Shawn Porter must put on an impressive performance on Saturday night against Kell Brook if he hopes to stay in the hunt for a megafight against pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather. The hard-hitting mauler has made no secret of his wish to be one of Mayweather’s future opponents before the 37-year-old retires.
In fact, Porter was talking about Mayweather as early as December 2013, when he told Boxing Channel he didn’t just want to fight Mayweather but wanted to beat him.
Wanting to fight Mayweather is nothing new. Many fighters competing in and around the weight class of the undisputed king of big money pay-per-views say similar things, but with Porter there seems something strikingly different.
First, you get the sense Porter truly believes he has the talent, skill and ability to best Mayweather in a boxing match, something that hasn’t happened to Mayweather over the course of 46 professional fights.
Second, Porter’s ascension toward the top of the welterweight rankings has been such to lead one to believe he could improve enough to defeat Mayweather someday soon. Porter has displayed the necessary progression an elite fighter should show on his march toward the top of the sport and does not yet appear to have reached his peak as a performer.
In fact, if you’re looking for the next great American welterweight, you might start by taking a good, hard look at Porter. The Ohio native has a battering-ram jab to go along with an incomparable mean streak when the bell rings.
He has good footwork and throws most of his punches as if his life depended on it. He fights rough and tough but is by no means crude. There's much skill in what Porter does.
Porter also has physical gifts, the likes of which can’t be learned in a boxing gym. In his last two fights, against upper-echelon welterweights, Porter wasn't just the better boxer in the ring; he was also the better athlete.
He was bigger, faster and stronger than Devon Alexander and ran through Paulie Malignaggi as if the latter had never engaged in a professional prizefight.
At age 26, Porter is right where he needs to be if he hopes to cash in on a Mayweather bout as long as he keeps on winning.
Porter faces Brook on Saturday night at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. The two undefeated welterweights will battle it out for Porter’s IBF welterweight title in the main event of a scheduled tripleheader. The action begins at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime.
Both fighters are ranked in the top 10 at 147 by the Transnational Rankings Board.
Brook, age 28, hails from England. Since slipping past gatekeeper Carson Jones in July 2012 by majority decision, he has won four fights in a row, all within the distance, including a return match against Jones. His best win is probably a Round 4 knockout over Vyacheslav Senchenko.
Brook is tall and has fast hands. He’s a solid boxer with a good skill set.
But Brook is not a world-beater. He stands straight up when he fights and does not possess much of a defense against counterpunchers.
While Brook insisted to Daily Mail’s Jeff Powell he’d be the victor on Saturday, it’s hard to imagine Brook having enough firepower to keep the hard-charging Porter off of him over a 12-round fight.
Moreover, it seems at least partially foolhardy to expect Brook to make the jump up in class so easily. While both Brook and Porter have made strides as up-and-comers, only Porter has taken other fights at the world-class level, particularly his last two.
Regardless, Brook is a talented fighter with minimally enough gumption to take his first world title opportunity across the pond and in enemy territory. If Porter isn’t a legitimate, elite-level performer, Brook is exactly the kind of fighter who could make mincemeat out of him.
Porter doesn’t just need to defeat Brook. He needs to look good doing it. For Porter, that means he can’t get caught up in any shenanigans that Brook might employ as a defense against Porter’s aggressive style. If Brook wants to hold Porter once he gets in close, Porter will need to let his hands go enough to make the prospect of tying him up too dangerous.
Porter is an explosive fighter who uses bursts of aggressive energy to overwhelm his opponents. If the fight goes the distance, he’ll need to be sure he can keep up the pace as he did against Alexander.
Making his case for a Mayweather bout means he can't just win, but he has to show he can fight at a high level for every minute of every round.
Boxing has always been a global enterprise, but American fighters were once the standard bearers for boxing’s elite. Things are changing now.
If Porter hopes to help buck the trend, he’ll need to take care of business against Brook. If he can do that, and if he can continue to show improvement from fight to fight, as he's done in the past, there’s no reason to think he won’t be able to give Mayweather a serious run for his money should Porter’s dream fight become a reality.
Kelsey McCarson contributes to Boxing Channel, The Sweet Science and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @KelseyMcCarson.