Posts Tagged With: Shawn Porter

Keepers


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Tonight we’ll see two of the most highly skilled gatekeepers in the sport.  Andre Berto, whose inexplicable progression through the ranks largely went unimpeded by his mediocrity, will take on Shawn Porter, who was rushed to the top of the division after avenging a draw with Julio Diaz.  I saw Porter summarily extinguish Pauli Malignaggi’s attempt at a return in 2014.  He certainly looked impressive in that fight, but he had a few elements of chance working in his favor.  For one, he had a 7-year age advantage, but more importantly, Malignaggi’s style was perfect for him.  Porter handed Devon Alexander his second loss, and most recently, triumphantly defeated the boorish Adrien Broner.  All these fighters should be counted as significant victories for anyone, but they’re also all clearly below the elite level.  The two shots Porter has had at the top of the division, against Keith Thurman and Kell Brook, were just short of disastrous.  While Porter adapted to Brook’s style well, the disparity in skill was unmistakable, and even more so with Thurman.

Andre Berto, on the other hand, never really had any significant wins to compare to Porter’s.  He’s solidly stuck between the middle and the top, and yet not quite at the level of other gatekeepers.  If I went by memory, I’d have been tempted to say Porter and Berto are at equal skill levels, but taking a look at Berto’s BoxRec stats puts things in perspective.  He was thrust into tough competition after ostensibly proving himself by beating a group of opponents beginning with David Estrada.  That group of four known fighters, upon which Berto built his reputation, all share a common pattern in their careers.  Estrada, Luis Collazo, Juan Urango and Carlos Quintana were all hot prospects at the time and seemed to be progressing quickly in the highly competitive welterweight division until they came up against a skilled opponent.  Before they ever fought Berto, all these fighters were hot prospects who had flown too close to the sun.  Estrada had been incinerated by Shane Mosley, Collazo by Mosley and Ricky Hatton, Urango also by Hatton, and Quintana by Paul Williams and Miguel Cotto.  After three losses to middling opponents at best (Victor Ortiz, Robert Guerrero and Jesus Soto Karass) Berto managed a win, albeit a big one, over Josesito Lopez, and suddenly he’s signing a fight with Floyd Mayweather?  Granted, it was a good pick for Mayweather for a stay-busy opponent, but what a mismatch.  It was the only Mayweather pay-per-view I ever skipped without any trepidation (though if they sign Mayweather-McGregor, that’ll make two).  Since then, the only fight Berto’s had (already a full year ago) was when he avenged his loss to Victor Ortiz.  Great that he can beat an aging Ortiz, but why he’s still getting in there with upper-level competition is beyond me, especially with these long layovers between fights.

We can expect Berto to start out strong and look sharp with his punches, possibly even pushing Porter back as they feel each other out and establish a rhythm.  Likely, though, by round three, the skill disparity will be evident.  Berto will begin throwing wide, looping shots and leaving his hands down after throwing.  Porter will be obliged to throw straighter punches, and he’ll connect more frequently than Berto.  Porter’s defense will be stronger, though he’ll probably stand and trade more than he should, a behavior Berto tends to elicit from his opponents.  I think that’s because they’re so shocked at the audacity of an opponent to come forward square, flat-footed, throwing looping shots like a scene from Road House.  Whatever the reason, we’re likely to see the two sluggers trade at some point in the fight, and that may make the whole thing worthwhile.  It ought to be a showcase for Porter, and a good name to put on Berto’s resume even though it’ll probably have an ‘L’ in front of it.  It might seem more filler than killer, but after this transition fight we’ll have a better idea of where Porter sits in the division.  If he dominates Berto, he may be in line for a rematch with Brook or even Thurman (if Thurman’s feeling unambitious), a shot at Danny Garcia, or any of the other top welters.

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Redistribution


I’ve been decompressing since my trip to Peru a few weeks ago, and since then there’ve been a lot of interesting fights, just not a lot of significant results.  For example, the recent showdown between Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman proved to be nothing less than what we’d hoped (for the most part).  The two former sparring partners went at each other with full ferocity for 12 rounds.

