Sunday, 26 June 2016

Keith Thurman wins unanimous decision over Shawn Porter in brutal slugfest

NEW YORK — The welterweight title fight between Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter was in the works for close to a year, and when it finally came to fruition, it delivered beyond all expectations.

They waged war in a slugfest that will surely receive strong consideration for fight of the year, and in the end, all three judges preferred Thurman’s cleaner, more accurate shots, turning in identical scores of 115-113.

Thurman (27-0, 22 KOs) retained his WBA welterweight title Saturday via unanimous decision, but the crowd of 12,718 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center booed the decision and gave Porter a thunderous applause during his post-fight interview, clearly in favor of the Las Vegas man’s rugged, pressure style. USA TODAY Sports scored it a draw, 114-114.

The 147-pound bout was the first on CBS in prime time since the initial meeting between Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks in February 1978.

“I want to thank Shawn Porter for a tremendous fight, he’s a great warrior,” said Thurman, 27. “Defense is the key to victory. He smothers his punches a lot and makes it difficult for the judges to score. I was able to rock him with clear, effective blows and I believe that was the difference today.

“It’s all about defense. I had a great defense today.”

The bout was in talks for a Fall 2015 date and then was officially scheduled for March 12 but Thurman suffered whiplash in a car accident. The Clearwater, Fla., native was cleared for sparring just three weeks before fight night, but was sharp from the opening bell and was the cleaner, sharper puncher.

Per CompuBox, Thurman connected on 203 of 405 power punches (50%); Porter landed 177 of 460 (38%). The fight could have gone either way, but Porter (26-2-1, 16 KOs) didn’t make excuses or complain about the decision.

“At the end of the day, I’m blessed,” said Porter, 28. “We worked hard, Keith is a great champion. My dad (trainer Kenny Porter) says to keep your head up. I think I won the fight, but I’m satisfied because the competitor came out tonight.

“We need that rematch. I know the fans want that rematch. If he gives me another chance, I’m going to work hard in the ring and leave with his title.”

With the kind of tremendous action they created in the ring, a rematch is a no-brainer and an easy sell.

Porter charged out of the gate and they waged a fast pace in the opening round they kept up most of the fight. Thurman was able to counter Porter coming in on a number of occasions, and wobbled him several times throughout the fight, but the Cleveland native never wavered.

He unloaded on the champ in Round 2 after pinning him to the ropes to the tune of 70 punches (27 connects). Porter was effective on the inside and slipped in right uppercuts and effective body blows.

Thurman, who was making the third defense of his title, showed that he could handle the pressure of not only a top fighter, but the big stage. He had never faced a fighter of Porter’s caliber, but proved that he’s indeed the best welterweight in the world with Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao ending their careers (at least for now).

Thurman drilled Porter with a massive overhand right in Round 3, but Porter rallied and kept coming forward.

Each round seemingly featured several wild exchanges, which all brought the crowd to its feet. Porter, who held the IBF welterweight title but lost it to Kell Brook in 2014, began to find a home for his looping shots in the middle rounds, but his best asset might have been his chin.

“One-Time” is considered one of the biggest punchers in boxing, and he landed many flush shots squarely on Porter’s head. While his legs were shaky on several occasions, he never came close to hitting the canvas and never stopped punching.

“Showtime” badly hurt Thurman with a left dig to the midsection in the eighth which forced the champ to grab on.

The best was yet to come, though.

Round 9 will garner consideration for round of the year when 2016 is in the rearview, a savage three minutes of fisticuffs. Porter buzzed Thurman and then they traded blows in the middle of the ring for the remainder of the round.

Thurman has a great chance to be the face of boxing with his unique look, charismatic personality and power. If he keeps winning, the opportunity is there to fulfill his dream of becoming a household name.

But Porter is certainly no loser. Not when a fight of this magnitude delivers this kind of action and at this skill level. He parlayed a win over Adrien Broner to secure this assignment, and the loss shouldn’t be a setback.

But perhaps most of all, boxing was the winner. In a year filled with mismatches and few tremendous action fights, Thurman-Porter was the elixir so many fans sought.

“To have a fight with that kind of anticipation and you have the best fighting the best, and then you get a fight of the year candidate,” said promoter Lou DiBella, “you get what you anticipate, and you get what on paper you hoped it would be. This was a good night for the sport.”

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