Since the retirement of Floyd Mayweather Jr., the welterweight division has been left wide open, and rising up through the vacuum are a number of viable challengers contending for the throne. Of the current crop, probably the most highly anticipated bout is between Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter, taking place in Uncasville, Connecticut on March 12th.
The undefeated Thurman will be defending his stake of the WBA claim against Porter, which in an odd occurrence of sanctioning body politics, will be technically his sixth defense of his third version of the belt. In 2013, he won the interim version against Diego Chaves in 2013 and was upgraded to “world” status two years later; Mayweather was still the active “Super” champion all the while. Statuses aside, Thurman is still probably one of the more viable contenders in the division. At 26-0 with 22KOs by, he holds a fan-friendly power in his both his hands and was shortlisted as one of the top choices for the farewell fight against Mayweather. Though the Florida native was of course not chosen for the assignment, he was certainly one of the tougher, if not toughest challenge presented, and would have given much more of a fight than what we saw against Andre Berto.
Porter, while less accomplished and with one blemish on his record, is still a legitimate challenger at welterweight. At 26-1-1 with 16KOs, he is a former IBF champion, and his sole loss came against a formidable opponent in Kell Brook. Since the loss, Porter has been on a brief two-fight win-streak, and most recently upset Adrien Broner to the probable delight of most viewers. Anyone who has seen Porter fight will likely note his unorthodox style and unrefined boxing ability, but he is also durable and packs a decent punch. A bout against an equally accomplished and equally talented Thurman is certainly a welcomed event.
For those that still follow the on goings of the Sweet Science, this matchup has been anticipated for some time and was proposed on a number of occasions late last year. The fight fell apart, however, with most analysts speculating that the delay had more to do with timing than the more traditional roadblocks of promotional conflicts or purse-splits. The most recent reschedule occurred when the bout moved a week ahead of its original March 5th date, in order to avoid scheduling conflicts with the UFC 196 card that will feature both Conor McGregor vs. Rafael Dos Anjos and Holly Holms vs. Miesha Tate. Given all the drama the names on that ballot stirred up last year in the media and fighting world, it was a wise move by Al Haymon, who promotes both Thurman and Porter. It might also be indicative of how MMA is starting to encroach upon boxing’s operations as such a move might not have been done in the past.
The fight is set to broadcast under the Showtime banner, but with CBS as the parent company, the event will also be broadcast live for free on the prime-time network. According to the network, Thurman vs. Porter will be the first prime-time boxing event on CBS since Muhammad Ali fought Leon Spinks in 1978. With Danny Garcia reigniting Fox’s broadcast of the sport, hopefully this is will set a growing trend on returning competitive boxing to network television.
March 12th is a step in the right direction for both fighters, though perhaps more so for Thurman. Of the two, Thurman likely has the more marketable personality and skillset, and is the more probable candidate to fill the shoes of the next welterweight ruler. That would of course also mean taking on the other contenders in the division, and with guys like Errol Spence, Kell Brook, Amir Khan, Danny Garcia and Timothy Bradley, there is still plenty of good talent in the absence of Floyd Mayweather Jr. While contractual negotiations always loom as a potential hurdle, the lack of legitimate talent does not, and that is the first step in reviving anything in a sport like boxing.
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