Keith Thurman currently sits alone atop the welterweight division thanks to his impressive defeat of Danny Garcia on CBS back in March. Thurman’s victory not only kept his perfect professional record in tact (28-0), but also unified the WBC and WBA welterweight titles, making Thurman the weight class’s top dog.
On April 22nd, airing exclusively on Showtime, Shawn Porter and Andre Berto will square off in a WBC welterweight world title eliminator fight, with the winner becoming the mandatory challenger to Thurman for a shot at the WBC title.
CBS Local Sports caught up with Porter ahead of the fight to talk about how he’s rebounded since his loss in 2016’s PBC “Fight of the Year” to Thurman.
CBS Local Sports: What have you been up to since the fight against Keith? How have you been passing the time and how have you been staying in fight shape?
Shawn Porter: A lot of training, a little bit of fun. That’s basically how I live my life (laughs). After a fight I’ll do a few days of recovery, but I’m usually right back in the gym — whether it’s just playing basketball or doing some small workouts — I don’t take too much time away from the gym, not necessarily because I’m a gym rat, but because I like to make sure everything is maintained. I’m always worried that if I’m not training that I’ll lose something and wind up behind the times like most fighters do when they take a lot of time off. When they get back going they’re not where they were once they stopped, so I try to maintain where I’m at.
CBS Local Sports: The fight with Keith was an incredible fight. Did it take a toll on you emotionally as well as physically? Did it take you longer to recover from this one than past fights because of how intense it was?
Porter: That fight was very, very intense. I was definitely drained physically, mentally, emotionally, after the fight. But I would say along with the recovery that I do after a fight, deep stretching, sauna work, icing, all that stuff… it obviously gives you a lot of time to reflect. So I really can’t say it was a longer recovery unlike any other fight because I do a lot of reflecting anyway after every fight. I do still think about the fight though, even now. You learn from it and you grow from it and it never really goes away.
CBS Local Sports: What have you been doing to get yourself ready for Andre Berto?
Porter: I would say we started training for this fight way back when. Like I said, once we got back going after the Keith Thurman fight we never really took too much time away from the gym. Even outside of that, before we announced the fight, we were working on getting this fight done with Andre Berto to the point where we were already in a camp getting ready for him, expecting that to be the next fight. So we’ve already been getting ready for him for about 10 weeks, maybe longer.
CBS Local Sports: How do you think the loss to Keith is possibly helping you prepare for Berto?
Porter: I think every fighter, they go through things in a fight and they should learn from those things that they go through. Early on in my career we talked about climbing the steps towards a championship, climbing the ladder and getting better after every fight. So after every fight you learn something.
I think with this fight in particular with Keith Thurman, there were two things I learned: One is to be more patient and not try to keep my foot on the gas pedal too much. When I do that, I lose track of my defense, and I think ultimately that was what cost me the fight; getting hit a few more times cleaner than I hit him. Even though I controlled the fight, sometimes I left my defense hanging and I got hit cleanly and those could have been the difference in some of the rounds.
The other thing is just learning that I can handle anything. I was in the ring with arguably one of the best fighters in my weight class, and going toe-to-toe with him allowed me to learn that I have what it takes to fight against anybody out there, so I’m definitely taking that to the ring with me against Andre Berto, who’s a fighter who won’t stop.
CBS Local Sports: As you mentioned, Berto likes to get in your face and is an aggressive fighter. So how do you not get sucked into that and fall into those habits where you go toe-to-toe and defense can become a liability?
Porter: I feel like that’s going to play into our hands. I feel like I’m faster and quicker and stronger than him, and knowing that I want to be responsible on defense, means he’ll be right there for me and I can play my hand the way I want to and I can be offensive against a guy who’s going to be right there. Then, I can be defensive when I want to be as well. I think that will play into my hands. I think the understanding that I can’t not be defensive is going to allow me to stay out of those slug fests, or slug wars with him.
CBS Local Sports: Have you watched his fight against Floyd? Anything you picked up from that?
Porter: I just recently watched his fight against Floyd and the thing I picked up from watching that was that he’ll get impatient and he’ll get to the point where he gets frustrated really easy. Again, boxing him from the outside like Floyd did and keeping the fight clean will help him play into my hands even more.
CBS Local Sports: What is the biggest challenge Berto presents?
Porter: I think the number one thing is that he’s not going to stop coming. He’s not going to sit down in the corner and not want to get up. I think that is the number one obstacle he presents. He comes into the ring with his heart, and he’s not going to want to stop.
CBS Local Sports: Obviously this fight is huge for both of you, but with a potential rematch against Keith looming, how do you make sure all of your energy stays focused on the task at hand and you don’t think ahead?
Porter: I think it’s easy for me knowing that this opportunity is going to present another, even greater opportunity. I know without this one, I don’t get the other, so to me it’s simple. You get this and then you move forward. If you don’t get this, you don’t move forward.
CBS Local Sports: How does it feel to be back in Brooklyn fighting at the Barclays Center?
Porter: I’m looking forward to it. Every fight I want to be out here in Las Vegas, but when they tell me it’s not Las Vegas, I’m always crossing my fingers that it’s Brooklyn. It’s an unbelievable venue to fight in, best fans I’ve ever been around. Not just fans of myself but fans of boxing. I love that part about going back to New York and going back to Brooklyn to the Barclays Center to fight. I love that I’m going back to a bunch of fans who know what they’re yelling; they’re not just yelling a bunch of crap just to yell. They’re yelling information that’s actually viable for you in the ring, and they’re pushing you forward as well.
CBS Local Sports: What do you think you and Berto are bringing to the table that’s making this fight a must watch?
Porter: I think people love boxing because there’s an excitement that comes with watching two guys exercise the sweet science, and conquer what’s on the line. I think you have that in this fight with me and Andre Berto. You’re going to get the excitement, you’re going to see two fighters who have a lot of experience, that are willing to put it on the line. And you don’t get that every day… you don’t get that every time you see a fight. That’s why everybody should tune in. You’re going to see excitement, you’re going to see some heavy punches landed, and ultimately you’re going to see two great guys get in there and duke it out and leave their hearts in the ring.