Saturday night from the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas, welterweights Terence Crawford (37-0, 28 KO) and Shawn Porter (31-3, 17 KO) will meet in a 12 round bout televised on ESPN+ pay-per-view. In preparation, the intrepid TQBR crew crawled out from under their hangovers, diaper bags, and work obligations to discuss how they see it playing out.
- It’s been several years since Terence Crawford has faced a top 5 opponent. Any chance he’ll have some rust, and would it matter against Shawn Porter?
Langendorf: Crawford’s 34 and hasn’t fought in a year, so we can’t rule out that he’ll have a touch of rust. But while we’re at it, let’s worry about Superman’s tights being off a shade of blue. Honestly, who gives a shit? If Bud isn’t at the peak of his powers, he’s awfully close – and he has so many tricks in his bags, so many looks to show and so many entry points behind an opponent’s defenses. Porter is a one-note fighter (albeit a good one), so Crawford should have a big advantage in terms of his ring IQ and dynamism, even if his timing is off a half-beat.
Starks: He’s definitely going to have some rust. Porter is exactly the kind of guy to make him feel it. This isn’t Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez; Crawford is smarter than Pac, and Marquez is smarter than Porter in this “pressure/volume fighter vs. natural counterpuncher” match-up. But if Porter goes full throttle and is able to withstand Crawford’s power, yeah, this stands to potentially be Crawford’s toughest fight given the rust.
Hedtke: Crawford doesn’t strike me as the type of guy who would allow himself to be out of shape for even a weekend, so rust likely won’t be a factor, at least as far as conditioning goes. But going from his recent level of competition to the 2021 version of Shawn Porter is going to feel like climbing out of a hot tub and jumping into a cold pool. Crawford has an obvious edge in skill but Porter makes you work for all 180 seconds of each round. If you’re not prepared to grind, he’ll exploit and expose it.
Swain: I’ll agree with parts of what the others have said. I can’t see Crawford being rusty because he’s a gym rat, but this is definitely a step up in quality compared to his welterweight oppenents thus far. I think it will actually be a benefit to Crawford to have someone who can push him.
- What part of Porter’s skillset is going to be the biggest challenge for Crawford and vice versa?
Langendorf: Porter’s a 146-pound battering ram, but if Crawford can avoid the occasional headbutt or errant shoulder, he’s aces. Bud won’t let Porter cut off the ring on him, and his ability to fight off the back foot and land power shots from any stance is a nuclear threat to the challenger. Porter has quick hands, excellent stamina and the heart of a rhino, but he also has a habit of dropping his head to duck punches – and even when lunging forward on the attack.
Starks: Besides the “intentional or unintentional?” question of Porter’s dirtiness… Porter’s the naturally biggest guy Crawford will have faced, as he flirted with middleweight and junior middleweight early on. Crawford has been able to dissuade everyone he’s faced to date to back the fuck up with his accuracy and power. Porter has proven hard to dissuade.
Hedtke: I absolutely hate what I’m about to say because I despise these type of tired, reductive descriptors that dumb old guys in fedoras use to explain why Tony “The Human Coal Mine” Fazzoli or some other dipshit from the 1840s is so much tougher than these millennials today, but it’s going to be Porter’s heart and grit that confound Crawford the most. Crawford is a murderous finisher but he’s not a one-punch guy. He likes his meat nice and tender before he chucks it on the grill. What happens when Porter – who is humanly incapable of experiencing pain or fatigue – is still right there in his face entering the championship rounds?
It would be disingenuous to not also mention Porter’s head. He wields it like a DEA battering ram and slamming it into shit only seems to make him stronger. Like Hulk Hogan without all the racism. Is it legal? Not really. Does he do it on purpose? Who’s to say. Will Crawford have to be on high alert for it the whole fight? Most definitely.
Swain: Porter presents a variety of problems, chief amongst them is that no one really gets to fight at their preferred distance against him. Kell Brook had more success than anyone in that regard, but you’re absolutely going to get elbowed, butted, forearmed, and generally mugged. He somehow manages to smother his own work almost relentlessly as he’s smothering his opponent. That’s his entire game plan. The problem with that rationale is that Spence, Brook, Danny Garcia, & Keith Thurman aren’t good inside fighters. Crawford is a vicious inside fighter. What I want to know is what does Porter do when he gets outfought up close.
