Keith Thurman has something Shawn Porter wants.
Porter, the former IBF world welterweight champion, goes into Saturday’s unofficial world title eliminator at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn against Andre Berto knowing that a win takes him back to the land of opportunity.
A land filled with world title chances, rematches, redemption and exposure that takes Porter back to the top table at 147lbs. Kell Brook (current IBF champion) and Errol Spence Jr square off next month in Sheffield, England and you could argue that the winner would be in Porter’s sights towards the end of the year. But all eyes are fixed on one man. A man who has now unified the welterweight division and beat Porter in a 2016 thriller last June.
“I’d rather fight Keith Thurman again,” said Porter, 29, when nyfights.com presented him with the options of who he would like to face next should he overcome the 33-year-old Berto. “He has the WBC title, that’s the title I’m aiming for right now. That’s it.”
An answer that was short and sweet.
An answer that screamed ‘I’ve done enough media, time to get my game face on.’
But that isn’t Shawn Porter in my experience talking to him.
Charismatic, chatty and full of life despite having just finished training in the penultimate week before a fight that is clearly high stakes.
‘Every fight is important’. That’s a familiar soundbite from any boxer when you talk to them. Porter knows just how important his 30th fight is. It’s a topic he’s discussed with the media in the build-up to April 22. A win is paramount to his chances of facing Thurman or Brook or Spence Jr. A loss means slipping off the ladder more than a few steps, and starting that climb up once again.
“I’ve been saying that lately too, to the question why is this fight so important,” he acknowledged. “To me every fight has been important as this one but I think the thing about this fight, that makes [it] so special and important to me, is unlike all of my other fights, the championship is just around the corner. I know what’s next. In the past, it hasn’t been that way. In the past, I’ve had fights and I didn’t know which way I was going afterwards, but this fight… the championship is just around the corner and I love that part about this fight.”
What fans love about this fight themselves is that they will watch two well-conditioned, energetic, all-action welterweights who aren’t afraid to throw leather when the going gets tough. Two guys who love to entertain, two guys that could be smarter about things inside the ring but there’s an inevitability that this fight is going to be suckered into a war much sooner than much later.
“I think this is going to be an exciting fight,” Porter predicted. “I think we both have what it takes to win. We are definitely in great shape, great conditioning both physically and mentally and we’re ready to take this fight anywhere it goes. We’re going to be intelligent, faster, quicker, stronger and it’s going to be a great fight. I will be winning this fight.”
A win for Porter on Saturday will be his first since out-pointing Adrien Broner in June 2015. The Thurman fight came almost one year later to the day. Now we’re at the 10-month stage since the Ohio native last fought. This brings up the topic of inactivity. A popular one that will be discussed between now and next week with Porter, Berto and Wladimir Klitschko – before his heavyweight superfight against Anthony Joshua – all suffering from the dreaded I word for a variety of reasons. It has its upsides, it has its downsides as Porter explained to nyfights.com.
“It’s a kinda up and down rollercoaster sometimes. Sometimes you’re okay with the time off, but other times you realise ‘I’m not doing my job.’ My job is to fight, to perform and to make crowds scream my name. There’s definitely times that I’m relaxing and I’m appreciating the relaxation I’m getting to have. Boxing is my job and being able to perform is what I do and what I love to do. Sometimes it’s an up and down battle. Sometimes I’m enjoying my time off but other times I’m wishing I’m able to do more. Anyway, the fight is almost here and I’m excited.”
And afterwards, should he have that vital 27th win on his record then all of Porter’s attention will turn back to Thurman.
It’s fair to say that Porter and Thurman delivered higher on value for money than Thurman and Danny Garcia did in last month’s recent welterweight unification, also held at the Barclays Center. The former was a battle of will and skill with both men at times swinging from the fences. The latter’s anticipation was greater but felt like an anti-climax.
Commenting on Thurman v Garcia, Porter told us: “I thought both fighters did okay. I thought both fighters could’ve done a lot better. I think if I’d been in the ring it would’ve been a much better fight with both guys.”
A point that was well proved last June. But what would he do differently next time against the now WBA and WBC world welterweight champion? We asked Porter would it be possible to do anything new or fresh or do the two long-time friends just bring out the highlight reel in one another?
“I would say if anything I brought it out in him,” Porter answered. “I forced the fight, I pushed the tempo of the pace and everything else. I think we will fight him a lot the same. I think you have to pressure Keith, but I think we’d be more intelligent with the punch direction, the combinations and definitely a lot more patient here and there but would definitely apply the pressure again.”