Porter was especially aggressive, using risky lunges to overcome Thurman’s distinct reach advantage.  The technique worked successfully, reducing Thurman’s output without putting Porter in real danger.  In fact, Porter landed as many or more flush shots than his opponent, but none were as effective as Thurman’s hardest shots.  While I think Thurman deserved the win, the cards were a little skewed by my recollection, and his performance was certainly discouraging to anyone who expects to see Thurman become the standout welterweight in the sport.  Fighting as he did against Porter, we can imagine similar problems against other fighters like Danny Garcia, Errol Spence Jr. or even Lamont Peterson.  I don’t include Khan in the list because while Khan could cause Thurman problems, he’s not likely to get the fight, and if he did, he’d be difficult for entirely different reasons.  The fight failed to show any improvement for Thurman, and even seemed to obscure his already confirmed talents, but the resulting stagnation also affected Porter.  While Porter’s performance was impressive based on our expectations, a loss against a lazy Thurman won’t keep anyone at the top of the division for long.  Despite the entertainment value, the fight doesn’t affect either fighter’s career much.

Thurman is still very young, though, and at least gives the impression of being hungry not only to win but to learn more after each fight.  If he’s sincere in his philosophical opposition to fighters like Amir Khan, he could keep improving and keep winning, and maybe even make it to the top one day.  If I were in his corner after the fight against Porter, I’d be telling him to work on two things: distance and timing.  Thurman uses his reach effectively when his opponent doesn’t try to take it away from him using timing and aggression, but when he’s forced to adapt, Thurman struggles.  Gaining confidence in his punches at full extension would make Thurman’s whole arsenal more formidable, and it would improve his ability on the outside tenfold.  Rhythm is an asset that can change the momentum of a fight immediately.  Some of the best fighters of our era, like Klitschko, Mayweather, Alvarez and Golovkin routinely give away the first 2-4 rounds in order to get a sense for how their opponents move and react.  Then, when they hit their “rhythm,” they’re unstoppable.  Thurman’s timing is impeccable and it’s usually noticeably superior to any opponent’s timing, and his speed is always on par.  What Thurman has showed less of in recent fights, and failed to show at all in his bout against Porter, is rhythm.  He needs to be able to fall back on muscle memory and a comfortable routine sometimes so he’s not always trying to improvise.  Oh, yeah.  And, you’re not Mayweather: keep your hands up.

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Tonight Chris Arreola will serve as replacement for Deontay Wilder’s previous opponent, Alexander Povetkin.  Povetkin tested positive for a banned substance before the fight against Wilder in May, so Wilder started looking for replacements.   Chris Arreola, who has admitted how undeserving he his of the title shot, will once again give his all against a physically superior fighter.  In the past when he’s been met with top opposition, Arreola has shined, showing his world-class heart and chin.  At other times, against lesser, sometimes much lesser opponents, Arreola has looked like what you would expect from his someone in his physical form: lazy, slow, dangerous only for a few seconds at a time.  My theory is that such a rare opportunity will inspire Arreola to perform the more way he did in the years when he kept coming up as mandatory title challenger year after year.  Unfortunately for him, nobody really expects Arreola to do well enough to win or even make it through 12 rounds.  For Wilder, this is one more box checked in his route to the top of the division, and at least he’s fighting someone with real experience and talent.  Some day soon, we can hope, we’ll get to see him silence the intolerable Tyson Fury and bring American heavyweights back to prominence.

Rather than focus our attention on superfights and hypotheticals, though, we should really be appreciating the small things in our sport of kings.  There may be no fantasy fight on the horizon, but the Olympic games begin in less than three weeks and for the first time we’ll see professional boxers fighting for their countries (with no headgear) against the new generation of pugilists.   America’s beacon of hope from the last summer games, Errol Spence Jr., is still going strong, building his talent and making a name for himself in the hottest division in the sport.  The talent pool is calming down and the detritus is settling to the bottom.

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