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Spence vs Porter preview: What’s at stake, how they got here, and how the fighters match up

Errol Spence Jr meets Shawn Porter in a welterweight unification this Saturday on pay-per-view.

Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

This Saturday night, Sept. 28, welterweight titleholders Errol Spence Jr and Shawn Porter will meet in a unification bout from Staples Center in Los Angeles, live on FOX pay-per-view.

What’s at stake?

Spence (25-0, 21 KO) is defending the IBF 147-pound belt, while Porter (30-2-1, 17 KO) is putting his WBC title on the line. There’s more than just the belts, too: for Spence in particular, this is a chance to make a big statement against a longtime top-tier welterweight, and perhaps establish in the public’s mind that he is the top dog at 147, not Top Rank’s Terence “Bud” Crawford, who is currently stranded on an island as PBC all but fully control the welterweight division.

How did Errol Spence Jr get here?

The 29-year-old Spence, fighting out of Texas, was a standout amateur, winning the U.S. National Golden Gloves in 2009, and was a three-time national amateur welterweight champion from 2009-11. He was considered one of Team USA’s best male medal hopes at London 2012, and he got further than anyone else, but he lost in the quarterfinals to Russia’s Andrey Zamkovoy, who would win a bronze medal.

As with pretty much all of his teammates in London, Spence had higher upside as a pro than an amateur. He made his pro debut in Nov. 2012, fighting on a Golden Boy card which also featured the pro debuts of Olympic teammates Marcus Browne, Rau’shee Warren, Dominic Breazeale, and Terrell Gausha, back before Al Haymon yanked his fighters from Golden Boy and Oscar De La Hoya pretended he was shocked by the state of things.

As expected, Spence pretty much trounced the early opposition, running his record to 15-0 before he started stepping up the competition a bit. He beat Samuel Vargas, Phil Lo Greco, Chris van Heerden, and Alejandro Barrera in 2015, and followed that up by thrashing Chris Algieri and Leonard Bundu in 2016, before traveling to the United Kingdom to face Kell Brook for the IBF welterweight title in May 2017.

Kell Brook v Erroll Spence Jnr - Bramall Lane Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Brook proved no pushover for Spence, hanging in before Spence broke him down late, breaking Brook’s orbital bone and dropping him in the 10th and 11th rounds, where the fight was stopped.

Spence’s title reign hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire, but he’s been marketed very well as a generational talent, which frankly remains a bit unproven. He looks like he has the goods, no question, but his best win remains the victory over Brook, who was coming back down in weight from 160 pounds and a devastating loss to Gennadiy Golovkin.

In his first defense in Jan. 2018, Spence dominated and stopped Lamont Peterson, and then he knocked out overmatched mandatory challenger Carlos Ocampo in the first round. Earlier this year, Spence was matched with Mikey Garcia, who had won world titles at 126, 130, 135, and 140, but proved he was no welterweight as Spence all but toyed with him over 12 rounds in a pay-per-view main event from AT&T Stadium outside of Dallas.

While Spence-Garcia was a dud of a pay-per-view, Porter figures to give Spence a more serious physical challenge if nothing else. There was literally nothing Garcia could do with Spence, as he couldn’t really outbox him and didn’t have the physical strength or power to try roughing him up or anything.

How did Shawn Porter get here?

Akron, Ohio native Porter, now 31, has had quite an interesting run. At 5’7”, he competed as a middleweight (165 pounds) in the amateur ranks, racking up a reported record of 276-14, and he was also a high school football standout. Porter came up short trying to make the 2008 Olympic team, so he turned pro that October.

Porter turned pro still weighing 165, but it was obvious that to have a real shot at professional success, he was going to have to come down in weight. He competed at 154, or near it, for the first couple years of his career, before getting down into the welterweight range in July 2010 for a win over Ray Robinson, who would go on to have a solid pro career himself. There was even some thought to him trying to boil down all the way to 140, but after a somewhat lackluster 2011 win over Anges Adjaho where Porter weighed in at 144, that was abandoned.

In 2012, Porter won a decision over tough vet Alfonso Gomez, where he was cut twice and had to fight through some adversity. He then went to a 10-round split draw with Julio Diaz in Dec. 2012, and frankly the questions were starting to mount about Porter, in terms of what his real upside was going to be.

But he had a strong 2013, beating Phil Lo Greco and Diaz in a rematch, then taking the IBF welterweight title from Devon Alexander that December, establishing himself as a top welterweight at last.

Shawn Porter v Paulie Malignaggi Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

His first title defense was a mauling of Paulie Malignaggi, stopping the Brooklyn vet in the fourth round, but he lost the belt in Aug. 2014 to Kell Brook, who would eventually drop it to Spence.

After a bounce-back win over Erick Bone in Mar. 2015, Porter was lined up for an all-Ohio grudge match with Adrien Broner, held for all the great Ohio boxing fans in Las Vegas. Broner dropped Porter in the 12th round, but by then it was too late, as once again Broner had largely dumped out on the big stage, losing a clear decision.

Porter challenged Keith Thurman for the WBA welterweight title in June 2016, losing a tight decision in a very competitive fight, then rattled off wins over Andre Berto, Adrian Granados, and Danny Garcia, the best win of his career, where Porter won the vacant WBC title in Sept. 2018.

Last time out, Porter had plenty of problems with the tricky Cuban Yordenis Ugas, in a fight it wasn’t that hard to argue Ugas deserved to win, but the judges gave the split decision to Porter, preserving him for a money fight like this one.

How do the fighters match up?

Porter has always been short and stocky at 147 — 5’7” isn’t a ridiculous height for the weight or anything, but he’ll be giving up two-and-a-half inches of height to Spence, and the same in reach, at least as officially listed.

Style-wise, it could be very interesting, at least if Porter gets back to fighting like Shawn Porter. Against Ugas, one of two things happened:

  1. Porter tried to box a boxer, and nearly dropped his title with the ill-advised plan
  2. Porter, having badly struggled to make weight, simply didn’t have the energy or strength to be his usual bully self

My gut leans toward it being the second thing, because the first would just be kind of absurd, and totally out of character for Porter, who has never shied away from getting rough and even dirty, from trying to physically dominated his opponents.

The weight thing is worth keeping an eye on, too. Porter had to cut a chunk of hair off to make 147 in March, and it’s not like he’s getting younger. If he struggles with weight again, he’s digging a hole with someone like Spence.

But if Porter is his normal self, he poses some potential problems for Spence. Yes, Spence is a better boxer, a little taller, a little longer, but if Porter can mug him and make it miserable for Errol, we’ll just have to see how the Texan responds. Maybe he just cracks Porter up and beats him down, but maybe not. One thing’s for sure: Porter is not a lightweight Mikey Garcia. He’s a bona fide welterweight and a good one.

Who’s the favorite?

As of this writing, Spence is the wide and clear favorite, with lines between -800- and -1111 on various sportsbooks, while Porter is listed between +500 and +760. For comparison, these odds are much wider than the following weekend’s Gennadiy Golovkin vs Sergiy Derevyanchenko matchup. Personally, I think these odds are a little too wide, but it’s not hard to see how they got there, either. Spence is and should be the favorite.

Who will win?

Check back for our staff picks on Friday at Noon ET!

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