- Do you see this fight as the beginning of a détente between promoters or an example of fighters demanding the fights they want?
Langendorf: Christ, who knows? I’m done trying to guess what these circus freaks are up to. I haven’t even made it through the second episode of Squid Game yet. Leave me be.
Starks: I wish. Crawford himself has talked about how this fight only happened because his Top Rank contract was coming to its end. As much as everyone in boxing deserves scorn for the petty promotional snobbery promoters show toward each other, this is my regular reminder that the common denominator of all eras of boxing promotional snobbery since, like, the 60s is Top Rank. Other dominant promoters have come and gone during the Top Rank “era.” I wonder what happens if and when they’re not one of the major forces in the sport.
Hedtke: I think you’re gonna see more free agents as we go forward. The days of fighters signing long-term deals with networks and promoters are hopefully winding down. We’re still in the nascent days of the platform-based boxing economy and fighters are starting to see the value in having their autonomy. Fights getting nixed because guys are “on the wrong side of the street” just isn’t tenable anymore. Canelo is kind of setting the standard because he can do whatever the hell he wants but wars and truces between rival promoters just isn’t something that modern fighters seem to want dictating their career paths anymore. I could be wrong but there’s been a number of encouraging signs over the past couple years that things are trending away from the old way of doing business.
Swain: There’s a bit of both, and I think that all involved know that no one is out there writing checks like HBO used to, so they do have to compete for an audience. Good fights will always sell.
- What’s your prediction, and where do the winner and loser go next?
Langendorf: Porter is a threat to virtually any welterweight on the planet — including, as we witnessed, Errol Spence. Crawford may be the lone exception. He’s just too varied in his attack, too intelligent, too patient — a quiet, perfect storm. I expect Crawford to stay on his toes, gradually breaking Porter down with counters (and body work) at all angles until, somewhere in the middle to late rounds, the challenger dips his noggin to tee up a finishing blow from Bud.
Starks: Porter makes it competitive for a while, but slows under the pinpoint Crawford punishment. Porter makes it to the final bell and Crawford takes a solid 116-112 kinda decision.
Hedtke: This is one of those crazy fights where one guy is a pretty hefty underdog but an upset doesn’t actually seem too hard to fathom. On paper, Crawford is the clear favorite and rightfully so but god damn if a Porter victory doesn’t feel very much in the cards. It’s tempting to pick him. And you know what? I’m doing it. Give me Porter by decision in an upbeat fight with an ugly back half. I don’t feel super great about this but making good decisions clearly isn’t my forte.
As far as what’s next, I’m legally obligated to say Errol Spence for Crawford but who even cares anymore. Too much time has passed and there’s too many asterisks now. If Crawford won they’d say Spence isn’t the same after his accident. If Spence won they’d say Crawford is too old now. It’s still a massive fight and probably the only mega-fight out there for him but it’s just got a total Chinese Democracy vibe to it now.
Torch-passing fights are always fun so young guys like Jaron Ennis or Vergil Ortiz Jr getting a shot at the top dogs like Crawford and Porter would be a blast. I’d love to see it if the kids feel they’re ready.
Swain: Picture a bullfight, but the bull is on meth and instead of a weirdo in bedazzled tights & a codpiece there’s a samurai with two swords. We know for a fact that both of these fighters are about that action, so the intensity is going to level up with every exchange. I expect a violently dramatic bloodletting and I am 100 fucking percent here for it. As good and game as Porter is, Crawford is just fundamentally superior and inside the ring he delights in cruelty. Crawford by late stoppage.
The winner needs to fight Spence, but if I don’t get to see it, I won’t care. There are plenty of options for either. Josh Taylor and Regis Prograis could move up from 140, Boots and Vergil are ready for the top as well. I hope we get to see all of those fights.
(Photo via ESPN+)