By Brandon Estrict, Doghouse Boxing
For as extensive as his amateur background is, 22-year-old Shawn Porter is best known to boxing fans as Manny Pacquiao’s chief sparring partner. Porter was brought in by Freddie Roach last year to help prepare his prized pupil for Miguel Cotto.
Roach, three-time BWAA Trainer of the Year, figured the stocky, thickly-muscled Porter would be great for emulating the style of Cotto. Turns out, Porter was better for much more than that.
Almost instantly, “Showtime” was turning heads at the famed Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, CA. He was giving Pacquiao all he could handle.
The sparring was so good that Porter’s been retained by Roach for Pacquiao’s next fight with strong African Joshua Clottey. Quite a feather in the cap of a young prospect to be testing himself daily against the man widely regarded as the best fighter on the planet.
Through it all, the humble, soft-spoken Porter remains appreciative of the opportunity and the attention he’s getting as a sparring partner. He doesn’t feel the need to inform anyone (though we will) that he captured the 2007 World Golden Gloves Championship, or that he compiled an astounding amateur record of 262-11. Porter’s superior athletic ability extends far beyond even boxing. The Akron, Ohio native (don’t ask, he’s never met LeBron James) broke his Stow High School’s all-time rushing record, a mark previously held by NFL-great Larry Csonka.
An NFL future was not in the cards, however. Porter decided to turn down various football scholarships and focus on making the 2008 Olympic team. Though he boasts amateur victories over current pro prospects Danny Jacobs, Demetrius Andrade, Edwin Rodriguez, Shawn Estrada, and Jonathan Nelson, he came up just short in qualifying.
Porter was disappointed, but as we’ll get into, he had a plan. He’d experienced a setback that only intensified the hunger that was brewing inside of him.
Today, at 11-0 (9), he’s feasted on every opponent since turning pro shortly after his Olympic experience. This Friday, he looks to continue his ascent as he will headline ESPN’s Friday Night Fights card, taking on tough veteran Russell Jordan for a WBO-NABO light middleweight strap.
I was recently able to catch Porter during a break between training sessions, and he was kind enough to speak on a range of issues, exclusively to Doghouse Boxing!
BE: Shawn, it’s a pleasure to have you on Doghouse. I know you’re pretty busy making final preparations for this Friday, so we’ll get right into it. I’ve heard rumblings of suspicious match-making at the Olympic trials. The rumor is that you drew an opponent you shouldn’t have been fighting in the preliminary round, or something along those lines.
Porter: Nah, I won’t say that. I just fell short at the trials. From there it was only about pushing (my Olympic teammates) in Beijing and getting them ready to fight and to be at their best. My main focus was immediately to come back home and turn pro.
I was there in Beijing for six weeks, came home and fought my first pro fight a month later. I had goals on being an Olympic representative and making my country proud, but when it didn’t work out, me and my dad had my debut lined up and I turned pro in October 2008 (*he dispatched Norm Johnson in 77 seconds).
BE: Russell Jordan, your opponent this Friday, probably represents your toughest test to this point. He’s got good height as well. What do you know about him?
Porter: I know a lot about him actually. We have film, something like 12 fights on him, and I’ll come up with a good fight plan to beat him. He’s a 6’2” southpaw, but he doesn’t use his reach well and he’s not very strong. He’s tailor made for Shawn Porter and I won’t disappoint!
BE: 6’2” is great height for a light middle. That’s a perfect setup for my next question. You’re 5’7” and don’t have a very long reach. Starting your career at 154 lb., the next step would be 160 lb. You’d be at a significant size disadvantage virtually every fight. That isn’t to say you don’t have the ability to make up for it but my question is, have you ever thought about a move down to the Welterweight division?
Porter: My team has talked about welterweight, and we’re definitely going to try and do it before the end of the year. But we’ve got to do it properly, with a couple of catchweights along the way. We definitely want to get to 147 lb. though.
BE: Have you ever had any problems making the 154 lb. limit?
Porter: No, not at all. I fought amateur at 155 lbs. so when we were ready to turn pro it was like I’d already been working on getting my body weight down for three or four months before my first fight. I had a chance to give my mind and body time to adjust to fighting at that weight, and we’ll follow the same guidelines to get down to 147 lbs. with a couple catchweight fights on the way. Probably a few fights at 151-152 lbs., then 150 lbs. Eventually, once we get comfortable, down to 147 lbs.
BE: What’s next for you, after Jordan? Do you guys plan on taking a big step up soon, or pursuing a title in one of these weight classes?
Porter: Uhh, I’m not sure yet. We actually talked about just that two days ago but we have to stay focused on this fight with Jordan because it’s my first fight for a championship belt (WBO-NABO).
We definitely aren’t looking past anyone so I’ll let my promoter (Prizefight promotions) and my coach (father and former Cleveland, OH amateur fighter, Kenny Porter) handle it down the line and we’ll see what’s up before the end of this year hopefully.
BE: I know you’ve heard this question a million times before but we’ve got a large Manny Pacquiao following at Doghouse, so I’ve got to ask you again! How does the experience of sparring with Pacquiao help you as a fighter?
Porter: It’s always great man! I actually just went four rounds with him on Saturday (February 13) and he’s looking great. We’re still here at the Wild Card right now but we plan on flying out Tuesday morning. We got some hard rounds in on Saturday though, and he always makes me step my game up. We bring the best out of each other, we got at it man! We’re both so fast; it’s definitely a high speed chess match in there. It’s always a pleasure to get in the ring with him.
BE: Just having been in the ring with him, what’s your prediction on his fight with Clottey?
Porter: I’m looking to see him do exactly what he did with Cotto. Get in his head, play with him, and use his speed and quickness to set up hard shots. He should wear him down and get him out of there late in the fight.
BE: Being as Clottey’s never been stopped, or even hurt that I recall, that’s a pretty bold prediction.
Porter: Yeah, Clottey’s a strong fighter so this is an interesting fight. We didn’t get what we expected from Cotto but I think we’ll get more of a fight from Clottey. Pacquiao is ready for it.
BE: If a Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight ever does materialize, who wins that fight?
Porter: That would be incredible! It’s the best fight and I can’t wait man, I just hope they make the fight. I can’t choose a winner on that one, because as you know styles make fights. That’s going to be a great fight and I hope it happens because both guys have the right style for one another. The better man will win.
BE: Did you agree with the drug testing stance that Floyd took or do you see it as mind games? In that same position, would you have taken the drug tests to make the fight?
Porter: I think it was a little of everything honestly. It was a little of him (Floyd) trying to dodge the fight, and a little bit of mind games. I think he was trying to control the fight, and as well he should. He’s an undefeated champion, so he has to takes all precautions.
I do think he was asking for a little too much and I respect Pacman’s decision. It’s not always all about money; you’ve got your dignity and your pride. If Manny gives that up first, where is his mind at going into the fight now?
BE: That’s a fair point. Back to you though, and your upcoming fight on ESPN. Best of luck to you, and is there anything you want to say to Doghouse Boxing?
Porter: I want to thank all the fans for reading and checking for me. I also want to thank all the Filipino fans for all the love they’ve showed and the way the support me. I’m blessed to have them backing me up in this sport . Everyone just watch the fight this Friday, I’m going to put on a show!