Sunday, March 26, 2023  |



Shawn Porter, Jessie Vargas inspired by first pilgrimage to Hall

Shawn Porter (left), Jessie Vargas and Porter's father/trainer, Kenny, made their first trip to the Hall of Fame.

CANASTOTA, N.Y. — “What’s up, big man?”

Shawn Porter became downright giddy when he heard those four words at breakfast Friday morning. “Big man?” That’s right, Porter’s childhood hero not only recognized him — the legend has become a fan of the welterweight contender.

Marvelous Marvin Hagler bestowed the term of endearment on Porter, who made the approximate 2,500-mile pilgrimage from Las Vegas to upstate New York, just outside Syracuse, to take in International Boxing Hall of Fame Weekend.

“I was just trying to keep it together at that point,” Porter, who was joined by his father and trainer, Kenny, told Porter, who still had plenty of damage over his right eye from headbutts in the Andre Berto bout, conducted a public workout and then immediately lined up to sign autographs and take pictures with droves of fans.

The all-time great middleweight is Porter’s inspiration in boxing, and this wasn’t his first encounter with the Marvelous One. But it was the 29-year-old’s first chance to really spend some quality time with Hagler.

Porter had met Hagler a few years earlier. During that chance encounter, Porter expressed how much Hagler — his favorite all-time boxer — meant to his blossoming career.

“And he said ‘Yeah, I know who you are. I’ve read about you and know that I’m your favorite fighter,'” Porter recalled. “Fast forward a few months later and we’re taking a picture and he leans in and says ‘you’re one of my favorite fighters right now.’ And I was thinking ‘shut up’ and I said ‘really? I’m so humbled to hear you say that.”

The boxers set to be inducted in the Class of 2017 are Evander Holyfield and Marco Antonio Barrera, as well as the late Johnny Tapia and Eddie Booker. It’s not just about those legends; it’s a time for boxers — young and old — to congregate and swap stories.

Porter has designs on one day joining Hagler in the Hall. Porter isn’t delusional, though; he must clean out the entire 147-pound division, perhaps boxing’s best, before he can even think about his own induction.

Andre Rozier, the trainer of middleweight contender Daniel Jacobs, said something Thursday night that caught Porter’s attention: “It’s not about the belts; it’s about the Hall of Fame.”

“I understand exactly what he meant,” Porter said. “We’ve already made names for ourselves. Now we’re trying to leave a legacy that’s going to remembered for a very, very, very long time. … At one point in my life, for me, it was just about winning a belt and making money. And now it just turned into supporting my fans, supporting friends and along the way helping boxing fans see something great.”

Porter isn’t the only former welterweight titleholder to make the trek from Vegas. He was joined by Jessie Vargas, who also stepped foot onto the hall grounds for the first time.

Vargas, clad in a maroon track suit and Ray Ban aviators, stood to the side of the stage as the fighters had their hands casted where the appendages will soon be immortalized in bronze.

Why did Vargas, 28, decide to make his first trip to Canastota now? Simple: Holyfield and Barrera are two of his three all-time favorite fighters. And with no fight scheduled, Vargas didn’t have to break camp.

“Just being able to talk with Holyfield and sitting down with him, it’s amazing, man,” Vargas told Just then, Holyfield, 54, strolled by and took the stage to have his own massive hands casted.

“Being next to Evander and Barrera? Of course it’s inspiring,” Vargas said. “It makes you want to reach the level they did. Being able to speak with Evander, he actually said records are meant to be broken. Someone paved the way, so you have an idea of what it takes to go above and beyond.”

Both Porter and Vargas will leave the weekend with indelible memories and renewed vigor to reach great heights. But this weekend isn’t truly about them, is it?

No, it’s about Holyfield, Barrera, Tapia, Booker and the others who will be inducted into the hall, their plaques — and fists — forever a reminder of what men can accomplish when pushed to their competitive limits.



Click the photos to read our profiles of this year’s IBHOF inductees