Conventional wisdom said Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia, both former welterweight world titleholders with massive experience against many of the best fighters in their division, were about as evenly matched as one could hope.
And when they met for a vacant belt before a crowd of 13,058 on Saturday night in the main event of the 30th boxing card at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, they indeed put on a highly competitive and exciting fight.
But it was Porter, thanks to his relentless pressure, who won a unanimous decision to claim his second 147-pound world title.
Judge Don Ackerman scored the fight 116-112, and judges Julie Lederman and Eric Marlinski each had it 115-113. ESPN had it 114-114.
“I tell people all the time I don’t make predictions. I made a prediction and a hard one to live up to. I said I wasn’t leaving New York without this belt, and I’m not leaving New York without this belt,” Porter said. “I knew he was going to be accurate. The game plan for me was to be accurate from the outside and show we could beat him without roughing him up on the ropes. This title means a lot to me. It meant a lot to boxing, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Garcia said he felt that he won but didn’t complain too vigorously.
“I thought I did enough to win. It was close fight. The judges didn’t give it to me,” Garcia said. “I busted my head on the inside, plus a couple head butts on my nose. It is what it is; this is boxing.”
With the victory, Porter set himself up for a possible unification fight with Errol Spence Jr., who was ringside and very much wants to unify.
“The same way that you called Danny out, I’m going to call you out,” Spence said to Porter in the ring after the fight. “I think I’m the best welterweight in the division. I’m the truth, and I guarantee you I come home as unified champion. I definitely want that fight against Porter.”
Spence (24-0, 21 KOs) also has been linked to a possible pay-per-view fight later this year or in early 2019 against lightweight titlist Mikey Garcia, who is insistent on moving up two divisions to challenge himself against Spence. Spence has many options.
“It was a good fight. Shawn looked like himself. I didn’t see anything different in his style, so we should combine to make an incredible fight,” Spence said. “I’m ready for whoever next. Mikey Garcia, Shawn Porter or [titleholder] Keith Thurman. I want any and all of them.”
Spence is who Porter wants next and told him so in the ring.
“I knew Errol Spence would be here tonight. I’m ready for the fight. This is going to be the easiest fight to make in boxing,” said Porter, alluding to the fact that they both have been fighting on Showtime, both are with adviser Al Haymon and both want the bout.
Porter first won a world title in 2013, also at Barclays Center, as he outpointed Devon Alexander, and he made one successful defense, before losing the belt to Kell Brook. Porter has been trying ever since to get another belt, and he had come close in 2016; but he lost a very close decision to Thurman, who also took Garcia’s belt by close decision in March 2017 in the same building.
Now Porter has another title after a grueling battle with Garcia.
Saturday’s fight began at a measured pace, and when they both threw right hands at the end of the first round, Garcia’s connected and Porter’s missed, drawing cheers from the crowd. The action soon picked up, and they put on a very crowd-pleasing fight.
According to CompuBox punch statistics, Porter landed 180 of 742 shots (24 percent) and Garcia connected with 168 of 472 (36 percent).
Garcia’s punches landed with thudding impact that could be heard at ringside, including a hard left hook in the third round. Porter, two inches shorter than Garcia, tried to jab his way in but had difficulties early on.
Porter, known for bull-rushing opponents, came straight ahead in the fourth round and belted Garcia with several good body shots and a right hand upstairs as he got his offense going.
Porter’s offense was not consistent, however. When he couldn’t get inside on Garcia, Porter tried to maul, but Garcia stepped back and landed his shots.
Porter is notorious for getting his head involved in fights, and after an accidental head butt in the seventh round, referee Steve Willis warned him to be careful with his head. Porter had Garcia in retreat later in the seventh round as he lashed him with right hands over the top.
Porter (29-2-1, 17 KOs), 30, of Las Vegas, continued to take aim at Garcia’s body in the eighth round. Porter put his head down and bombed away inside, though he took a few right hands for his trouble in what was becoming an increasingly rough fight, especially on the inside as the fighters went toe to toe.
“He tried to outhustle me, mostly at the end of the rounds. He did a tremendous job,” Porter said. “It wasn’t necessarily about making it wild. My dad [trainer Ken Porter] wanted me to stay consistent with the body work and stay consistent with the pressure.”
Garcia had predicted a knockout win in under nine rounds, but the ninth came and went without either man being in any serious trouble. So many of the rounds seemed close that it was hard to pick a winner, especially late in the fight when they traded back and forth in the center of the ring — including in the 10th round, as they fired away with abandon.
“He was throwing a lot,” Garcia said. “I had my defense tight, so it wasn’t effective. I thought I landed the clearer shots. I thought I won this fight. I have to sit back, relax and see what’s next for me.”
Porter, who earned $1 million to Garcia’s $1.2 million, continued to pressure Garcia (34-2, 20 KOs), 30, of Philadelphia, in the 11th round, and Garcia answered counter shots in yet another close frame. With the fight seemingly on the table in the 12th round, they exchanged punches at close range over the final 30 seconds, save for one clinch, and the crowd rose to its feet in appreciation of the tremendous battle.