Forget Fight of the Year (it’s a lock right now) Errol Spence Jr vs. Shawn Porter may have been the greatest welterweight unification in boxing history.
Sure, it wasn’t a scheduled 15-rounder like Leonard-Hearns. But the see-saw action never stopped. And when it was all over, the 16,702 in attendance at Staples Center in Los Angeles were as exhilarated as the combatants.
Though there were no losers in this headlining event on PBC on FOX Sports PPV, there could only be one winner. Spence Jr. remained undefeated, adding the WBC World Welterweight title to his IBF strap by 12-round split decision.
Further, Spence showed that underneath his calm Southern demeanor, behind the traditional high guard and sublime southpaw skills, the Desoto, Texas native is all heart.
Spence (26-0, 21 KOs) first displayed his internal warrior in his title-winning performance versus Kell Brook back in 2017. The two fought on even terms through a torrid first six rounds before Spence pulled away, battering Brook until he sank to one knee in the eleventh.
Porter (30-3-1, 17 KOs) never folded, even when Spence’s picture-perfect counter left hand caused his eyes to roll in the back of his head and his gloves to touch the canvas. And in the end, the Akron, Ohio native earned the respect of an arena that was largely pro-Spence at the fight’s outset.
After a feel-out opener, both fighters went to work: Porter stepping inside Spence’s jab to unload combinations, Spence countering to the body. Back and forth it went, with the busier Porter winning the early frames with his awkward, mauling style and the elite athleticism that allowed him to instantly switch angles.
Spence found his rhythm in the fifth, using his jab to keep Porter at bay and countering whenever his shorter foe got past it. Spence continued to outbox him in the sixth but the action picked up again in the seventh as Porter found his second wind. Much of the frame was spent in close quarters, each fighter pounding away at the other’s ribcage.
The action kept getting better. In the eighth, a jab followed by a straight left to the solar plexus hurt Porter, who was forced to get on his bicycle…and then walked Spence into his own left, a hook upstairs, that momentarily buzzed him. Both stood their ground for the rest of the stanza, trading bombs like two nations without inhabitants.
Everyone stood and cheered as the round came to the close—and they were back on their feet during the high-action ninth. The bout appeared up for grabs headed into the tenth. At the start of that round, Spence bopped to the music playing on the loudspeaker. The crowd cheered in delight. Neither fighter showed fatigue in yet another exchange of body punches.
Then in the eleventh, Spence broke through. Using his jab to lure his opponent in, a beautiful counter left cross wobbled Porter and caused his gloves to touch the canvas. Porter gamely rose to his feet and then motioned for Spence to bring it on. He obliged, unloading his best even as Porter fought back with power punches.
Spence sought to close the show in the twelfth but it wasn’t meant to be. Porter never stopped returning fire. It was enough to earn him a 115-112 score on the card of Larry Hazzard Jr. Ray Danseco had it 116-111 and Steve Weisfeld 116-111, both for Spence, the new unified world welterweight champion.
After twelve hellacious rounds, the two combatants embraced.
“He’s a strong kid. We both came in to do the job,” said Porter. I think I had a little more than what he expected, but he handled it. Congratulations to him and his team. We’re proud of what we did.
“I think that knockdown was the difference. I couldn’t come back to the corner with my head down after that.”
“Shawn Porter is a rough and awkward fighter,” Spence admitted. “I didn’t get off what I wanted to. He’s a true champion. He made it tough.
“It feels good to win. This is a lifetime dream. It shows hard work pays off. Thanks Shawn Porter, my whole team and all my Texas people for coming out.”
Along with those Texas people, former two-division world champion Danny Garcia also came out—and confronted Spence in the ring, calling for a bout in 2020.
“My how the tables have turned,” Spence responded. “I’ve told my team, you line them up, I’ll knock them down.”
Whether that occurs, remains to be seen. But for now, one man stands atop the welterweight division, proving that he is indeed, “The Truth.”
Benavidez stops Dirrell in nine, reclaims super middleweight title
A new era has arrived in the super middleweight division. It began in January, when Caleb Plant won the the IBF 168-pound belt with a thrilling decision win over Jose Uzcategui.
And now David Benavidez, the 22-year-old phenom from Phoenix, Arizona is world champion once more.
