On paper, the upcoming showdown between welterweight champions Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr. and Shawn “Showtime” Porter is officially billed as a unification fight for the IBF-WBC crowns, but scratch deeper and you will realize that it is really about earning the right to join the Manny Pacquiao sweepstakes.
For a boxer who is already 40 years old and supposedly past his prime, Pacquiao remains the most coveted fighter in the 147-pound division. Everybody wants a piece of Pacquiao for the simple reason that a fight with him translates into truckloads of money.
In terms of boxing skills, WBO welterweight king Terence Crawford is the best champion in the division, but he is just rotting in the backyard of Top Rank Promotions. While Spence and Porter are receiving a lot of media coverage for their unification fight this Sunday (Manila time), Top Rank apparently has no idea what to do with Crawford.
Praises have been repeatedly heaped upon Spence, but he actually remains untested. Not a few believe he is more hype than substance. Spence was supposed to obliterate the smaller Mikey Garcia, who moved two divisions up to campaign at welterweight, but ended up settling for a decision victory. Bluntly speaking, Spence’s performance against Garcia was a letdown.
Pacquiao remains the most coveted because he has gone past the “hype” stage and has established, beyond cavil, his reputation in the fight game. A 40-year-old Pacquiao willingly took on one of the most feared fighters in the weight class, then WBO ‘super’ champ Keith Thurman, and defeated him in convincing fashion. Before Thurman, Pacquiao also thoroughly trounced the younger Adrien Broner.
Fight fans continue to shell out money to watch a Pacquiao fight because they are intrigued at how an “old” fighter continues to tame young lions.
Spence and Porter have not been shy in admitting that they are zeroing in on Pacquiao. Thurman took home an estimated career-high $10 million against Pacquiao and is already taking the rest of the year off to travel the world with his beautiful wife (officially, the reason is an injured hand). Spence and Porter also want a piece of the lucrative pie, but they may have to fall in line. Former welterweight champion Danny Garcia is also eyeing a fight with Pacquiao, same with Mikey Garcia.
From where this writer sits, Mikey Garcia, who looked slow and ponderous at 147 pounds, has the inside track. Pacquiao can take on Mikey Garcia first before meeting the winner of Spence-Porter. Garcia’s confidence is shaky as he is coming off the first loss of his career and fighting at welterweight does not seem to be a good fit for him.
Everybody will be watching the Spence-Porter fight, what with the winner advancing to the “Pacquiao round.” IBF champ Spence (25-0, 21 knockouts) is the smart money as he does a little bit of everything in the ring. Southpaw Spence is bigger, taller and knows how to make full use of his range. Porter (30-2-1, 17 knockouts) is the rugged mauler who sticks to his foes like a deodorant and wears them down with his pressure and volume punching. Porter played football in high school and has retained the toughness he initially acquired in the gridiron. Porter encountered some weight problems in his recent fights, but he is expected to be in shape for Spence.
The key will be Spence using his elongated jab and keeping Porter at a safe distance. It remains to be seen though if Spence can withstand the perpetual pressure Porter is likely to apply. It is also worth noting that WBC champ Porter has faced better opposition, having slugged it out with the likes of Thurman, Danny Garcia and Broner. Spence’s resume is littered with patsies and journeymen. Kell Brook is the only credible, legitimate welterweight Spence had fought, and the Briton held his ground before breaking his orbital bone and surrendering in the 11th round of their May 2017 title fight.
If Porter pulls off an upset, he might just secure a fight with Pacquiao. Porter, who once served as a sparring partner for Pacquiao, offers a forward-style that is more or less suited for the Pacman.
It may be a different story if Spence defeats Porter in spectacular fashion. Experts have consistently warned Pacquiao to stay away from at least two welterweights: Crawford and Spence. If Spence delivers that long overdue, highlight-reel victory against a quality foe, Pacquiao may want to reassess the situation. Then again, if Spence barely gets past Porter and shows tons of loopholes, Pacquiao might just give it a go.