Spence-Porter, Dirrell-Benavidez: Glory and Redemption

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The stakes are high this Saturday on FOX Sports PPV as Errol Spence and Shawn Porter engage in a welterweight world title unification and Anthony Dirrell put his 168-pound strap on the line versus David Benavidez.

In a talented and lucrative welterweight division with a handful of elite-level players scrambling for top dog status, bigger and bigger wars are emerging.

This Saturday, September 28, headlining a PBC on FOX Sports Pay-Per-View event live from Staples Center in Los Angeles (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m PT), IBF World Welterweight Champion Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr. (25-0, 21 KOs) meets WBC titlist “Showtime” Shawn Porter (30-2-1, 17 KOs) in a high-stakes, twelve-round title unification war.

Underneath the highly-anticipated main event, a stacked undercard gives fight fans a bit of everything. A co-feature clash between WBC World Super Middleweight Champ Anthony Dirrell and undefeated former champ David Benavidez promises to steal the show while Mario Barrios and Batyr Akhmedov meet in a battle of undefeated rising stars with the vacant WBA super lightweight belt at stake. Also on the pay-per-view telecast will be a good old-school blood and guts battle between veteran warriors Josesito Lopez and John Molina Jr.

The Story

Historically a glamor division in boxing, the welterweights are, arguably, second to only the heavyweights in overall significance to the sport. With legendary figures such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Carmen Basilio, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, Henry Armstrong Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, and so many others having made their mark in the division, the historical significance of the 147 lb. class cannot be underestimated.

Errol Spence Jr. and Shawn Porter have become part of that lineage of greatness, both making their mark as elites in the present-day class. After the smoke clears from Saturday, the winner will be the undisputed number one welterweight today.

High water-mark wins over Mikey Garcia, Lamont Peterson, and a title-winning effort over hometown hero Kell Brook in Sheffield, England make the case for Spence being a present tense great. A win over Porter adds even greater weight to his resume.

Porter’s best performances have come in wins over Danny Garcia, Devon Alexander, and Paulie Malignaggi, as well as razor-thin losses to Keith Thurman and Kell Brook.

The Stakes

With both the IBF and WBC belts on the line, Spence vs. Porter will see the victor take one full step closer to undisputed champion status in the deep and talented welterweight division.

Aside from the belts and the accompanying titlist bragging rights, both are also battling for personal/professional goals.

Spence, regarded as one of the pound-for-pound best in the world, is looking to become a true crossover star in the sport and an established pay-per-view draw. Beating a high-profile name like Porter, while adding a second world title, will go a long way towards making him as big as he is good.

Porter, meanwhile, wants to flip the script on his professional reputation to go from being someone who takes on all the toughest challenges and pushes them to their limit to someone who beats the biggest and the best each and every time. A win over Spence immediately places him atop the division.

The Matchup

The 29-year-old Spence, a 2012 Olympian, is an elite talent in his prime.

Physically strong and technically sound, the Desoto, Texas native is almost the perfect offensive fighter. Engaging from the southpaw stance, Spence is always in position to punch and gets great leverage on everything he throws. A dedication to body work is indicative of his all-around patience and calm-headed confidence as a fighter.

Defensively, the reigning IBF champ with three defenses under his belt, is underrated. Spence is a smart boxer with a high ring IQ who controls distance well via his rock-solid jab. A lack of head movement makes him a hittable target upstairs— at least in theory-- to those able to deal with his offensive tools and general physicality.

Porter, 31, has proven himself to be among the most rugged, most fearless fighters in the game.

Hailing from Las Vegas, by way of Akron, Ohio, the now two-time world champ is a physically gifted athlete with a heaping dose of will to win. Porter is most effective barreling forward and overwhelming opposition with activity and messy aggression, but has recently shown an inclination to “box,” using his athleticism to fight from the outside while occasionally jetting forward to land scoring blows.

Porter’s best defensive assets have been a sturdy chin and an awkwardness in approach that makes him difficult to catch flush

The Breakdown

Spence is so good at what he does that it’s hard to envision a scenario where he could be outboxed by a boxing-minded Porter.

In order to beat the favored IBF champ, Porter will have to go back to being the wild bull of the past, rushing in to engage and bringing with him two-fisted, two-elbowed, and, sometimes, headbutting chaos. He’ll have to throw the calm, cool, collected Spence off-kilter and turn controlled combat into all-out war. In this particular case, having a two-and-a-half-inch height disadvantage may actually be to Porter’s advantage as he looks to work his way under Porter’s jab and take the fight to the inside.

Spence, meanwhile, must be unflappable and laser-focused. That means tagging an incoming Porter with a thudding jab and grinding the vitality from him with body work and well-placed shots up top.

There is a definite path to victory for Porter, but, with so much on the line and history’s call pulling at both fighters, that road will be one hellacious ride.

In the co-feature of the evening, two-time and reigning WBC World Super Middleweight Champion Anthony Dirrell (33-1-1, 24 KOs) defends against former WBC titlist David Benavidez (21-0, 18 KOs).

The Story

34-year-old Anthony Dirrell is not only making the first defense of his belt in this second stab at a WBC championship reign, he’s trying to avoid losing the title in the first defense as he did just over four years ago against Badou Jack. A win over a highly-regarded young lion like Benavidez will also go a long way in establishing a memorable professional legacy for the veteran fighter and cancer-survivor looking to the last days of his career.

Benavidez, the youngest fighter ever to capture a 168-pound world title, is looking to recapture the belt stripped from him after testing positive for cocaine early last year. Aiming for professional and personal redemption, the 22-year-old “Bandera Roja” is burning for this main stage win against a fighter of Dirrell’s ability and name value.

The Stakes

Dirrell’s WBC super middleweight title is at stake, but both fighters view this showdown as a “must win” battle above and beyond a standard world title fight.

The Matchup

Both Dirrell and Benavidez are offense-first fighters who like to come forward and apply pressure on opposition.

Flint, Michigan’s Dirrell has decent hand speed and good all-around skills, held together with general toughness and a blue collar work ethic.

Benavidez, from Phoenix, Arizona, is a boxing natural and a child prodigy who made his pro debut at 16 and won his first world title at 20. Mature and poised well beyond his years, the 6-foot-2 battler hurls punches in bunches—most of them perfectly thrown and impeccably placed.

The Breakdown

Whoever wins this one will have to fight hard to get the “W.”

Both Dirrell and Benavidez are come-forward battlers by nature and rely heavily on their offensive output to beat down opposition. Expecting anything different from either in this biggest fight of their respective careers wouldn’t be realistic.

Expect a war of attrition on Saturday with Dirrell hoping to discourage and grind down the younger Benavidez in a slower-paced contest while Benavidez hopes to do the same against the veteran Dirrell in a faster-paced battle.

For a closer look at Spence vs Porter, check out our fight night page. 

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