It was boxing the way it oughta be as WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman and former IBF champ Shawn Porter staged a classic boxer-puncher duel in which neither gave ground and their toe-to-toe exchanges had a crowd of 12,718 roaring Saturday night at Barclays Center. The contrast with the snooze-a-thons staged by retired welterweight king Floyd Mayweather Jr. was unmistakeable and certainly made it a good night for CBS, which televised its first prime-time fight since Muhammad Ali-Leon Spinks I in 1978.
In the end, Thurman (27-0, 22 KOs) eked out a unanimous decision to retain his title as judges Eric Marlinski, Steve Weisfeld and Waleska Roldan all agreed on a 115-113 score. Newsday’s card was the same 115-113 for Thurman, but no one would have argued a draw or could characterize Porter (26-2-1, 16 KOs) as a loser.
“I want to thank Shawn Porter for a tremendous fight,” Thurman said. “He’s a tremendous warrior. 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.”
The fight was as close as suggested by CompuBox stats showing Porter with a 236-235 edge in total punches landed. But Thurman had a decisive 203-177 edge in power punches.
Porter won the final round on the cards of two judges to make the fight as close as it was in the end. He came out looking the worse for wear with swelling under his right eye from absorbing so many counter lefts by Thurman.
“Keith is a great champion,” Porter said. “My dad says to keep your head high. 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.”
Promoter L:ou DiBella was thrilled with the outcome and the fan reaction, saying, “There’s gotta be a rematch. It was a fair score, but I wouldn’t argue with a draw.”
Thurman controlled a tentative first round, but Porter charged out at the bell for the second determined to press his attack. He got past Thurman’s counter lefts to pin the champion against the ropes twice in the round and unleash a barrage of power shots. Porter maintained the pressure throughout the third but just before the bell, Thurman came off the ropes to rock him with a right hand.
That taste of Thurman’s power backed Porter off a bit in the fourth, and Thurman followed up by landing 16 of 27 power shots in a dominant fourth round, according to CompuBox. Porter again ran to Thurman in the fifth and was effective, but he had to weather a storm and was caught by a couple of powerful Thurman lefts near the end.
In the sixth and seventh, Thurman’s counterpunching power allowed him to start moving Porter backwards and tracking him around the ring. But their furious exchanges in mid-ring had the crowd roaring. By the start of the eighth, a mouse was growing under Porter’s right eye from all the counter lefts he was taking, and it only got worse in that round.
Summoning a well of reserve strength, Porter rocked Thurman with a right early in the ninth and then another. It was fuel for a fire that broke into a thrilling toe-to-toe flurry with both fighters winging punches, clearly a Porter round. But Thurman regained his footing in the 10th, landing a left that sent Porter staggering and following with a hard right.
In the 11th, Porter regained his aggressiveness and moved forward the entire round to keep it close. With everything in the balance in the 12th, neither took as many chances, but Porter certainly earned it on aggression, pinning Thurman to the ropes a couple times.
Porter’s fans booed when the decision was announced, but it was as if they simply were unhappy the punching was over. “That’s what boxing needs,” DiBella said, “a fight that matched the anticipation.”
Notes and quotes – In the co-main, junior middleweight Jarrett Hurd (18-0, 11 KOs) scored a TKO over gritty Oscar Molina (13-1-1, 10 KOs) at 2:02 of the 10th and final round. Molina was game to the end but was outpunched, 33-7, in 10th according to CompuBox stats.