Errol Spence Jr stood his ground versus a hang tough Shawn Porter, scoring an 11th round knock down to secure a split decision in a fierce Welterweight unification thriller
Errol Spence Jr shared his personal scouting report of Shawn Porter’s fight style to the media during fight week. Porter’s in-ring reputation precedes him. However, after calling out the blue-collar style favored by Saturday night’s opponent, once the bell rang Spence obliged Porter’s penchant for all-out close quarters combat.
The real contact was sparse through the first few rounds as both men tried to establish the best range for their respective attacks. Both fighters were highly inaccurate through the first three rounds according to the CompuBox stats – Spence was credited with landing 1-of-80 jabs in that span. Spence (26-0, 21 KOs) connected with several effective shots with his left hand in the second and third rounds, but Porter (30-3-1,17 KOs) responded by throwing 90 punches in the fourth.
From that frame on, a war ensued.
Both fighters had big moments throughout the back and forth action of the next six rounds. Spence and Porter threw 745 and 744 punches, respectively. However, while facing fire unseen before Spence maintained his typical accuracy by landing 44 percent of his power punches, while also out-landing Porter 112 to 41 in body punches. In the 11th round Spence caught Porter with a compact left hook that crashed into the 31-year-old Cleveland native’s chin, rocking him enough for his knee and a glove to touch the canvas. Spence briefly celebrated achieving a knock down before finding his way to a neutral corner so referee Jack Reiss could conduct the 10-count.
Porter disregarded Reiss’ evaluation staring over at Spence, shaking his head up and down before yelling out, “Let’s go!” Spence moved back in to press for the knockout he all but guaranteed, but quickly realized that Porter was still highly dangerous.
In the final round Spence’s output suggests the 29-year-old was still hunting for the stoppage. CompuBox credited him with his fight-highs in both landed shots (26) and punches thrown (88). Porter matched Spence in reaching double-digit landed punches over the final six rounds, and he caught the younger fighter with a number of power punches while inside. With only managing to land just over a quarter of his total power punches, this category may have been a key reason Porter failed to convince more than one judge that he was the victor. The three cards were 111-116, 115-112 and 116-111 in favor of Spence.
“Shawn Porter is a rough and awkward fighter,” said Spence. “I didn’t get off what I wanted to. He’s a true champion. He made it tough.”
Porter kept his word that he would return to his aggressive style and force Spence to punch for a full 12 rounds. The taller Spence was mindful of Porter’s active hands inside, and repeatedly ducked under a number of power shots which made the 5-foot-7-inch Porter miss badly at times. Porter out-threw Spence in power punches in each frame, but CompuBox only credited him with out-landing the new unified champion in only the fourth and seventh rounds.
“He’s a strong kid,” said Porter. “We both came in to do the job. I think I had a little more than what he expected, but he handled it. Congratulations to him and his team. We’re proud of what we did.”
In the co-main event of the Fox Sports PBC Pay-Per-View former champion David Benavidez recovered his WBC Super Middleweight title from Anthony Dirrell after a long left jab from Benavidez (22-0, 19 KOs) opened up a serious cut on Dirrell’s right eyelid. Dirrell (33-2-1, 24 KOs) valiantly battled on into the ninth round until Benavidez’ mounting pressure, and the worsening of the injury, combined to create a scene that seemed threatening to the Flint native’s well-being. The bout was stopped at 1:39 as a TKO.
“Everything just fell in place perfectly,” said Benavidez. “From the suspension to all the big fights I’ve been in. All of that helped me out in this fight. I did not make a mistake or open myself up more than I needed to. I worked behind my jab and got the stoppage. Things are going to get better and get tougher and I’m ready for the challenge.”
Oddly, Dirrell switched to a southpaw stance in the final minute of the eighth round, leaving his damaged right eye as his lead side. Benavidez began landing heavier shots and mixing things up more to force a decision by either the referee or Dirrell’s corner.
“He hit me with a clean shot,” said Dirrell. “That’s my first time ever being cut by a punch. It opened up. There was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t see the whole fight after that. My corner did a good job on it, but I really couldn’t see.”
In one of the event’s most anticipated fights fast-rising Super Lightweight Mario “El Azteca” Barrios (25-0, 16 KOs) was expected by many to showcase his skills, and possibly extend his 8-fight KO streak, against the lesser experienced Batyr Akhmedov (7-1, 6 KOs). Instead, after rallying back from a fourth round knock down, Akhmedov seemingly seized control of the fight until Barrios landed a right hand that wobbled the Russian enough that his glove touched the canvas.
Barrios dealt with a bad cut from the seventh round on, and finished the bout badly bruised as a result of Akhmedov’s relentless pressure. The second knockdown offset Ahkmedov’s 238 to 135 advantage in landed punches, and Barrios captured the vacant WBA 140-pound title behind scores of 116-11, 115-11 and 114-112.
“I knew this was going to be a war,” said Barrios. “He was getting dirty in there but the Mexican warrior in me was not going to let this opportunity pass me by. I dug deep and got the victory.”
Ahkmedov shared his perspective on the disappointing decision and carried receiving his first loss with class.
The judges see better than I can from the ring,” said Akhmedov. “I did everything I could. I thought I won the fight. They decided that he won the fight. When I watch the fight I’ll be able to tell you what it looked like. My job is to do everything to win. The judges are supposed to judge correctly.
“I tried to do everything I could. I was told that I wouldn’t be able to handle his experience, but he was on the ropes most of the fight. I beat him up and I thought I won the fight.”
All photos by Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions