Dan Rafael’s Notebook – Crawford and Porter reveal their biggest challenges so far, and more
LAS VEGAS – Former two-time welterweight world titlist Shawn Porter was born and grew up in Akron, Ohio, but he moved years ago to Las Vegas, the boxing capital of the world.
But even though Porter lives just minutes from big-fight arenas such as the MGM Grand Garden Arena, T-Mobile Arena, the Thomas & Mack Center and Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay, he has not had many opportunities to fight in his adopted hometown.
So, as excited as he is to challenge WBO welterweight titlist Terence Crawford on Saturday (ESPN+ PPV, 9 p.m. ET, $69.99), he is especially pumped up that the bout will take place at Michelob ULTRA Arena.
“Moving here, we wanted to live here, train here, fight here and we have not been able to do that,” Porter said. “For this to be the big fight that it is and to be doing it right here at home it means a lot to me. Every fighter wants to be in Vegas. And even though I haven’t had very many opportunities to fight right here at home, I consider this, for the magnitude of this fight, and where it’s happening, it’s perfect for me and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The fight will only be the third of Porter’s 13-year professional career in Las Vegas.
In 2013, Porter (31-3-1, 17 KOs) headlined a Golden Boy Promotions card inside the MGM Grand Premier Ballroom and won a 10-round decision against Julio Diaz in a rematch of their previous draw.
His other Las Vegas fight was much higher profile. It was the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card on NBC at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, where he got knocked down in the 12th round by Adrien Broner but won a clear unanimous decision.
Crawford (37-0, 28 KOs), who is from Omaha, Nebraska, will be fighting in Las Vegas for the ninth time and in his fourth main event.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission selected the officials who will work Crawford-Porter on Wednesday at the panel’s monthly meeting.
Celestino Ruiz will serve as the referee. He will be officiating his second Crawford fight. He was also the third man in the ring when Crawford made his first title defense against Jose Benavidez Jr. and knocked him out in the 12th round in October 2018 in Crawford’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.
Ruiz has also refereed one previous Porter fight. It was in his fourth-round knockout of Jamar Patterson in Hinckley, Minnesota, in 2009 when Porter was a prospect in a scheduled eight-rounder.
Judging the bout will be the vastly experienced championship trio of Dave Moretti of Nevada, Max De Luca of California, and New Jersey’s Steve Weisfeld.
Moretti will be judging his fourth Crawford fight. He also worked his last fight, against Kell Brook, and fights against Viktor Postol and a 2012 preliminary fight against Andre Gorges. De Luca has worked one previous Crawford fight, his third-round knockout of Julius Indongo to win the undisputed junior welterweight title in 2017. Weisfeld will be working his fifth Crawford fight, having also done his knockouts of Amir Khan, Indongo, Felix Diaz and Hank Lundy.
Moretti previously judged Porter’s clear decision over Adrien Broner. De Luca will be judging his fourth Porter fight, having also worked his decision over Yordenis Ugas, knockout of Erick Bone and decision loss to Kell Brook. Steve Weisfeld will be working his third Porter fight, having also done two other high profile bouts, close losses to Keith Thurman and Errol Spence Jr., which was a split decision Weisfeld had for Spence.
If there is need for a video replay review, the review official will be longtime referee Jay Nady.
Crawford’s toughest fight?
Many have said this will be Crawford’s toughest fight, but he has not said that is necessarily the case.
“I said each and every fight that I’ve fought in the past is supposed to be my toughest fight, so I can’t say Porter is going to be my toughest fight when I haven’t even been in the ring with him yet,” Crawford said.
