Errol Spence Jr was forced to beat the rugged Shawn Porter at his own game over twelve hellacious rounds in Saturday’s welterweight unification title fight at the Staples Center.
Spence won on a pair of 116-111 scorecards while the third judge had it 115-112 for Porter to successfully defend his IBF title for the fourth time and capture the WBC belt.
Spence (26-0, 21 KOs) was simply unable to dictate the pace against Porter (30-3-1, 17 KOs) and had trouble throughout the fight with his roughhouse and mauling tactics. However, he scored a pivotal knockdown in the eleventh round to seal the win.
The pair gave the 16,072 fans in attendance a potential fight-of-the-year candidate bout that many will be talking about for months to come.
The 29-year old Spence had to dig deep but was able to come through in the second half of the fight in landing the harder shots to create separation in some of the closer rounds. In all, CompuBox had Spence out landing Porter by a margin of 221 to 172.
Porter, who was defending his title for the second time since defeating Danny Garcia in their September title eliminator was gracious in defeat.
“He’s a strong kid,” Porter said. “We both came in here to do the job. He got the split decision. I take nothing away from him I knew it was going to be a dog fight. I think he knew it was going to be a dog fight. He was victorious and I congratulate him and his team.”
The fighters engaged in an interesting chess match within the opening round with Porter darting in and out allowing Spence to come forward. No significant punches were thrown in this round although Spence managed to land some nice body shots.
Porter was the busier fighter over the next three rounds. He threw far more punches while Spence was more measured and judicious in his approach although he began to fall behind on the scorecards.
Spence appeared to be punching Porter below the beltline on several occasions and was finally given a warning in the third round.
Porter found great success in turning the fight into a slugfest and backing the bigger Spence into the ropes where he was able to land shots to the head and body. However, Spence was landing as well, doing great work to the body even while Porter was throwing the flashier punches.
Spence began to find his groove around the fifth round as Porter’s relentless activity started to slow down. The Texas native continued to pick up the pace in the sixth and seventh rounds with one hard body shot after another. Porter did a good job of slipping punches and getting on the inside but Spence was more accurate.
Spence’s face appeared more marked up than we’ve ever seen as Porter continued to outwork and outhustle him for stretches. In fact, he suffered a cut on the corner of his left eye, which marked the first time he had been cut in his pro career.
Both guys continued to let their hands go through the tenth round with neither man giving any ground to the other. The constant back-and-forth action made multiple rounds really difficult to score.
Spence would eventually breakthrough in the eleventh with a perfectly placed left hand to the chin as Porter was throwing a punch. The shot spun and dropped Porter to a knee but he rose quickly and resumed his assault after taking a short standing count.
The arena came to its feet in appreciation for both men to begin the twelfth round as they went back to brawling all the way until the final bell. Porter continued to apply the pressure but it was Spence who landed the cleaner and heavier shots.
Former welterweight champion Danny Garcia entered the ring to challenge Spence after the fight to a chorus of boos from the crowd. Garcia previously lost a decision to Porter for the vacant WBC title. Spence smiled when Garcia approached him but reiterated his interest in facing WBA champion and 40-year old legend Manny Pacquiao next.
“I’m the only unified champion. The next fight I do want is Manny Pacquiao. But if not, I’ll go against my man Danny Garcia,” Spence said. “Just like I tell Al Haymon, you line them up and I will knock them down.”