Shawn Porter under pressure for a career-defining win vs. Danny Garcia

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist

Shawn Porter’s fighting style is often reminiscent of the best press coverage corners in the NFL. They get in a receiver’s face and never leave, pressuring all over the field.

It’s exactly what Porter does in the ring. He’ll take a punch, or five, if it means bullying his opponent into the corner and getting to fight in close quarters.

It means the one imperative for success against Porter is being able to fight well going backward. On Saturday, Porter will challenge Danny Garcia for the vacant WBC welterweight title at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in the main event of a Showtime-televised card, and if nothing else, the bout will serve as a referendum on Garcia’s ability to fight on the back-pedal.

“You have to know what to do against me and not too many people have been able to figure it out,” said Porter, who is 28-2-1 with 17 knockouts in a good career that lacks the defining victory that a win over Garcia would provide. “One thing against me, you will get pushed backward. There’s no secret in that. So what do you do when you get pushed back? What do you do when you have to take a step back?

“I think that in previous fights, he’s shown that moving backward and having to fight, he hasn’t been quite as successful in that, to say the least. What I have that other guys don’t have is that I’m not going to stop. There are other guys who will push you back, but they don’t have the power or the relentless mental fortitude or they don’t have the speed to keep it going. That’s something that he’s going to run into with me.”

Shawn Porter speaks to the media on July 30 at a news conference before his upcoming welterweight title fight against Danny Garcia. (Getty Images)

Pressure is going to play a big role in this fight, no doubt, but it will go both ways. Clearly, if Garcia is going to regain the title and improve upon his 34-1 record, he’s going to have to slow Porter’s halt and land counters that make the Las Vegan think for a second before relentlessly boring ahead.

There is, though, a different kind of pressure on Porter. The welterweight division is among the best in boxing, particularly at the top end. WBO champion Terence Crawford is regarded by many as the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighter. IBF champion Errol Spence Jr. has often been hailed as the next Sugar Ray Leonard and is also a Top 5 pound-for-pound talent.

Keith Thurman is 28-0 and the only thing keeping him out of the Top 5 is inactivity. He’s beaten both Garcia and Porter and is one of the elite boxer-punchers in the game. Manny Pacquiao is far past his peak, but he remains an elite boxer.

Given that kind of depth of talent, wins are imperative when facing each other. It becomes especially true with Mikey Garcia, the unbeaten IBF-WBC lightweight champ, planning to challenge Spence as soon as possible. Mikey is another Top 5 pound-for-pound boxer and he stands in the way of the Porter-Danny Garcia winner getting a unification bout with Spence.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to make the best fights because of restrictions caused by TV alliances. Crawford, for example, is promoted by Top Rank, which has a TV deal with ESPN. Porter, Danny Garcia, Spence and Thurman are with the Premier Boxing Champions, which recently announced a three-year deal with Showtime. The streaming service DAZN will go into operation in the U.S. on Sept. 22 and is offering big money to free agents to sign.

The result is that it will be that much more difficult to get the fights one wants in the future. While all of them are together in the same group now, it’s going to be easiest. So if Porter wants to get the shot at Spence instead of Mikey Garcia, his best bet is to beat Danny Garcia convincingly on Saturday.

Porter, though, won’t be upset if Mikey leapfrogs him, though there will be disagreement. A win over Danny would be the biggest of Porter’s career and would position him nicely for another monumental bout.

If Mikey made the move from lightweight up to welterweight to test Spence and made Porter wait, he’d accept it because he knows he’d probably do the same thing under similar circumstances.

It puts pressure on Porter to perform his best on Saturday to state his case, but Porter shrugs off pressure. He is a fierce competitor at everything, and with a world title on the line, he won’t require any outside motivation to help him.

“Logically, I think I am the next fight for Errol Spence,” Porter said. “Logically, it makes sense to be me, a natural 147-pound fighter, a champion after this fight with Danny Garcia and all the logic says it makes sense for me to get in the ring next with Errol Spence. Keith Thurman has been gone far too long. Even if Errol says, ‘Hey man, I’m not fighting you next,’ I’ll have to consider who out there makes sense for me outside of Keith Thurman. There are one or two guys who make sense.

“But Mikey, he is moving at such a speed now that he doesn’t want to slow down. I respect him for that. He’s moving at such a speed that he knows, ‘If I have the chance, I can get there.’ I have to respect that in any fighter. For him to call out one of the biggest names in the welterweight division, it did catch me by surprise, but at the same time, but I understand it. I know where he is in his career and he feels he should do it.”

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