What Crawford can do is identify what has been his toughest fight to date. He tabs two: his first lightweight title defense against former unified featherweight titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa, whom he stopped in the ninth round of an Omaha, Nebraska, homecoming fight in June 2014, and a welterweight title defense against “Mean Machine” Egidijus Kavaliauskas, who he also stopped in the ninth round of a December 2019 welterweight title defense at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Crawford had a rocky start against Gamboa, who controlled several early rounds before Crawford knocked him down four times en route to the victory. Kavaliauskas didn’t win many rounds but he gave Crawford some problems and appeared to score a knockdown that referee Ricky Gonzalez ruled a slip.
“I believe I made the ‘Mean Machine’ fight harder than it could have been,” Crawford told The Ring. “Gamboa, I think I was still a little green and he was seasoned. He was real skillful. He did a lot of things right and I started off doing a lot of things wrong, and he picked up on that.”
In the Kavaliauskas fight, Crawford said his issues were because “I was not being patient. I was fighting his fight.”
Crawford trainer Brian “Bomac” McIntyre said Porter is Crawford’s toughest fight, at least on paper.
“But we will not know until we actually get in the ring,” he said. “As a trainer, I want this to be the toughest fight for Terence because you are going to see a better Terence Crawford. The better the fighter, the better that Terence is.”
Porter thinks Crawford’s 12th-round knockout of Jose Benavidez Jr. in his first welterweight title defense was his toughest.
“Watching that the fight I could see he was just ahead of Benavidez in every aspect of the fight but you could see Jose had boxing ability, he had speed and he had quickness and he had some small nuances that weren’t necessarily giving Terence problems but it was challenging Terence,” Porter said. “And I don’t think anyone’s really challenged Terence the way Jose Benavidez was able to. I don’t think Jose won very many rounds, maybe two or three rounds, but I felt he was just behind Terence in every aspect of that fight, so when I look at that fight I know that I have everything that Jose’s got and I got a little bit more.”
Porter’s toughest fight?
Porter has faced several name opponents, including wins over Danny Garcia, Yordenis Ugas, Andre Berto, Adrien Broner, Paulie Malignaggi and Devon Alexander and close losses to Errol Spence Jr., Keith Thurman and Kell Brook.
So where does Porter think Crawford will stack up in terms of his toughest fights?
“Yes, I think that when I’m looking across the ring I’m seeing the next best thing to myself because you can talk about his skills, you can talk about his speed, power, his ability to adjust, his ability to box, his ability to counterpunch, his ability to understand what to do and when to do it,” Porter said. “I’m not looking at a mirror image of myself, but at the same time I do feel like I’m looking at the next best thing out there.”
Sold out arena
According to Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, Mandalay Bay’s Michelob ULTRA Arena, which holds roughly 11,500 for boxing, will be sold out. He said there were just a few dozen tickets remaining as of Wednesday afternoon.
He said he is not surprised there has been so much demand for tickets.
“People who follow boxing realize that this fight is a terrific fight,” Arum said. “They’ve watched Terence, they’ve watched Porter and the response has been absolutely enormous for this fight. It’s a sellout. I was happy we got a place like Mandalay Bay, which has 11,500 seats and every seat is a good seat.
“When they were designing the building they called me in as consultant on the arena they were building. This will be filled and people will see a great event.”
Crawford to move up?
Crawford has won world titles in three divisions: lightweight, junior welterweight (where he was the undisputed champion) and welterweight.
But would he consider an eventual move up to junior middleweight to go for another title?
“Maybe ’54 in the future,” Crawford said. “Right now we’re at ’47, campaigning at ’47, Shawn Porter is in front of us and that’s the fight we focused on.”
“We always have had a good relationship ever since the amateur days. There has never been any bad blood. It’s always been all love, but come Saturday, we step on him. A dominating win against Porter will boost my status as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world.” – Crawford
“I believe this fight is happening right on time. There’s no secret that there is a lot of respect between me and Terence. We can talk all about resumes, but when I look at his resume, nobody that has been in the ring with him, knows him as I know him. The best of Terence Crawford will bring out the best of Shawn Porter. What I do know is Saturday is a big day for boxing and it will be a big day for Team Porter.” – Porter