As boxing expands and is getting more television and streaming coverage than ever, it is also segmenting. It’s becoming increasingly rare for fighters to cross promotional and network lines to make the most compelling matches.
The long-held narrative is that promoters and network executives are to blame, but the WBC welterweight champion wants to add another group to that list: the fighters.
Shawn Porter, who defends his belt on Saturday against Yordenis Ugas in Carson, California, in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions show on Fox, said he feels boxing is in a golden age but added that he believes his peers need to become more vocal about getting the fights they want.
The walled garden that exists in boxing concerns Porter.
“That will hold the progress of the sport back at a time when so much good is going on,” Porter said. “The No. 1 reason being is that boxing doesn’t have a humongous following. It has a big following, but not a humongous following. Word of mouth is always important in boxing and it’s driving interest. And so if we who are the ones the most into the sport are saying, ‘This big fighter won’t fight that big fighter,’ well then, people who aren’t fight fans, that’s all they’re going to hear.
“That becomes the reputation of boxing, that the best aren’t fighting the best, and that’s a hindrance. The thing about it, though, we as the talent, the fighters, we can influence that. We can say, ‘Hey, I don’t care who so-and-so is with; I want to fight him.’ That’s what really needs to happen. If you want a fight, you need to speak on it and make your case for it.”
Porter insists he’s not looking past Ugas, who has won eight in a row since suffering back-to-back losses in 2014, but he’s already making his interests known.
Assuming he successfully defends the belt, Porter isn’t going to do what so many PBC fighters do and say he’ll talk to manager Al Haymon when asked who he wants next.
He has a short list and he’s not afraid to share it.
“I only have three targets and I don’t think it’s any surprise who they are,” Porter said. “[IBF champion] Errol Spence; [WBA champion] Keith Thurman; and [WBO champion] Manny Pacquiao. I’m not really looking beyond those three guys. I think those are the three best guys in the division who I have the opportunity to fight, and I don’t think at this stage I should be getting in the ring with anyone other than those guys.”
In the meantime, Porter has to keep his focus on Ugas, who is an aggressive fighter who figures to confront the champion in the center of the ring.
It has the potential to be a fight in the proverbial phone booth, where the two stand in front of each other and punch. But while Porter concedes Ugas will try to close the distance before him, he’s not nearly as confident it’s going to be a toe-to-toe slugfest.
“Ugas is an interesting opponent from the standpoint that, yeah, he’s an aggressive fighter who is going to come to me, but if you look at what he’s done, he’s aggressive without throwing a lot of punches,” Porter said. “He’ll stay in your face and crowd you, but he’s not a guy who is going to be throwing 50, 60, 70 punches a round.
“Everyone knows how I fight, and if Ugas decides he wants to be active and throw punches, yeah, this could turn into a phone-booth fight that everyone loves. But I see myself beating him to the punch, turning him, keeping it that way.”
Porter has an engaging, charismatic personality and is getting his feet wet in broadcasting as a co-host of the PBC’s “Inside Boxing” series on Fox. He said it has been a natural progression that started several years ago when he made the commitment to attend more live fights in person.
He said he intentionally didn’t want to go to scout potential opponents, but as he watched the fights, he learned that he was becoming more knowledgeable about his sport.
“I became more of a student of the game and I’d see things and ask myself, ‘OK, why is his doing this?’ and then I’d see it happen and I could understand why and that really helped me,” Porter said. “I began to pick up on the subtle little things fighters do, and even what they don’t do, and it helps me in what I’m doing now.
“Going on TV as an analyst, it’s fun to do and it’s a great opportunity for me to share my opinion. Of course, I know what is most important. I’m a fighter and that’s where everything begins.”
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