Benavidez (22-0, 19 KOs) slowly broke down veteran Anthony Dirrell (33-2-1, 24 KOs), opening up a bad cut over his eye with a right hand in the sixth, and putting him away with a series of combinations in the ninth. Official time was 1:39.
Afterward, the new champion sank to his knees in jubilation.
“There are so many emotions coming at me at once,” said Benavidez. “We put so much hard work into this training camp. We left home and were away from everything. But I had the dream to become the youngest two-time super middleweight world champion and I made my dreams come true.”
Indeed, the sky is the limit for the 22-year-old champion. In the early going, Dirrell boxed well, stabbing Benavidez’s midsection with the jab and letting off the occasional flurry.
Benavidez calmly walked him down, maneuvering him to the ropes and firing off his own combinations. The steady pressure paid off in the fifth, when a right to the body followed by one to the head momentarily stunned Dirrell.
Another right in the sixth opened a huge gash over Dirrell’s right eye. The Flint, Michigan product did his best to fight Benavidez off but could only do so for so long. Benavidez worked him over in the following rounds, until he finally finished the job in the ninth.
“I felt it when the punch opened up the cut,” he stated. “Much respect to the champion. He fought his ass off.
“I could have kept going. I was still ready to fight. I didn’t go down and I didn’t quit. I could have kept going. He’s the true champion. In the whole lead up to the fight and with all the press, he was a champion.”
And now Benavidez is a champion all over again.
Mario Barrios scores two knockdowns to decision Batyr Akhmedov, win world title
His face swollen and body beaten against a Tasmanian devil of opponent, Mario Barrios dug deep. With seconds remaining in the twelfth, he uncorked a straight right that dropped Batyr Akhmedov to his knees for a second time in the bout, putting the stamp on his unanimous decision win and handing him the WBA world super lightweight title.
Judges’ scorecards read 114-112, 115-111 and 116-111, meaning the knockdown wasn’t needed. However, most observers saw it closer, with the drama in the final round sealing the deal for Barrios.
“I knew this was going to be a war,” said the new champion, who is now 25-0 (16 KOs). “He was getting dirty in there but the Mexican warrior in me was not going to let this opportunity pass me by. I dug deep and got the victory.”
Akhmedov (7-1 6 KOs) left him no choice, relentlessly pressuring him from the opening bell. A flash knockdown in the fourth didn’t slow his charge. Instead, he upped his attack, pounding away at Barrios until the second flooring left little doubt as to who the winner was. Nevertheless, the Russian has earned another major television appearance—and Barrios has earned a vacation.
Josesito Lopez stops John Molina in eight
Josesito Lopez was simply too skillful and too powerful for gutsy John Molina, flooring him three times in total before referee Ray Corona mercifully ended the bout at 0:39 of the eighth round of their scheduled 10-round welterweight affair.
“I knew he wasn’t going to quit. He’s a warrior,” said a jubilant Lopez afterward. “I had to keep on the pressure. I was thinking that hopefully the ref and the team made the right call to finish it at the right time.”
Lopez (37-8, 20 KOs) went to work quickly in the first, landing an overhand right that sank Molina to his knees for the fight’s first knockdown. He was down again moments later, courtesy of a left hook to the ribs. Molina slowly rose to his feet, using his experience to escape the frame without further damage.
Lopez never lost focus, consistently working behind the jab, which he landed up and downstairs. By the fourth, Molina (30-9, 24 KOs) had worked his way back into the fight, occasionally finding a home for his right. But he never came close to threatening Lopez.
Late in the seventh, Lopez dropped Molina again with a short left hook. He sought to close the show, even eating a couple power shots in the process in an effort to land his own. And that he did, battering Molina until round’s end. Another flurry in the eighth convinced Corona to step in.
“I wanted to keep going at the end,” Molina said. “I thought I was still coherent and could still move well. But you can’t go against what the referees say.”
In welterweight action, Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero (36-6-1, 20 KOs) won a workman-like 10-round unanimous decision over Gerald Thomas (14-2-1, 8 KOs). Final cards read 99-91, 99-91 and 98-92.
Undefeated super welterweight Joey Spencer dropped Travis Gambardella (5-1-2, 2 KOs) with body shots twice in the first, again in the second and then induced the stoppage with a right upstairs at 0:53 of the third round. He improves to 9-0 (7 KOs).