The WBC World Welterweight Champion is armed with a team he trusts and the talent to shock the boxing world when he faces Errol Spence Jr. in a welterweight world title unification blockbuster Saturday night on FOX Sports PPV.
They call it an “audible” in football. The moment at the line of scrimmage when the quarterback surveys the defense’s formation and, in a play to throw off the opposition, calls out a new one — the audible.
It goes without saying that to pull off the successful audible, the quarterback needs to know his Xs and Os inside out. More importantly, he must command the complete trust of his teammates so that they seamlessly fall in line with the split-second change.
And that’s precisely what Shawn Porter’s father-trainer Kenny attempted to do back in March for his son. The duo was in the locker room at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, moments away from swapping punches with cagey Cuban Yordenis Ugas. Then, out of the blue, the elder Porter decided to tell his son to change up his game plan: he issued an audible.
“We were in the back room and my dad looked at me, out of his mouth, ‘God spoke to me and God told me that he can’t keep up with your hand speed or your foot speed. Tonight, we’re going to box him. This is how we’re going to win.’” recalled Porter. “This is where the audible came in…about 20 minutes before we walked out to the ring to fight.”
True to his father’s epiphany, Porter came out of his corner flicking the jab and circling around Ugas like a matador. He was boxing. The mauling, roughhousing style for which he had become best known for was nowhere to be seen. Porter came away with a split decision win, but in the eyes of many, he nearly blew it trying to be a cutie.
“We felt very comfortable what we were doing in the corner,” Porter said, “and I think it made the fight kind of close. No one – including the judges – expected that kind of fight from me, but whatever the case might be, I think I displayed that I can box.”
“I don’t expect anybody to understand us and our decisions,” said Kenny, who said he received the instructions from God during a mid-afternoon slumber in his hotel room on the day of the fight. “We’re Christians.”
Whether or not you agree with Porter’s strategy, one thing is certain, the bond between the fighter and his father — just about the oldest trope in boxing — is one of the surest certainties in an otherwise fickle, erratic sport.
This Saturday, September, Porter will put his WBC world welterweight title along against undefeated IBF counterpart Errol Spence Jr. in a 147-pound unification, live on PBC on FOX Sports PPV (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) from Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“ What people think doesn’t matter to me. What my dad thinks matters to me. ” WBC World Welterweight Champion - Shawn Porter
Porter (30-2-1, 17 KOs) will once again rely on his father to provide instruction and counsel. Their trust is the bulwark that has allowed them to fend off criticism from all comers over the years, everything from his roughhouse style to his father’s training methods, and of course, that decision to box Ugas.
“Reputation doesn’t matter to me,” Porter said. “What people think doesn’t matter to me. What my dad thinks matters to me. And (his) audible was not because of what anyone had said about me (not being able to box).”
And yet Porter is also keenly aware of what’s being said about him. Spence (25-0, 21 KOs) told him as much to his face when they appeared before each other at a news conference to announce their fight. Calling him a “dirty” fighter, Spence went on to point out how Porter uses his elbows and head to rough up his opposition. Later on, in a face-to-face conversation on FOX, Spence downgraded Porter even further, saying that his skills were only a matter of his “heart.”
“I think Errol may be buying into what he’s seeing in social media and what he’s telling himself and what his team has told him as well,” Porter said. “I think that he decided to run with that. If he took a look at my pedigree and the things that I’ve done as a professional, I think he’ll see that there’s much more skill and talent involved than what he may be honest about publicly.”
Porter knows that with a win over Spence, he can shut up his doubters for good. But he would be lying if he pretended that doing so is what motivates him. Win or lose, he is already at peace with who he is inside the ring.
“You know, I don’t have a chip on my shoulder,” Porter said. “I’m a two-time world champion. Numbers don’t lie. I didn’t get here by accident. Not everyone I’ve fought has said that I’m a dirty physical fighter. Some of those guys know that my skill and talent level was much higher than they had anticipated upon getting in the ring with me.”
Again, everything circles back to his father.
“My dad has taught me is that in boxing what anybody cares about is what you last did,” Porter said. “I think that if [Errol] slighted me at all, it’s a misconception that he has and he’s overlooking something, which you know, should become very evident in the fight — sooner than later.”
For a closer look at Shawn Porter, check out his fighter page.