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Close•Reports on boxing for ESPN.co.uk, as well as several national newspapers
•Has been reporting on British boxing for over 15 years
•Appears on BoxNation’s Boxing Matters show
Welterweight world title holders Errol Spence Jr. and Shawn Porter face off at Staples Center on Saturday night, and the winner will walk away with two belts and a strong claim to being the best fighter in one of boxing’s glamour divisions.
Both are in the thick of their physical primes. Spence (25-0, 21 KOs) is 29 years old, Porter (30-2-1, 17 KOs) is 31, and each fighter has already accomplished a great deal in their pro careers.
There’s a lot to dig through, in terms of breaking down this fight, and no one is better qualified to offer a scouting report than the fighters themselves — except, perhaps, for Kell Brook, the only man who has fought both Spence and Porter.
Here’s how Spence, Porter and Brook see the fight playing out.
What does Porter do well?Kell Brook defeated Shawn Porter by majority decision in August 2014 to win the IBF welterweight title in Carson, California. Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Brook: Porter’s strongest point is that he has a good engine. He’s like a bull in a china shop, and throws a lot of shots. He’s not the biggest puncher at welterweight, but he has enough dig to get your attention. His main attribute for me is the pressure he applies and his work rate.
Spence: Shawn, first of all, he’s rough and rugged. He’s very awkward. He’s a guy who throws punches from different angles. He’s a guy, if he can physically eat you up, he will. If you look closely, he’s a guy that fights in spurts, too. He’s not a guy who just fights the whole round. He might back up, spin around and move around a little bit, and then jump on you.
Brook: Spence is the taller, bigger man and does everything really well. He’s an awkward southpaw and uses his range really well. He’s already among the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters and I think you would have to put him in the top 10. He has beaten quality boxers like Mikey Garcia, and he’s improving, getting better every fight. He’s good at being patient and working a fighter when they are going to be chucking loads of shots, and then he’s ready to counter.
Porter: I think Spence is a complete package. He has speed, he has the quickness, he has the tenacity, he has tons of heart, even intelligence in the ring. I think he has a great corner as well. I do think he is the complete package in terms of not only being a good boxer but entertaining and exciting as well. He showed against Garcia that his boxing skills are underrated. When you have the opportunity to do that, that’s what you do.
How can Porter give Spence problems?
Brook: The best thing for Porter would be to come in and punch in bunches, put his shots together at the right time and hit Spence in the right spots. It will be really hot in there and I’ve been in there with both of them, so I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of both. Porter has to keep marching forward, because if he tries to outbox Spence he will not win. He will have to keep working hard.
He’s like a little Staffy dog, and he will probably try to maul Spence.
Spence-Porter oddsFighterOddsSpence-750Porter+525 (underdog)–Caesars Sportsbook (as of Sept. 25)
Spence: He tries to make you feel uncomfortable and tries to break you down mentally and physically. He’s just a guy who really comes to fight. Porter kind of has a good jab, a good straight right hand, but he’s just a guy that’s awkward. He’s mentally and physically demanding on his opponents. With Shawn, it’s not about this skill set, it’s about his mentality and just being in shape. He’s a guy who’s just going to be in your face, try to make you feel uncomfortable. If he can rough you up, he will, as you saw with the Berto fight. He found out that he could rough him up and beat him up, and Berto was complaining and so he knew he had him. So he just jumped all over him.
Porter: We’re going to take away his space and then we’ll confuse him and manipulate that and make him think he has the space he needs and then give him more space than he needs. I think this fight, we’ve really broken it down to a point where we know exactly what to do.
How can Spence give Porter problems?Errol Spence, Jr. won the IBF welterweight title from Kell Brook with an 11th-round TKO in Brook’s hometown of Sheffield, England, in May 2017. Richard Sellers/Getty Images
Brook: The key will be the jab for Spence. Everything will come once he starts landing that southpaw jab. I see him winning this fight, but it might be scrappy early on just because of the way Porter tries to maul you. Once Spence gets his range and gets the jab going, he will go to work on Porter. I remember when I fought Spence, he had sharp reactions and was fast. He was good, probably the best I’ve been in with regarding boxing skills wise. He’s a world-class fighter. It wasn’t my night, and he has gone on to conquer the welterweight division.
Which fights give you the best insights into how to beat Porter?
Spence: With the Danny Garcia fight, Danny didn’t let him beat him up or rough him up and maul him to the ropes. He tried to box with Danny, so he was in-and-out, in-and-out, same with the Yordenis Ugas fight. Ugas was standing there, basically flat-footed, waiting for him to come forward and Shawn started respecting him and didn’t try to come forward, he tried to box — and that showed a lot. But mentally, Shawn just always wants to be in your face, always trying to surprise you.
I thought Ugas needed to throw a little bit more, but that fight could’ve gone either way.
Which fights were the most helpful in preparing for Spence?Danny Garcia pushed Shawn Porter to fight his style of fight when they met in September 2018, but Porter ultimately walked out of Barclays Center as the new WBC welterweight champion. Bill Tompkins/Getty Images
Porter: I have a history with southpaws; Devon Alexander, my first world title win was against him. Actually, my first lower-level title, I fought for the NABO 154-pound title against a guy by the name of Russell Jordan. He was 6-foot-2 and he was a southpaw from Philly, and those Philly guys are slick fighters. Oleksandr Usyk in the amateurs, we fought at 165 pounds. I know how to fight a southpaw better than he knows how to handle what’s coming from a guy like myself, who can bring that from the orthodox position.
What’s the biggest difference between Spence and Porter, and who wins?
Brook: Spence’s quality. Don’t get me wrong, Porter can box, but Spence is the naturally taller and longer guy, and that’s his style. He’s a punch fighter, who uses his reach well. I favor Spence to win on points or even by a late stoppage because of his sheer quality. It’s Spence for me.
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