Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Spence-Porter: The Fight Of 2019?

In an era where there are multiple sanctioning organizations that each hold a claim to having world championships, there is a special anticipation that accompanies a unification bout. The very term “Unification” alone indicates that there is something more at stake than a world champion defending their crown against a top contender. While there are certain circumstances where multiple vacated world titles are put on the line in one fight, in the traditional sense, “Unification” usually means two world champions putting their respective claims to a world championship in a given weight class against each other to determine who is the best.

Such an occasion took place on September 28th at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA as Welterweight world champions Errol Spence and Shawn Porter put their portions of the World Welterweight championship on the line against each other. This fight appeared to be evenly matched and it was of interest to this observer as to who would be able to stand out from the other. What stood out for me initially was the movement of Porter early in the fight. Porter is normally known for being a pressure fighter, but in this fight, he used significant footwork and this tactical adjustment from his usual norm appeared to give Spence difficulty in being able to get into a consistent rhythm early. It did not however, prevent some heated exchanges of offense between the two early on in what was a fight fought at a high pace.

While this was definitely not the easiest fight to score both due to the pace of which the fight was fought and both fighters having periods of success, I felt that Porter had a narrow edge in terms of landing the seemingly harder punches, but it was also clear that Spence was the more active fighter in terms of activity. More on the statistical breakdown of this fight later in this column.

At the conclusion of six rounds, I had Shawn Porter ahead by a margin of four rounds to two.  As is often the case when it comes to close fights however, there can be plenty of interpretation as to who has the upper hand and as yours truly has often said over the many years he has covered the sport, it will often come down to what a judge prefers in their own individual criteria based on clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship, and defense that will ultimately determine how they score a fight.

The fight was very much up for grabs going into the second half. What made this bout so difficult to score was even though Spence was more active overall, it seemed like any time one fighter would land something significant, whether a combination of blows or a flush punch that more often than not were attention-grabbing, the other would almost immediately return offense. It was a task made even more challenging when one considers that both fighters displayed a full arsenal in terms of offense and threw every kind of punch that they could.

Through nine rounds, I had the fight even on my scorecard and this appeared to have all the makings of a decision that would be debated among both experts and fans, no matter what the final verdict would be from the three official judges. A true give and take battle that this observer frankly did not have a gut feeling as to which way it would go on the official scorecards.

A short left hook to the chin of Porter sent the WBC Welterweight world champion down in the eleventh round. Even though this could be described as what is often referred to as a “Flash Knockdown” because it was sudden, came out of nowhere, and did not appear to hurt Porter who got up immediately and told the IBF world champion Spence “Let’s Go!”, it proved to be a deciding factor as to who would win this “Fire Fight “ between two great champions.

At the end of the twelve round battle, I arrived with a scorecard of 115-112 in favor of Errol Spence with the knockdown in round eleven turning what may have ultimately been a scorecard of 114-114, a draw into a narrow win for Spence. As is the norm when it comes to close fights, it was not surprising to see a split decision rendered with two official judges turning in scorecards of 116-111 for Spence making him the unified IBF/WBC world champion.

Credit: BoxStat
A statistical analysis provided by BoxStat gives an indication of just how active both fighters were and the conundrum that it can represent in terms of scoring.  As illustrated in the graphic below, While Spence had an edge of fifty-six total punches landed out landing Shawn Porter by a total of 214 to 158. While this may indicate to some that this statistic was in fact the reasoning behind Spence ultimately getting the nod from the two of three official judges, the total punches thrown between the two fighters provide an illustration of how difficult it can be to differentiate when one factors in overall activity.
Credit: BoxStat

In terms of total punches thrown, Shawn Porter narrowed the gap between himself and Spence throwing 745 total punches to Spence’s 760. Neither fighter was overwhelmingly accurate as the reader can see, but like the other statistics, Spence did have a slight edge over Porter by a total percentage of 28% to Porter’s 21%. Although the three official judges did not have access to these statistics, what they do indicate is just how much action there was in this fight and how opinion can differ as to who got the upper hand based on what one saw with their own eyes. 
Credit: BoxStat

A clear Fight of the Year candidate that this observer feels will be hard to make an argument against. As is the case with most close fights and more specifically, those that are deemed to be in the running for Fight of the Year honors, the obvious question one can and should ask is when will there be a rematch?

It is difficult to say because both Errol Spence and Shawn Porter are a significant part of what is a talent deep Welterweight division and as tempting as it is to say that negotiations for an immediate rematch should take place as soon as possible, there are other opposition for both fighters that can all be viable options before a potential second encounter takes place. For now, both men deserve the opportunity to recuperate from what was a grueling and exciting battle. A battle that is deserving of being mentioned in the same conversations as numerous memorable unification bouts throughout Boxing history.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

Punch stat graphics and information provided by Used with permission.

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