Even with focus firmly on Berto, Porter still longing for rematch with Thurman

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If it were up to the fans at Barclays Center last year, Shawn Porter might be sitting atop the 147-pound division right now.

Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman

Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman landed virtually the same number of punches in their June 2016 title bout. CompuBox stats had Porter landing 236 of 662 overall punches, and Thurman connecting on 235 of 539. (Ryan Greene/Premier Boxing Champions)

In challenging unbeaten world champion Keith Thurman for his world title in Brooklyn, New York, last June, it was Porter who received the loudest cheers from the Barclays crowd after the bout.

Porter’s father and trainer, Kenny, recalled how his son won over many fans with his performance that night.

“Shawn was booed when they announced his name [in pre-fight introductions],” Kenny Porter said. “But when the fight was over with, before they made the announcement, if you were to go back and listen… in unison, as one, the crowd is saying: ‘And the new ... !’”

But that’s not what ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. had to say. All three ringside judges scored the bout—which was a Fight of the Year contender—115-113 in favor of Thurman, who then went on to unify 147-pound titles in March by beating previously unbeaten Danny Garcia.

“Showtime” Shawn Porter (26-2-1, 16 KOs) still disagrees with the decision—after all, he and Thurman were about even on punches and he was the more aggressive of the two that night—but he’s not bitter in the least.

Now preparing for his 147-pound world title eliminator against former champion Andre Berto (31-4, 24 KOs) in a return to Barclays Center on Saturday night (Showtime, 9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT), Porter remains proud of his performance last summer.

The 29-year-old former world champion believes his fight with Thurman helped galvanize their sport.

“Boxing is back on the map now, not just because, but largely because of what Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter did back in June,” Porter said. “I want a rematch with Keith Thurman. I want to be able to say, ‘Nobody can beat Keith Thurman, but I did.’ I want all of that.”

Losing to Thurman wasn’t the first time Porter had been turned away in a world title bout. After winning a world championship by beating Devon Alexander in December 2013, and then defending the title four months later with a win over Paulie Malignaggi, Porter lost his crown to Kell Brook by majority decision in August 2014.

While Porter’s aggressive style is certainly attractive to fans, it doesn’t always translate to the scorecards. And even though he realizes that keeping the result out of the judges’ hands is paramount, Porter said he knows that’s “easier said than done.”

Boxing is back on the map ... largely because of what Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter did in June. I want a rematch. I want to be able to say, ‘Nobody can beat Keith Thurman, but I did.’ Shawn Porter, former 147-pound world champion

Against Thurman, for instance, he failed to blend his relentlessness with a compatible defensive strategy, and ultimately absorbed too many shots.

“I think there were just punches in that fight where I got hit clean,” Porter said, “and it left an impression on the judges.

“One thing we’re really focusing on is making sure I’m very responsible on defense. So just as much as punching, [I need to be] aware of where my head is and keep it out of the way of big, heavy punches.”

Porter’s aggression also invites some clinching and holding from opponents attempting to negate his come-forward approach. Adrien Broner was warned repeatedly for holding before having a point deducted in Round 11 of his June 2015 loss to Porter, and Kenny Porter believes Brook utilized the strategy against his son without consequence.

“There were points in the Brook fight where Shawn was breaking away from a hold and as soon as he would break away from it and throw a punch, Brook would grab him immediately,” the elder Porter said.

To prepare for the crafty 33-year-old Berto, Kenny Porter has instructed sparring partners such as former 135-pound world champion Mickey Bey to “‘tie him up and hold him’ during training sessions.

“He reacts with it really well,” Kenny Porter said. “We have a few things we do on the inside to break a clinch. We do a few things to stop the clinch from occurring by boxing and moving around the guy, so he’s doing well.”

It goes without saying that the Porter camp isn’t overlooking Berto, who Kenny Porter credits as being both fast and strong. But it’s also hard to ignore the implications of a victory in Brooklyn on Saturday night.

Thurman-Porter generated a peak audience of nearly 4 million viewers in what was CBS’s first prime-time fight in nearly 40 years. A rematch has the potential to be even more lucrative. And if the second fight lives up to the first one, Thurman-Porter has the chance to become a rare trilogy.

“I would venture to say if you put Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter on pay-per-view, it gets bought,” Kenny Porter said. “I’d say if you put Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman at the Barclays Center again, I’d say you’re gonna set records as far as ticket sales. I would bet money on it.”

For a complete look at Berto vs Porter, visit our fight page.

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