Why underdog role suits Shawn Porter in welterweight title fight vs. Terence Crawford

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Shawn Porter woke up one morning last week thinking about something that often crosses his mind – being the underdog.

He looked at the reflection in the mirror and thought to himself “it’s just crazy that people will consider me the underdog in this fight.”

“And the next thought is ‘It’s crazy that they always consider me the underdog’ and then the next thought was ‘Well, well, this is kind of where you live. Where you reside,’” Porter told USA TODAY Sports. “I don’t know why, but it’s always been that way no matter what I was doing or who I was going against.”

The opponent this time is his longtime friend, the undefeated Terence Crawford (37-0), in a welterweight title bout scheduled for this Saturday at Mandalay Bay Arena in Las Vegas. (TopRank promoted the pay-per-view available on ESPN.)

On the line is Crawford’s World Boxing Organization belt he’s held since 2018. But the Crawford-Porter dynamic goes back nearly 11 years earlier than that, to their amateur days at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, while they occupied different weight classes. The two share a “pretty good friendship,” Porter (31-3-1) said.

Back when they didn’t have millions of dollars at their disposal like they do now, Porter and Crawford and others would pass time walking around a nearby mall or shooting hoops. Porter considers himself the better overall athlete, but Crawford established himself as the better basketball player during their pickup games.

Porter lost the welterweight WBC title in September 2019 after a split-decision defeat to Errol Spence Jr., but he rebounded with an unanimous decision victory over Sebastian Formella last August for the vacant welterweight Silver WBC belt.

Shawn Porter celebrates after defeating Andre Berto during their welterweight fight on Saturday, April 22, 2017.
Shawn Porter celebrates after defeating Andre Berto during their welterweight fight on Saturday, April 22, 2017.

When Crawford moved up to the 147-pound weight class in 2017, Porter didn’t feel an immediate impetus to square up against his old pal. He never really considered it. But the reality is that boxers fight one another, Porter said, even if people still find it hard to believe he and Crawford are friendly.

Of course, neither had much of a choice. The WBO mandated the fight, with a 60-40 revenue split in favor of Crawford, this summer.

“People don’t like mandatories, but sometimes, they work out for the sport,” Porter said.

“For the first time in a long time, boxing wasn’t selfish,” he added.

For Porter, who has done fight commentary on Fox broadcasts, the welterweight division will always be highlighted in the boxing world. Combining that with the fight’s availability through ESPN “makes this fight special,” Porter said. He predicts a large viewership audience.

And that’s not to disparage the Pro Boxing Championship – Porter’s usual promotion group. He felt the Spence promotion was up to par, but ESPN is putting the “bells and whistles” on the Crawford promotion, he said.

“I don’t mean to pump up the network or anything like that,” Porter said, “but when you have a fight of this magnitude that the casual sports fan – that does not watch boxing – is able to see how unique this fight is, how special this fight is, the storylines behind this fight, it gets people interested.”

And in Porter’s mind – and this may be the confidence of any fighter speaking – Crawford has never faced an opponent like him. Porter never arrives to the ring with a “knockout” mentality. It’s preferred, for sure, but he’s not banking on it. There are multiple paths to victory, Porter said.

“I do feel like I can beat him by being aggressive and taking the fight to him,” he said.

While broadcasting, Porter will find himself encouraging a fighter to throw certain punches or combinations. Throughout this training camp -- led by his father and longtime trainer Kenny Porter – he’s focused on turning those constructive criticisms inward.

“I hold myself to a standard since I began broadcasting,” Porter said. “And the standard is that you got to walk the talk. You can’t just talk about it, you got to be about it.”

And it’s the underdog mentality Shawn Porter has long been about.

“If you’ve seen me fight, you wouldn’t consider me an underdog, you would just consider this a great fight and let the best man win,” he said. “But, in this case, as always, I am the underdog.

“I’m used to it.”

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Terence Crawford vs. Shawn Porter fight on ESPN brings out ‘underdog’