For several years, hard-core boxing fans waited for Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter to square off to see who would prevail in a battle between 147-pound warriors and longtime friends. Those fans got their wish Saturday night, and they got an answer—barely.
In a give-and-take, blood-and-guts brawl that more than lived up to the hype, champion Keith Thurman (27-0, 22 KOs) overcame the bullish Shawn Porter (26-2-1, 16 KOs) to win a narrow a unanimous decision before a crowd of 12,718 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
All three judges scored the contest 115-113, but their scorecards varied greatly in the latter half of the bout. In fact, after Round 4, the judges were in complete agreement on just three rounds: the seventh, eighth and 11th, with the latter two going in Thurman’s favor.
After the victory, Thurman credited his defense for his ability to get the best of his old pal and successfully defend his world championship for a third time.
“I want to thank Shawn Porter for a tremendous fight; he’s a great warrior,” said Thurman, who was fighting for the first time since defeating Luis Collazo 350 days earlier. “Defense is the key to victory. [Porter] smothers his punches a lot and makes it difficult for the judges to score. [But] I was able to rock him with clear, effective blows, and I believe that was the difference.
“It’s all about defense. I had a great defense today.”
Porter, who had been out of the ring since upsetting Adrien Broner on June 20, 2015, suffered his second career defeat. The first was a majority decision setback to Kell Brook in August 2014 that cost Porter his 147-pound world title in his second defense.
As was the case against Brook, though, Porter didn’t go down without a fight—nor did he go down at all, becoming just the third opponent to hold up against Thurman’s notorious power.
That’s not to say Porter didn’t get rubber-legged on occasion.
For instance, Thurman’s clean right hand-left hook combination buckled Porter’s knees late in the third round, then the 27-year-old champion wobbled his opponent again with a left hook in Round 10 and an even more vicious head-swiveling hook in Round 11.
“I hit him with a right hand and he held on, tightly, and I knew he was hurt because he was very timid when the ref broke us up,” Thurman said of the big punch in the third round.
Each time, though, Porter not only absorbed the blows, but he fired back in kind, often bullying Thurman to the ropes and hammering away with a double-fisted attack to the head and body. Porter’s most telling shot of the night was a body-rippling left hook to the liver that staggered Thurman in a ferocious, high-octane eighth round that the champion swept on all three cards.
The liver shot was similar to one Thurman absorbed in the fifth round of his seventh-round stoppage of Collazo.
“I was bred for this sport. I’ve shown this time and again,” Thurman said. “When Luis Collazo caught me with a body shot, [I survived]. When Robert Guerrero gave me a hematoma in the third round, I went nine more rounds.
“Porter caught me with a decent right hand at least once, but my short punches on the inside, I think, were the keys to the victory.”
“ I would give him a rematch. It was a great fight. He was a great opponent. ” Keith Thurman, 147-pound champion on fighting Shawn Porter a second time
Always the class act, Porter acknowledged he was disappointed with the decision moments after the bout, but complimented his opponent.
“At the end of the day, I’m blessed,” said Porter, an Akron, Ohio, native who fights out of Las Vegas. “We worked hard; Keith is a great champion. I think I won the fight, but I’m satisfied because the competitor came out tonight.”
Kenny Porter, Shawn’s father and longtime trainer, called the 12-round tussle “a Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns type of fight,” referencing the two legends’ infamous 147-pound war in 1981. He said he believed his son got the short shrift by the judges.
“I thought Shawn was the aggressor, landed some good jabs, and didn’t get credit for the body work,” Kenny Porter said. “There were a lot of rounds we controlled, and Shawn was doing more than Keith.
“Keith rocked Shawn, but he was never really hurt. I thought there were some points we had Keith hurt, but not enough to just go after him.”
Delayed more than two months because of injuries Thurman sustained in a car accident in late February, the fight was expected to be a high-caliber war of skills and wills, and it was just that.
Throughout the contest—which saw both fighters overcome a cut around their eye—Thurman attempted to use upper-body movement, stay off ropes, clinch, and catch Porter ducking into hooks and uppercuts. At the same time, the 28-year-old challenger often executed his short inside game, effectively closing distance and occasionally smothering and battering Thurman to the ropes.
Underscoring how competitive this long-anticipated clash was, Porter had the slightest of edges in overall punches landed (236-235), but Thurman connected on more power shots (203-177). In all, the good friends who rose together through the amateur ranks fired more than 1,200 punches at each other, the overwhelming majority thrown with bad intentions.
With many in the crowd—the second largest to attend a boxing match in Barclays Center history—booing the decision, Thurman was asked about a possible rematch.
“I would give him a rematch,” said the lifelong Clearwater, Florida, resident. “It was a great fight. He was a great opponent.”
Porter said he’d gladly sign up for another go-round.
“We need that rematch. I know the fans want that rematch,” he said, gesturing to the cheering crowd. “If he gives me another chance, I’m going to work hard and [this time] leave with his title.”
Prior to Saturday, Thurman called his battle with Porter “a steppingstone” toward one of the men becoming the new face of the 147-pound division following the retirements of legends Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. The weight class features three undefeated champions—Thurman, Brook and Danny Garcia—as well as a slew of talented contenders and former titleholders, including Porter, Errol Spence Jr., Amir Khan, Andre Berto, Timothy Bradley Jr. and Jessie Vargas, to name but a few.
“The potential is great right now,” Thurman said, “and I think we’re on the right path with a lot of young talent with everybody in their prime.”
Hurd, Benavides earn TKO victories
In other televised action, Jarrett Hurd (18-0, 14 KOs) of Accoceek, Maryland, used a powerful right uppercut to score a first-round knockdown en route to a 10th-round stoppage of Oscar Molina (13-1-1, 10 KOs) of Norwalk, California.
Hurd, 25, was unloading on the 26-year-old Molina when referee Ricky Gonzalez halted the 154-pound fight at the 2:02 mark.
Also on the card, 19-year-old David Benavidez (15-0, 14 KOs) of Phoenix earned his seventh straight stoppage, this one by seventh-round technical knockout over unbeaten 170-pound rival Francy Ntetu (16-1, 3 KOs), a 34-year-old from Canada by way of the Congo.
For all of our pre- and post-fight coverage of Thurman vs Porter, check out our fight page.