Always On The Cusp: Shawn Porter
By: Brandon Bernica
Shawn Porter sits on the brink of stardom. Coming into Saturday’s high-powered matchup with fellow rising star Keith Thurman, Porter is familiar with his own burgeoning prospects. Yet like many fallen stars in the boxing universe, prospects often diverge from how reality actually plays out.
See, a look into Shawn’s past, and you can earmark numerous instances where he appeared ready to break out. He held his own in sparring with the great Manny Pacquiao during the Pacman’s prime, casting hopes on his future potential. But it took longer than expected for his career to catch the break it needed. He finally won a world title against Devon Alexander in 2013. After obliterating Paulie Malignaggi in a menacing 4th round knockout, Porter’s career looked poised for greatness. Then, Kell Brook took Porter’s belt in an upset victory, forcing him to reassess his journey in the sport.
Most fighters would slump after losing their aura of invincibility, but Porter took it in stride. He went on to defeat Adrien Broner in the Battle for Ohio last June. Once again, Porter’s career projected highly. So what exactly was his reward for winning such a high-profile fight? A year lay-off. Porter can attribute that year’s worth of missed earnings to Al Haymon, who inexplicably ignored his rise in favor of Broner’s marketability. What was arguably the biggest win of his career turned into stifled momentum.
What is holding “Showtime” back? Is it fate’s cruel vendetta against him? Or were his losses that untimely and impactful? My guess is that it’s a little bit of both. While his defeats cost him an unscathed record, many fighters in the sport take greater hits with lesser resumes to fall back on. And his persona? Charming nice-guy, engaging, likable. Though the sport often favors the villains that can turn hatred into viewership, there isn’t any reason why a talented good-guy who’s well-spoken can’t fit into boxing’s diverse narrative.
One thing we know about Shawn, though: he relishes the doubts. You can see it in the way he fights with his head down, pushing the pressure like a man unwilling to accept mediocrity. Somehow, that lack of fulfillment drives him to find one more shot at glory. And that shot may stand in the form of Keith Thurman come Saturday night.
Keith finds himself in the same predicament as Shawn, grasping for the upper echelons. Perhaps the stature Thurman he carries, along with the respect earned from beating him are the hurdles needed for Porter’s breakout performance. After all, Batman didn’t earn his name destroying weak minions and guards; he fought bosses and won a legacy. Shawn will have to carefully push the pace against a dangerous puncher in Thurman if he wants to make the most of this opportunity. Much like Porter’s career, this fight is craving for someone to take charge and control the action. Maybe it’s finally time for Shawn to grow into both capacities.
Shawn Porter happens to be from Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland sports struggle to garner the same respect Porter often does from fans. In the midst of a recent 52 year title drought, the city felt cursed, narrowly missing championships year after year. The truth is, sometimes fate IS cruel. But Sunday night, LeBron James gave a virtuoso performance, shelling out every inch of effort to break this status quo and lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a victory. Maybe Porter is ready to trample the expectations as well. Maybe skill does eventually supersede misfortune. If desire is any prerequisite, there’s no doubting that he will follow in LeBron’s footsteps to glory soon.