He equates it to Christmas being canceled—you know, if Christmas entailed getting punched in the face (and when the in-laws are over, it just might).
Shawn Porter’s sitting on the lip of the ring at the Porter Hy-Performance Center, the well-kempt new gym he and his dad own and operate. It's nestled in a colorful corner of downtown Las Vegas where, in a nearby 7-11 parking lot, you can totally buy a cigarette from a dude in a crop top who dispenses them from a shiny chalice.
Right now, Porter should be in the toughest week of training in preparation for his title showdown with fellow 147-pound badass Keith Thurman, which was originally scheduled for Saturday.
But that battle for positioning atop the snow-capped peak of the division had to be postponed after Thurman was injured in a car accident.
“It’s almost like being a kid,” Porter says of the fight’s delay, likening it to Santa taking a sick day on the Big Day. “You’re looking forward to December 25, you’re looking forward to December 25, and now somebody announces to you that December 25 isn’t going to happen. Your whole Christmas is destroyed.”
Ah, well, best to sweat out the disappointment, right?
To this end, Porter is still in camp even though his clash with Thurman has yet to be officially rescheduled.
Soon, he’ll engage in a rigorous sparring session, overseen in part by referee Robert Byrd, who presides over a hard, heated scrap between Porter and Brandyn Lynch, the two going at it as if they wouldn’t be allowed to leave the ring until they jarred each other’s fillings loose.
The Thurman fight may have been shelved weeks ago—in theory, Porter should be chilling on a beach somewhere getting in a little r & r right about now, donning a hideous floral shirt instead of headgear—but he’s intent on finishing his training cycle.
It’s just the kind of guy he is: a grinder, a lifer.
None of this is meant to suggest that Porter wasn’t plenty bummed last month when he received word that the Thurman fight was being temporarily sidelined. Porter, who has been idle since dominating Adrien Broner on June 20, found out about it on a Monday.
At first, the news was tough to digest, like choking down a wad of gasoline-flavored bubblegum. It took him four days to do so.
“It honestly didn’t hit me until Thursday,” he says. “Monday through Thursday morning I was fine, the world was still turning, no problem. It wasn’t until I had a sparring session, and then after that, I realized that all that work I had put in kind of didn’t mean anything.”
And yet, his work wasn’t done—still isn’t, at least according to his father and trainer, Kenny Porter, who came up with a novel idea to keep his son sharp in lieu of an actual fight: Stage a 12-round exhibition bout at the same time the Thurman clash was supposed to take place.
“He understands the things that go on with fighters, both mentally and physically,” Porter says about his father. “If we’re not actually competing or being pushed, our focus may decrease, we may get fat, all that kind of stuff. So my dad just wants to keep me on my toes.”
The elder Porter had actually planned to stage an exhibition fight in the downtime before his son’s long-gestating fight with Thurman was officially announced for March 12.
Once the date was set and the fight was on, the exhibition was off.
But with Thurman hurt, he decided to move forward with the initial plan, recruiting Houston-based Lanardo Tyner as an opponent.
Tyner’s a hard-nosed veteran who’s been in with the likes of Lamont Peterson, Antonio DeMarco, Jessie Vargas and former 140-pound champ Vivian Harris, whom Tyner beat in 2011.
The 12-round closed exhibition will be streamed live at 10:30 p.m. ET (7:30 p.m. PT) on the Premier Boxing Champions Facebook page using Facebook Live's new single-camera streaming service. And Porter, who will also participate in a live Facebook Q&A after the scrap, insists this will be much more than a glorified sparring session.
Both fighters will wear headgear and larger, 16-ounce gloves, but everything else will approximate the standard fight-week routine, right down to a Friday weigh-in prior to the main event the following night. The fight will be worked by a pro referee and there will be mock judges scoring the action.
“We’re going to try to make it just like a fight, that whole mindset,” Porter says, “from rehydrating after the weigh-in, staying away from family and friends that night and then coming in here and putting on a show on Saturday.”
Having been in a holding pattern since he bulldozed Broner, Porter will likely have been out of action for about a year by the time he faces Thurman at a date to be determined.
It’s not his first extended break, however: Porter was inactive for a 14-month stretch between 2011-2012 when he was embroiled in a contract dispute with a former promoter. “It’s the same thing now, five years later,” he says, claiming to have learned how to deal with a frustrating layoff from past experience.
“The difference is that I’m able to look back on those days where I didn’t want to do anything, where I felt like, ‘It’s worthless, what’s the point?’ and look at it with more of a mature approach to it, like, ‘It’s going to blow over. It was fine before. It’ll be fine this time.’”
Besides, Porter is no mope—he always seem to have a big grin at the ready, a visible reminder of his affable personality. Contrary to the come-forward intensity he displays in the ring, Porter’s the opposite of a hot head. To underscore this point, he shares an anecdote from earlier in the day when he was out running errands.
“I was doing some bank stuff, and I texted my lady, I said, ‘They’re starting to make me mad, they’re bugging me,’” he recalls. “About 10-15 minutes later, I get in my car, I’m driving off, I played a song and I just had to laugh and get out of that negative realm. I had to remind myself that I’m different, and I have to stay positive all the time.
“That’s how I approach everything,” he concludes. “It’s just how I am.”
Shortly thereafter, he climbs into the ring.
The smiling ends and the work begins.