Modern boxing is often criticised for providing fights that aren’t competitive on paper, mismatching two combatants with wildly different abilities. Every weekend there are cards put on that are stacked with foregone conclusions. You cannot level this accusation at Saturday’s clash between WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford and former two-time champion Shawn Porter. A top piece of match-making pitting two of the premier 147-pounders on the planet against each other, there is plenty to savour about this fight.
For starters, it will be wonderful to see the pair back in a ring. Neither man has fought for a year, another element of this bout that is evenly-matched. Challenger Porter was last seen pitching a shut-out over unbeaten Sebastian Formella in the summer of 2020. Crawford’s last battle was a four-round destruction of Sheffield’s former world champion Kell Brook.
The champion in particular has had a frustrating year. Unable to get rival WBC and IBF champion Errol Spence Jr into a ring, talk turned to a fight with the legendary Manny Pacquiao. Instead, Spence was awarded the Pacquiao date, before pulling out with an eye injury. The Filipino WBA champion then lost his title to replacement Yordenis Ugas, before retiring. Missing out on a bumper payday will have hurt Crawford, and he carries the frustration of a wasted year into the ring with him on Saturday.
Crawford is widely-considered one of the pound-for-pound fighters in the world, perhaps second only to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. When ‘Bud’ last fought, Canelo held none of the super middleweight world title belts. In the year since he has gone 4-0 and is now the undisputed champion of the division, holding all four titles. If Crawford is to continue to be a presence at the heart of the debate over today’s greatest fighters, he knows he must be more active.
Porter is a wonderful start to this mission. The Ohio-born slickster has only lost three times, all in world class company. Brook got the better of him via majority decision, while he was on the wrong end of a split decision in an utter thriller with Spence. A close unanimous decision loss to the brilliant Keith Thurman is his only other reverse, in a classic fight that many felt he won. Meanwhile, his ledger carries a litany of quality wins. Porter holds a win over Pacquiao-conqueror Ugas, as well as victories over world champions Paulie Malignaggi, Adrien Broner, Andre Berto and Danny Garcia.
Excitingly, both fighters come into this bout at their peak. Both are 34 years of age, with the impression they have some years ahead of them at the top of the sport. Similar age, similar activity and similar ability. This fight could not be more finely-poised.
Their styles also promise fireworks. While you can’t always predict how a fight will go in advance, it is difficult to see Porter and Crawford failing to entertain. Crawford boasts an uncanny combination of ring acumen, elite defence, handspeed and concussive power. It is a potent cocktail that has left 37 punch-drunk victims in its wake. Porter will be looking to become the one in 37-1 with an exciting, pressure-fighting style and exceptionally high workrate. Both men can box intelligently, but have shown a tendency to get involved. This could either be a fascinating game of 4D chess or a Wild West shootout. Either way, it promises to be memorable.
As balanced as this fight is, if I was to offer a prediction it would be a Crawford victory. This promises to be a stern test, and he could drop some early sessions to a Porter who will look to pressure him early on. But ‘Bud’ is incredibly dangerous off his back foot, and a defensive master. Look for him to start finding his shots around the midway point, and possibly become the first man to stop Porter in the championship rounds.