World Title Eliminator Fight Presents a Major Opportunity for Both
By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Shawn Porter has felt the excitement of a major bout with championship implications inside the squared circle at the Barclays Center, twice as a fighter and once as a spectator.
He hopes to use that familiarity with the Downtown arena to his advantage Saturday night, when he takes on Andre Berto in a welterweight world title eliminator fight at Brooklyn’s home for professional boxing.
“The fans here are real,” said Porter during his media workout session Wednesday afternoon at our borough’s historic Gleason’s Gym.
“The energy is always great,” he added. “There’s so much history in this gym and in this city. It’s always an honor to be a part of it.”
Porter fought here for the first time back on Pearl Harbor Day 2013, outpointing titleholder Devon Alexander in a unanimous decision to grab the IBF Welterweight crown.
After scoring a technical knockout win over Brooklyn native Paulie Malignaggi in Washington, D.C., in 2014 that improved his career record to 24-0-1, Porter appeared primed to stamp himself as one of boxing’s best pound-for-pound pugilists.
However, he has since dropped two of his last four fights, including a unanimous decision defeat to reigning unified welterweight champion Keith Thurman at Barclays last June.
That makes Saturday’s showdown with Berto all the more critical for the 29-year-old Akron, Ohio native as he tries to climb back into the realm of elite fighters in the welterweight class.
“This is a very important fight for me,” admitted Porter, who could have grabbed Thurman’s WBA belt if he had eked out a win in his last visit to Barclays.
Now, he’s hoping an impressive win over Berto gets him back into the ring with Thurman, or whomever else will provide a shot at a major title.
“I was at the Keith Thurman vs. Danny Garcia [at Barclays on March 4], and I thought that it could have been me that night,” Porter said, referencing his ringside appearance at Thurman’s impressive unanimous decision victory over the previously unbeaten Garcia.
“But I’ve reminded myself that my time is coming and this is the first step towards that.”
Berto, who will be making his Barclays debut, intends to make that an extremely difficult step for his younger opponent.
Despite recovering from a knockdown to score a fourth-round TKO over a very beatable Victor Ortiz last April in Carson City, California, the 33-year-old Berto endured losses in four of his previous seven bouts, including a unanimous decision defeat to Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas in 2015.
Approaching what many would deem the twilight of his career, Berto isn’t the least bit interested in the opinions of others around the fight game.
Nor is he looking to be a stepping stone fight for Porter, who is listed as a big favorite in Saturday’s bout.
“You’re always going to have people with you and against you in this sport,” Berto said in advance of his workout at Gleason’s. “Our job is to work hard and do the best we can in the ring and give the fans a great show.
“My focus right now is on this fight night on Saturday,” he added. “Everything that comes after it will take care of itself. I just have to make sure all my energy is used towards getting this win.”
Porter insists that he isn’t looking past Berto, but remains obsessed with getting another shot at the fighter that spoiled his last Brooklyn bout.
“I’m going to let Keith Thurman know that I’m coming for him,” he insisted. “I’m going to make sure that he knows that I want him. I’m going to do everything I can to get that fight after I get past this one.”
Assuming, of course, that he does.
“I’ve been ready waiting for the call for a big fight and this came together and I couldn’t be happier,” Berto admitted. “It’s going to be a great night.”
In Saturday night’s co-feature, which will also be shown on the SHOWTIME telecast, undefeated super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo will take on top-rated challenger Charles Hatley.
“I’m excited about fighting in Brooklyn for the first time,” noted Charlo, who is coming off his 28th consecutive win, last May’s eighth-round TKO over John Jackson in Vegas.
“Everyone knows the fans in New York are great because they’re real and they know their stuff. I’m hoping to give them something to remember.”
Hatley, who scored more than 250 wins as an amateur and 26 more as a pro, won’t be taken lightly by the fast-rising 26-year-old Charlo.
“Charles Hatley is a good fighter,” he said. “He comes with pressure and he likes fighting. He’s got a good style and he can bob and weave and be slick.”