BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer
BROOKLYN, N.Y. —Keith “One Time” Thurman got all he could handle from his old sparring mate Shawn “Showtime” Porter, but held on to retain his WBA welterweight title with a unanimous decision at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., June 25.
Clearwater native Thurman, 27, is one of the sport’s most exciting fighters and the heavily-anticipated main event was the first to be shown on CBS in prime time since 1978 when Leon Spinks took the heavyweight title from Muhammad Ali in a marquee matchup.
With the win Thurman improved to 27-0-1, with 22 wins by KO. Porter, a former IBF welterweight champ from Akron, Ohio, but fighting out of Las Vegas, suffered only his second loss, dropping his record to 26-2-1 with 16 KOs. The two promising fighters go way back as they trained together as teens and even sparred as pros.
Simply put, Thurman weathered the storm that was Porter. Right from the opening bell the challenger flew out of his corner and tried to swarm the champ with punches. Though neither fighter landed many quality shots, it was clear that they were both fired up, as there was almost no pause to the action.
Porter continued to keep Thurman on the move, often chasing him around the ring in an attempt to back him up against the ropes. At one point in the second round, Thurman shelled up to ride out a powerful barrage from Porter, only to turn the tables and unleash a strong combination of his own once he got Porter back in the center of the ring.
By the third round, Porter tagged Thurman with a big body punch. It was becoming more apparent that the usually methodical Thurman was having trouble nailing down a rhythm against the persistent and relentless Porter. When the challenger tried to corral Thurman again, the champ fired off a couple solid body shots and a sturdy right hand to Porter’s chin.
Porter battled back with some power punches in the fourth but Thurman was able to tag him with an explosive left hook and a cut eventually opened up above Porter’s eye. Porter persisted in trying to cut the ring off but Thurman was too mobile and kept bringing the fight back to ring’s center where he aimed to pick his spots with his selective punches.
By the seventh round Porter tried to open up on the body of Thurman while Thurman finally found his jab, though he failed to follow it up with anything substantial. Porter did manage to land some heavy body blows in the following round that packed some extra voltage, making Thurman backpedal in a hasty retreat across the ring to escape the flurry. Porter pressed, firing off a big left to the body of Thurman, and Thurman answered back, landing a left hook of his own.
Porter continued to dog Thurman and forced him back up against the ropes where he sought to do his damage. The ninth round found Porter unloading a couple hard right hands on Thurman, and before the round was up Thurman had suffered a cut above his left eye—the first cut of his pro career.
In the 10th Porter loped toward Thurman with a sweeping right hand, which the champ slipped, and Thurman continued to escape Porter’s attempts to corral him. Porter was buckled when he walked into a jaw-rattling left hand by Thurman and this time it was the champ chasing a wounded Porter into the corner, but Porter managed to hold on by rallying with his own storm of punches.
Thurman connected with a huge left in the 11th and tagged Porter with another powerful counter. In the final round Porter flew out of his corner seemingly possessed, coming straight at Thurman in his last-gasp efforts to corral his opponent, and amidst the round’s non-stop action Thurman managed to connect with a brutal left uppercut. Both exhausted fighters raised their hands at the final bell as the hard-fought bout could’ve gone either way.
All three judges scored the fight 115-113 in favor of Thurman, earning him a razor-thin margin of victory and allowing him to remain undefeated. Some of the crowd of over 1,200 at the Barclays Center booed the decision.
“I was able to rock him at least once a round with clear, effective blows,” Thurman said after the fight, “and I believe that that was the key to victory today.”
He explained that during round two when he was pinned against the ropes and facing an onslaught by Porter, he was giving Porter the “rope-a-dope,” a method famously employed by Muhammad Ali in which he went into defensive mode, absorbing a barrage of punches to tire out his opponent.
“Defense, defense, defense, defense!” Thurman stated. “He had a great offense but I had a great defense today.”
Thurman did tip his hat to Porter a, calling him a “warrior” and a “tremendous athlete,” and welcomed a possible rematch.
“I’d love to see him in the ring again, baby, if that’s what he wanted,” Thurman said, adding that he everyone had been saying Porter would be his toughest opponent to date. “I was unable to drop him. I did rock him. He’s a good athlete.”
Porter admitted that he thought the victory should’ve gone his way, but called Thurman a “great champion” nonetheless.
“I’m satisfied because the competitor came out tonight,” he said. “He ran a little bit, did what he had to do. He got the win tonight. But I feel good, I feel great, I feel blessed.”
As far as a rematch goes, Porter made no bones about it how he felt about it.
“Come on, now, we need that rematch!” he said. “I think the fans want that rematch!”
Perched atop one of boxing’s most talent-rich divisions, Thurman is a legitimate star and not since the days of Winky Wright and Jeff Lacy has Pinellas produced such a promising fighter in the national spotlight.
In the undercard action junior middleweight “Swift” Jarrett Hurd (18-0, 12 KOs) stopped Oscar Molina (13-1-1, 10 KOs) in the tenth round of a fight that Hurd controlled from the opening bell. Hurd, of Accokeek, Md., rocked Molina with a thunderous right uppercut in the first round, knocking him to the deck. It was the first time Molina, a promising Mexican-American prospect who qualified for the 2012 Olympics, had been floored in his career. Though Molina got up, he had his hands full against his taller opponent as Hurd stalked him all around the ring to unload more uppercuts—his signature punch. Molina did show heart throughout the ten-rounder and worked his way inside often to get off some good body shots, it was Hurd’s fight all the way. The final round found both fighters trading some hard leather but it was Hurd that thumped Molina with some quality shots as time was winding down, stunning the swollen-eyed Molina. The fight was stopped with less than a minute to go.