere as possible without taking any big risks.
So Porter should be fine. Thurman should be fine. All that’s left now is to fight.
Matchup Grade: A-. Can’t argue with this one. You could easily make a case that these are two of the three best welterweights in the world right now. Well, you could easily make a case that they aren’t, but even if you do, they’re not far off from that. At the very least, we’re talking about a pair of top five welterweights, at least I think that’s not too arguable. And the style matchup is intriguing, too. Thurman is a good boxer-puncher with a bit more punch than a fighter usually described in that manner, and Porter is at his best when he’s pressuring and banging. This could turn into a firefight, but who does that favor? They both have pop, they both have shown they can take a shot. There’s nothing to not like about this fight. Hallelujah, praise the PBC!
Jarrett Hurd vs Oscar Molina
Record: 17-0 (11 KO) ... Streak: W17 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 6'1" / 76½" ... Age: 25
Thoughts: Hurd ranked as my No. 3 prospect in the junior middleweight division at the end of 2015, behind Erickson Lubin, who is considered a blue chipper, and Julian Williams, who is set for his first world title shot soon. Not bad company.
Hurd’s had a couple of close calls in his career — he went to six-round split decision with Chris Chatman in 2014, and a six-round majority decision with Emmanuel Sanchez later that same year. But since then, he’s looked promising. He stopped faded veteran Eric Mitchell in seven rounds in April 2015, beat Jeff Lentz in August, and ended his year with a minor upset of Frank Galarza on ShoBox, stopping him early in the sixth round:
The win over Galarza, who was 17-0-2 coming in and had some New York buzz (though he was old for a prospect, too), was the real key to Hurd’s elevation to serious prospect. He dominated that fight and basically just beat the will to keep going out of his opponent. It was a very impressive showing, and may have been Hurd turning the corner in his career. There’s no doubt he’s got talent, he’s got some power, and can box a little, too. He’s what you’d call an "all-rounder," rather than someone with one standout attribute.
He will be the favorite this time, though, and that’s a whole other bit of pressure. How will he handle that? Will getting bumped to CBS late give him any butterflies? This was already a good matchup for him, no walkover, and now he’s going to be on national TV in prime time. Most likely he’ll handle that fine, but I am trying to create some narrative here, you guys, because this is boxing talk.
Record: 13-0-1 (10 KO) ... Streak: D1 ... Last 5: 4-0-1 ... Last 10: 9-0-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'9" / 70" ... Age: 26
Thoughts: Molina went to a draw in his last fight with Domonique Dolton, aka DOLTON!, who came in 17-0 and is himself a legit prospect in the division. He hasn’t fought since that night last September, so he’s had a pretty long layoff, though so has Hurd, who has been out of action since November.
Both Molina and Dolton were included as "honorable mention" fighters in the 154-pound prospects list at the end of last year (linked above -- well, OK, here it is again). The Dolton fight was a big step up for Molina, who had been having his way with really limited opponents after he debuted in January 2013.
Molina was a good amateur, winning gold at the 2008 AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships at age 18, silver at the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games, and silver at the 2011 Pan American Games, which qualified him for a trip to the Olympics in 2012. In London, he lost to Canada’s Custio Clayton in the opening round.
His pro record, as mentioned, really has just the Dolton (DOLTON!) fight on it. I didn’t watch that one live, but scoring it after the fact, I thought Molina had done just enough to win, though I didn’t disagree with the fact that it came to a draw. It was a good fight, too, so that’s encouraging for this being a TV fight.
Matchup Grade: B. For a fight that was bumped from the off-TV undercard onto the main broadcast thanks to the Cuellar-Mares cancellation, this one is really good, and the PBC folks had choices here, too. Regis Prograis is also in action on the undercard, as is David Benavidez, both good prospects at 140 and 175. But this meeting of 154-pound prospects is the most evenly matched, and the call to bump this up was the right one. It has some action potential, and this is basically a really good ShoBox main event put into the CBS co-feature slot. It’s a tough pairing for both, and the winner moves forward.