[otw_shortcode_quote border=”bordered” border_style=”bordered”]“So Achilles flew at him, breakneck on in fury with Hector fleeing along the walls of Troy.” —The Iliad[/otw_shortcode_quote]
When Al Haymon broke his ties with Golden Boy Promotions and took his stable of fighters elsewhere, fight fans didn’t seem too shaken up. Haymon was planning to bring boxing back to network television, and the fighters he had in his pockets were name-brand killers, especially in boxing’s always dangerous welterweight division.
Haymon had British pretty boy Amir Khan, Cleveland’s own “Showtime” Shawn Porter, lead-fisted flower child Keith “One-Time” Thurman, hardened warrior Danny Garcia, and the former king of kings Floyd Mayweather Jr. With all those names under the same roof, what could possibly go wrong?
For an entire year boxing fans waited on bated breath for a network television bombshell of a fight. Haymon kicked it off with Thurman vs. Robert Guerrero. A mismatch, sure, but perhaps Haymon was just aiming to introduce star boxers to the casual sporting public with some softer fights.
By summer, Thurman was facing washed-up gatekeeper Luis Collazo, Khan was taking on (and nearly losing to) Manny Pacquiao’s leftovers in Chris Algieri, Garcia was picking on guys half his size, Porter was caught up in a messy catch weight situation with Adrien Broner, and Mayweather announced he would retire with a swan song against a man who hadn’t fought a live body in years.
How hard could it be to get fighters with the same manager to get in the ring with one another?
Apparently very difficult when a number of them are terrified of losing their status as undefeated fighters.
Thurman vs. Porter began negotiations sometime after both men won their summer fights, but for whatever reason didn’t become reality until it was announced on January 23 during the broadcast of Garcia vs. Guerrero. Now, almost exactly one year after the series premiere of Premier Boxing Champions, boxing fans are getting a free, network television super fight.
Coming into this fight, Thurman is the man with a lot to lose. He’s undefeated and has been marketed lately as the PBC’s golden boy—the future of American boxing. Calling the action on an ESPN fight card this past autumn, Teddy Atlas proclaimed Thurman to be the next big American superstar on the grounds that he’s an everyman fighter, and that people like Gennady Golovkin and Roman Gonzalez don’t have the potential to transcend nationality and become fighters that Americans can fall in love with as household names.
To be thought of as bigger than Golovkin or Gonzalez in the eyes of someone as influential as Atlas is a heavy burden. Thurman has yet to truly impress with a career-defining victory. Porter could be the spark that ignites what Atlas sees as the growing legend of Thurman.
Unlike Thurman, Porter will come to Connecticut on March 12 with nothing to lose at all. After a loss to Kell Brook, Porter’s record was blemished, but his fighting spirit became ostensibly more aggressive and his style became more diverse. While still of a bum-rushing mentality, Porter is no longer afraid to deal with messy, awkward boxers who try to throw him out of his rhythm.
Against Broner, Porter had no time for nonsense as he pounded Broner over the course of 12 rounds with blisteringly accurate shots and hard blows to the body when Broner tried to hold on the inside.
Where Porter has failed lately is his penchant to get too careless in the latter stages of a fight. In the last round of his June 20 fight against Broner, Porter rushed the Cincinnati native with his hands down and was knocked down by a clean left hook. While Porter got away with such defensive disdain against Broner, Thurman is a different story. Thurman’s punching power far exceeds Broner’s, and another mistake like that could put Showtime to sleep.
When it comes down to experience, Porter has a significant advantage. Thurman’s resume isn’t as well put together as Porter’s. Thurman’s recent wins over Collazo and Guerrero, two veterans well past their prime, were not without issue. Collazo hurt Thurman badly with body shots before succumbing to a cut over his left eye that came off an accidental clash of heads, and Guerrero was able to walk through most of Thurman’s best shots and bruise up his face pretty bad in the process.
Porter on the other hand has taken on Broner and Brook in two of his three most recent fights. And while he lost to Brook, the fact that he’s been facing better quality opposition without getting roughed up the way Thurman has shows that he is perhaps more capable of dealing with adversity than Thurman is.
Thurman is currently a slight betting favorite in Vegas at -185 and Porter at +150, but Porter has a deeper resume and has shown a greater will in his recent fights making this matchup dead even.
It took a long time for PBC to take charge and create a top-tier fight in division overflowing with titans. Whether Thurman vs. Porter goes to a decision or is stopped in brutal fashion, it’s a fight worth celebrating. No catch weights, no whining about purse splits or rematch clauses. This is an old school clash of champions—an Achilles vs. Hector for network television, and a perfect way for PBC to solidify itself as the best venue for welterweight fighters today.