Shawn Porter feels that he’s past the point of auditioning for fights, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t targeting the biggest names in the sport.
The 26-year-old IBF welterweight champion takes another step on that path August 16, defending his title against the dangerous and undefeated Kell Brook at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
Porter relishes the opportunity afforded him as a young champion in a neighborhood of stars and potential big fights, but his approach doesn’t change, even if the stakes are likely higher.
“Of course, you do look forward to those opportunities. I don’t consider my fights auditions; I consider them performances,” Porter told an international media conference call on Monday.
“I go out there and I give it my all. I don’t go in there and give it my all with expectations of getting something bigger and better.”
Porter’s honesty and candor are refreshing, but it’s impossible to filter out all the noise taking place just below the surface of this fight. He’s only human and not immune to the perception that this fight is a way station to something larger.
Brook is a solid opponent, and the Brit is definitely dangerous.
But Porter is no different from any other fighter between 140 and 154 pounds. He hopes to land a fight against a certain name you might recognize, even if he maintains that he’s not chasing him.
“I go out there with the expectations of making that fight the biggest and best that I’ve had and go from there. This is boxing, so we don’t look ahead of ourselves. But at the same time, yes, [Floyd] Mayweather, we all know that he’s on the clock, and we’re all right there standing there hoping that we’re the next in line,” he said.
Both Porter and Mayweather are advised by the godfather of boxing advisers—the near-mythical figure that is Al Haymon.
Mayweather will be facing Marcos Maidana at the MGM Grand on September 13 in a rematch of their contest this past May, which you should be aware of by now.
So long as Porter retains a share of the 147-pound title—Mayweather currently holds two welterweight belts—he will continue to be mentioned as a potentially attractive foe for the pound-for-pound king.
But Porter doesn’t feel that adds any pressure for this or any other fight.
“No, there’s no added pressure at all. This is what I love to do, and I’m having fun with it right now. We work extremely hard, and you know my dad, you know my trainer, my manager, Kenny Porter; nobody sets the bar higher than him,” Porter said.
“I’m working extremely hard every day, and the pressure is put on me all in the gym and on the track and in the swimming pool and in camp. Once I get to the fight, all the pressures—I’ve already felt them all. There’s no pressure to deal with in the fight—just going out there and doing everything the Porter way and getting the job done, as we have.”
Porter is also frequently mentioned alongside fellow welterweight belt-holder—albeit an interim title in his case—Keith “One Time” Thurman. He is a devastating puncher who has risen through the welterweight ranks on a—thus far—parallel track with Porter.
But that track seems bound to intersect at some point in the near future.
The two are good friends, but that hasn’t diminished the calls from fans and media for a future showdown between what are possibly the two best young welterweights on the planet.
Far from shying away from those calls, Porter embraces them.
“I’ll fight ‘One Time’ two times,” Porter said.
“We’ve seen it all over the Internet and all of the media wavelengths. Everybody wants that fight; I think that it would be an exciting fight, and it’s a fight that I wouldn’t turn down.”
The last year or so must have felt like a whirlwind for the Akron, Ohio, native.
He went from highly touted prospect to also-ran in the course of a single fight, struggling to a disputed draw against veteran Julio Diaz before convincingly taking a rematch.
Some people dropped off the Porter bandwagon in light of his struggle against Diaz, but he proved the doubters wrong, securing a title shot against Devon Alexander in December and making the best of it.
Porter dominated, winning the title and launching his career onto its current trajectory.
Brook will get his first world title opportunity against Porter—after several title fights with Alexander fell through—and "Showtime" understands the challenge that will be in front of him is a serious one that is not to be overlooked.
“He’s someone who is very skillful, and he’s technically and fundamentally sound. Just looking at film of the guy: He keeps his hands up, and he throws a good, straight jab and a good one-two. That’s the basics of boxing and that’s good fundamentals of boxing and things that I work on daily. He’s very good at them. Not everyone that I’ve faced up to this point has been as good at them as he is,” Porter said.
“But with that being said, we’re going to go out there and we’re going to do everything that we always do. We’re going to box, use our speed, our power, our quickness and everything that we have.”
Just beyond the horizon lie bigger and better things for whoever walks out of the StubHub Center as a world champion on August 16.
Porter fully expects that will be him.
But it must be a constant struggle to maintain the requisite level of focus for an opponent who, while no walk in the park, pales in comparison to some of the names floating around to remain possibly one big win away.
Maintaining focus on a dangerous, undefeated fighter is paramount, or all future plans could evaporate in the blink of an eye.
“Well, I’ve pretty much fought the who’s who of young fighters out there," Porter said. "With that being said, it’s just another step up. He’s the guy that is mandatory for the IBF title and the guy that we were told we had to fight. We go in there with a great game plan, and we’ll execute it and fight him and move on from there.”
Kevin McRae is a featured boxing columnist for Bleacher Report and an auxiliary member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand.