Opening Bell: Porter proves point
Shawn Porter won't dazzle anyone with his speed or power. But there are few fighters around who are in better condition and who have gotten more out of their ability than him. He's the ultimate grinder, who has learned well from his father/trainer Ken Porter and now is a two-time welterweight world titleholder after winning a very tight fight against former titlist Danny Garcia on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Porter won 116-112, 115-113 and 115-113 in a match that took time to develop but eventually became a rousing battle over the second half. It was Porter's sheer desire, will and relentlessness (out-throwing Garcia 742-472) that paved the way for the biggest victory of his career.
Garcia (34-2, 20 KOs), 30, of Philadelphia, despite the loss, is still an outstanding fighter and one of the best in a very deep welterweight division. He fought a good fight and has nothing to be ashamed of. It shouldn't take him long at all to be back in a major fight.
But Porter (29-2-1, 17 KOs), 30, of Las Vegas, is the man of the hour and has no plans to shy away from top and tough opponents, which is why he quickly accepted the in-ring challenge from fellow titlist Errol Spence Jr., and accepted it again at the postfight press conference, where they both appeared. That's a big fight and, thankfully, they both want it.
Whether it happens next, however, is the issue. The answer is probably no, but fear not. This one won't marinate long. Boxing is also a business, and the sanctioning bodies have their say. Yordenis Ugas (23-3, 11 KOs), a fine welterweight contender, easily outpointed Cesar Barrionuevo (34-4-2, 24 KOs) in the co-feature to become Porter's mandatory challenger. And if the WBC follows its rules, that fight would be ordered next.
So while that plays out, Spence (24-0, 21 KOs) can make a much-discussed pay-per-view fight with lightweight titlist Mikey Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs) at the end of this year or in early 2019. That would mean there's a good chance we'll see Spence and Porter fight other opponents first, with their possible unification fight happening next spring. Nothing wrong with that schedule, especially with Porter and Spence sounding so committed to the fight.
"I don't think him getting in the ring was for show and I know that, you know, again, the words that we exchanged in the ring wasn't for show," Porter said.
Spence showed nothing but respect for Porter, congratulated him on his win and said he would definitely be willing to fight him.
"Shawn's a great fighter," Spence said. "Shawn's a fighter who will fight anybody. He's an old-school fighter. He's just like myself. So I don't have to hate a fighter just to fight a fighter or to beat a fighter. So I've got nothing but respect for Shawn and Kenny. I've got nothing but respect for their system. I've got nothing but respect for their father-and-son [relationship]. But I have a dream on my hands, too. I want to be a unified champion. I want to be undisputed champion, so I have to go through them doors, and that's Shawn Porter.
"So I definitely want that fight and I definitely think it can happen. Hopefully, it happens sooner than later. Hopefully, it'll happen the first quarter of next year. It's definitely a fight I want. It can be made because we both fight on the same network [Showtime], we both have the same management [Al Haymon] and, like I said, I'm an old-school fighter. He's an old-school fighter, too. We're all about glory. We're all about the money, too. And it's definitely a money fight. And definitely, the money's in the pot. The money's there, so it's gonna happen."
Performance of the weekend: Kazuto Ioka
So who gets the highest marks for their performance on the "Superfly 3" card Saturday in Inglewood, California?
It wasn't headliner Juan Francisco Estrada (37-3, 25 KOs), 28, of Mexico, the former flyweight titlist, though he looked good in a decision win (118-110, 117-111, 117-111) in a tough, fan-friendly title eliminator with countryman Felipe Orucuta (36-5, 30 KOs), 32, to earn a rematch with junior bantamweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (probably in the spring on "Superfly 4").
It sure wasn't either of the Filipinos who vied for a vacant junior bantamweight belt in the co-feature, as Donnie Nietes (41-1-5, 23 KOs), 36, aiming for a world title in a fourth weight class, and Aston Palicte (24-2-1, 20 KOs), 27, boxed to a terrible, sleep-inducing draw (118-110 for Nietes, a bizarre 116-112 for Palicte from judge Robert Hoyle and 114-114). Nietes deserved the clear victory, but the fight was so bad he's not getting any gold stars. Pray there isn't a rematch.
The man who stole the show was Japan's former three-division titleholder Kazuto Ioka (23-1, 13 KOs), who made his American debut and looked great outpointing Puerto Rico's McWilliams Arroyo (17-4, 14 KOs) via scores of 99-90, 97-92 and 97-92 in the HBO opener. Ioka, idle since retaining a flyweight belt in April 2017 and retiring in November, unretired after being inspired by the action he saw on "Superfly 2."
Ioka, 29, was the more polished fighter, as he dropped two-time world title challenger Arroyo, 32, with a right hand to the jaw near the end of the third round and outlanded him 254-159 overall, according to CompuBox. It was the kind of exciting, quality performance that surely earned him a spot on "Superfly 4."
Come on already
To the promoters and fighters involved, it's time already to make the fight, either one of them: Manny Pacquiao-Amir Khan or Kell Brook-Khan. None of the three fighters is getting any younger, and all could lose at any time at this point. So don't blow a huge event.
Welterweight Khan (33-4, 20 KOs), 31, of England, who has wanted a Pacquiao fight for years and seemingly also wants to fight longtime rival countryman Brook, reminded everyone once again on Saturday in Birmingham, England, just how vulnerable he is and why these fights can't wait any longer. Khan faced massive underdog Samuel Vargas (29-4-2, 14 KOs), 29, a Colombia native who fights out of Canada, in the second fight of his comeback from a brutal KO loss to Canelo Alvarez in a 2016 middleweight title fight, and he nearly got knocked out again.
Khan has always had good speed and skills, but his chin has always been a liability, and it showed again when Vargas put him down with a clean right hand late in the second round and then staggered him with a right late in the 10th. Yes, Khan dropped Vargas in the second and third rounds and had him hurt in the fifth round, as he won 119-109, 119-109 and 118-110. But with Brook ringside, it was a shaky performance and proved that time is of the essence to make either of those big fights or regret not doing so.
Fights you might have missed
Saturday at Zagreb, Croatia
Heavyweight Filip Hrgovic (6-0, 5 KOs) KO3 Amir Mansour (23-3-1, 16 KOs).
Hrgovic, 26, who claimed a bronze medal for Croatia in the 2016 Rio Olympics, is one of the best heavyweight prospects in boxing. He had his first fight as a pro in his hometown and impressively knocked out Mansour, 46, of Wilmington, Delaware, a very solid pro despite his age (he lost more than a decade due to incarceration). Hrgovic was taking a major step up in class in his sixth fight and nobody had ever beaten Mansour so ruthlessly. Hrgovic, who needs to become a bit more fluid with his punches, nonetheless tagged Mansour with 1-2 combinations repeatedly. In the third round, he caught him with a powerful left to the side of the head that forced Mansour to take a knee. Later in the round, Hrgovic nailed him with a left followed by two rights, including one that appeared to catch him behind the ear. It dropped Mansour, who could not beat referee Daniel Van de Wiele's count at 2:09.
Saturday at Bendigo, Australia
Junior middleweight Tim Tszyu (11-0, 9 KOs) TKO1 Marcos Jesus Cornejo (19-4, 18 KOs).
Tszyu, 23, of Australia, commands attention because of his bloodlines. He is the son of former undisputed junior welterweight champion and Hall of Famer Kostya Tszyu, so his name gets him initial attention, but so far it appears warranted. Tszyu looked good again in his second fight (and second first-round KO) in a month that streamed in the United States on ESPN+. In this one, Tszyu handed Cornejo, 37, of Argentina, his third loss in a row and did so quickly. He hurt Cornejo with an overhand right and punished him with right uppercuts repeatedly until the fight was stopped at 2:21.
Junior bantamweight Andrew Moloney (18-0, 11 KOs) TKO10 Luis Concepcion (37-7, 26 KOs).
Moloney, 27, the 2017 Australian prospect of the year, continued his ascent in the deep 115-pound division with the biggest win of his career, an impressive stoppage of former titlist Concepcion, 32, of Panama, that moves him a step closer to a possible title shot against Kal Yafai. Moloney was in command going into the 10th round, when he landed several clean combinations to the head. His right hand was doing damage over and over, and although Conception took the shots, he was getting clobbered when the referee intervened at 1:58. Excellent performance from Moloney. Concepcion hadn't been stopped since 2011.