I had the opportunity to speak with top level welterweight Shawn Porter (26-2, 16 KOs) on Wednesday, as he took a brief break from his intense training camp where he’s preparing for his April 22 bout with Andre Berto (31-4, 24 KOs).
“Showtime” is an apt nickname for the explosive Porter. He employs a style that is becoming increasingly rare in the sport—one that brings to mind words like “buzzsaw”—as he relentlessly pressures his opponents in the ring.
Yet Porter also has skills like a strong defense and exceptional footwork and boxing ability that often get overlooked by most media and fans. When discussing Shawn, people often describe him as a “brawler” or purely “aggressive”—the latter doesn’t quite do him justice, and the former isn’t accurate at all. In fact, Porter doesn’t get hit clean often and he’s great at being able to cover distance fast, being relentless, and overwhelming; landing on his opponent, no matter how slick that foe might be.
Asked if this summary was accurate, Shawn responded, “It sounds very accurate to me, and I appreciate you for it—recognizing that. I think that’s something that’s going to play out in this fight, as well, the boxing ability that I have. I thought we boxed very well against Keith Thurman but we were also in line to be hit a little more than we wanted to. So I think moving forward, this fight, that’s something we really focused on, being what we call responsible in defense, and being able to hit him and not get hit.”
“It’s my dad,” Porter said when asked how his style developed into what it is today. “My dad has been training me my entire life, and I think he knew what would work for me. He knew as I grew the kind of athlete I was going to grow into. So I think the boxing ability that you see is something that has always been taught to me…the foot movement that you see is something we developed at a really young age as well. All of it. My dad saw what I could become and he structured everything that I did based on what he saw me being able to do at this age, at this point in my career.”
“Showtime” is a skilled fighter on the inside, an ability that has become something of a lost art in the sport in recent years. Even elite level fighters and knockout artists seem to have something akin to an aversion to working on the inside. I asked Shawn what it takes to be a good inside fighter, and how confidence and experience play into it.
“Yeah, you know, I think those are probably the key elements right there. The confidence and the experience. You have to be confident that you’re just as aware of your defensive movement as you are the offensive movement, because that’s what it takes to fight on the inside, both offense—to bang the guy, to hurt the guy—but also the defense, once you hit that guy, to make him miss and come right back. So those two play hand in hand, and I think the experience of learning how to do that along with the confidence in doing that.
“You know, I don’t know very many guys out there even now, after watching me fight Keith Thurman, are confident that they could push the tempo with Keith, and go at Keith without getting hit. They don’t have the confidence. I think it’s just something that is inside of me. I was confident that going after Keith would get the job done, that was the best way we could beat him, and I was confident that I was gonna be able to hit him and not get hit. Even if I did get hit, I wouldn’t be hurt to the point where I couldn’t keep going. So I think you hit the nail on the head with that one, I think confidence really plays a major role in that.”
One of the reasons an inside fighter like Shawn is highly entertaining to fight fans is because he has a knack for forcing his opponents to fight his fight. We generally see his opponents back off altogether or initiate clinches in an attempt to deal with him or break his momentum.
When I asked Shawn about this and the preparation he undergoes to help him try to impose his will on his opponents in the ring, he said, “That’s kind of…you know when people talk about boxing being a hard sport, and you don’t play boxing, you fight? That’s something I ‘play’ with. The fact that, at an early age, being able to get a guy out of his game plan, or force him to fight my fight—that became the fun part to me. That was the challenging part to me, and that was the part that made sense. So that’s something that, again, even at an early age, I recognized—if I could make a guy do what I wanted him to do, I have control of him, and for some reason that’s what makes me move, that’s what makes me tick the most. Even now, that’s always my mindset going into the ring, is I have my game plan, what I want to execute, what I want to do. But the other part of my game plan is not allowing the guy to get comfortable. And the number one thing with not allowing a guy to be comfortable is taking them out of their game plan and not allowing them to do what they want to do.”
For people who haven’t seen any of Porter’s previous fights, which one would he recommend they start with? “I would recommend two. I would maybe recommend Devon Alexander—you see the skills, you see the heart that I have, you see the excitement that I have. And I would offer maybe the Paulie Malignaggi [fight]. That fight was exciting from the opening bell. You see what you want to get. If you’re someone who likes knockouts, you’re definitely gonna get that in that fight.”
Porter takes on Andre Berto on Saturday, April 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The Showtime broadcast begins at 9pm ET/6pm PT.