The first weekend of summer will start with a bang in the boxing world, as the Premier Boxing Champions series returns to NBC, this time featuring a highly anticipated bout between two young, former champions on the comeback trail. Adrien Broner vs. Shawn Porter is the kind of fight that could only have appeared on premium cable just a year ago.
But Saturday night they will do battle on free television.
NBC will broadcast live from Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden Arena, starting at 8:30 p.m. ET. The televised undercard fight will feature 2012 Olympian Errol Spence Jr. versus hard-hitting Roberto Garcia, so the main event between Broner and Porter should kick off sometime between about 9:45 and 10.
Broner was a three-division champion by the time he was 23. He's a brash, cocky star whose antics have turned some boxing fans against him. But no one can deny his speed and technical skill.
Porter is a bruising and athletic fighter with good ring intelligence. His December 2013 victory over Devon Alexander earned him the IBF welterweight title, and his Round 4 TKO of Paulie Malignaggi in April 2014 solidified his status as one of the sport's rising stars.
But both fighters enter this bout in the middle of an uphill climb back to the top. Broner lost the WBA welterweight belt to Marcos Maidana by unanimous decision in December 2013, when the Argentine brawler dropped him twice and sent him from the ring in tears. Broner has since dropped down to junior welterweight and won three straight against second-tier competition.
Porter lost his IBF welterweight belt by majority decision to Kell Brook in August of last year. This past March he knocked out the virtually unknown Erick Bone of Ecuador.
For both Broner and Porter, this is the true test they've been working back toward. The winner will pick up a high-profile win on his resume. The loser will be left to regroup in the sport's most competitive weight class.
The mutual risk that these two represent for each other is reflected in the odds going into this fight. Odds Shark had Porter opening as a slight favorite at just minus-152 and Broner as a minor underdog at plus-120.
But those odds have only gotten tighter by the day, with Porter now listed at just minus-125. The odds on Broner have grown to nearly even money, at between plus-105 and minus-105. This is a significant shift in just the past 24 hours.
For the line to keep moving like this as the fight approaches is an indication of just how excited bettors are over the bout.
If this fight were being fought at the true welterweight limit of 147 pounds, I would pick Porter with little reservation. Broner is quick and crafty, but he has never used his jab enough or been busy enough with his combinations to keep a relentless, athletic mauler like Porter away from him.
Maidana smothered and beat up Broner in December 2013. While Porter doesn't have quite the same power as Maidana, he's at least as strong and athletic, with sharper boxing skills.
Broner has made better use of his jab in his past three fights, particularly against John Molina in his last bout. But Molina is a lanky fighter who throws slow, wide punches. Porter is a technical boxer who moves forward with explosive athleticism.
Still, the fact that this fight is at a catchweight of 144 pounds seriously complicates things for any prognosticator. Porter, a high school football standout, campaigned as a middleweight in the amateur ranks. He has already looked huge when making weight at 147 pounds.
Three pounds doesn't seem like a lot, but when you are talking about adding 48 additional ounces to an already tough cut, it can be brutal on the body. If Porter is unable to rehydrate and get back his energy levels and full leg strength between the weigh-in and fight time, he could be in for a long night with Broner.
A crafty speedster like Broner is not an opponent whom a fighter wants to face with tired legs.
But I'm confident in Porter's resiliency, and he'll have a good team to help him get the weight off and then recover quickly. Weight cutting has become a true science in modern combat sports, and Porter and his trainer/father are smart and experienced enough to make sure they are doing things correctly.
So ultimately, Porter will dictate the fight. He will bully Broner, smothering his attempts to mimic Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s shoulder roll. He'll beat Broner up and outwork him.
Broner has a decent chin and will dig in and truly fight when pushed. He showed that in his losing effort against Maidana.
Unfortunately for Broner, Maidana also showed the blueprint for beating him in that fight. And it's a blueprint that Porter will be able to follow en route to a unanimous-decision victory.