Sports

Boxer Shawn Porter and trainer Kenny Porter are rare father-son poetry

Shawn Porter to defend IBF welterweight title Saturday when he takes on England's Kell Brook

Those who know the game best say that a recipe for disaster is a father training his son. In boxing, fathers seldom know best.

Shawn Porter is the IBF welterweight champion (147 pounds). He will defend that title in the main event against England's Kell Brook on Saturday night at the StubHub Center in Carson. In Porter's corner will be his trainer, manager and career inspiration, his father, Kenny.

Shawn is 26, Kenny 44. They are seldom seen apart.

They also appear to be completely different.

Shawn likes to listen to poetic, smooth music and write about the feelings he had when he listened. "No junk music, no dirty stuff," he says.

He liked school, was a prep football star in the Akron area and had designs on a college education, until it was decided that an amateur career that included almost 300 fights would be parlayed into a pro career.

He says he and his father seldom argue, and that when they do, it ends quickly.

"Arguments?" he says. "Honestly, they don't happen often. I'm the kind of person with a short-term memory. I like to let things go, to let them get back to normal."

Kenny says things such as, "I train him. Iron sharpens iron. He is like me. Unstoppable."

And, "I'm a nonconformist, an isolationist."

About his son's April destruction job of veteran Paulie Malignaggi, Kenny says, "He could have beaten Paulie when he was 15 years old."

Were Don Chargin sitting in the room and hearing this back and forth, he might squirm with discomfort. He is the veteran promoter and observer, who has been around the fight game since just before Noah started filling his Ark.

"I was always on close watch when I had fights with father training son," says Chargin, 86.

He recalled the days of dad Jack Quarry and sons Jerry and Mike.

"The old man was crazy," Chargin said. "He'd say, 'There is no quit in a Quarry,' and then he'd have the sons sparring against each other in day-after-day brutal battles. Mike was a light-heavyweight who could box and not punch. Jerry was a title-contending heavyweight who could unleash a deadly hammer.

"I went to watch one day when Jack had them sparring," Chargin says. "I never went back. it was brutal."

Both sons eventually died of complications from brain damage. Jerry died at 53, and seven years later, Mike succumbed at 55. Mike's wife, Ellen, spent much of the last years of their married life changing his diapers.

Chargin just rolls his eyes at the mention of the Mayweathers, Floyd Sr. and Jr., who have been known to hurl insults and vulgar characterizations at each other not just in public, but on network TV.

He recalled boxer Tony Lopez, whose father, Sal, wanted to control all aspects of his son's career.

"Tony told me one time, when he was ending a manager's contract with his father," Chargin says, "that he wanted Sal to be his father, not his manager."

Chargin says that, when Tony returned home after ending the contract, he found all his clothes, thrown out onto the street.

"I had one father whose kid was a terrible boxer," Chargin says, "and he pushed me until I got him a fight at the Olympic. The kid got beat bad, and the next thing we know, the father is in the locker room, slapping him around for embarrassing him in front of his friends.

"The next time I saw the kid, he came by to tell me he was joining the Air Force."

Chargin says he has met and observed Shawn and Kenny Porter.

"They really seem to have a connection," he says. "I hope it lasts. It doesn't seem to be put on."

The interview of the Porters, dominated by Kenny but with smiling and quiet approval from Shawn, winds toward the family essence.

"Shawn is the brother I lost," Kenny says.

"When I was 4 and my brother was 3, we went to find my mother. She was at a house with lots of drinking and bad stuff going on. We went to cross the street and I made it and my brother got hit and killed by a drunk driver.

"Later, I watched my mother's boyfriend get shot and killed right in front of me."

All that makes a boxing ring a bastion of normalcy, safety.

"Everything he has told you I have heard many times," Shawn says. "At 26, I understand him, and understand why he is the way he is.

"We are different. I don't have the mean streak he has. I'm more compassionate, sensitive."

Porter's 24-0-1 record, matched against Brook's 32-0, points to a good fight. Porter, who grew up in Akron after his father made sure he got his family out of the mean streets of Cleveland, lives and trains in Las Vegas now, about a mile from where Mayweather Jr. lives.

"He acts like he doesn't even know we're alive," Kenny says.

If Porter's success continues, there may be a time when Mayweather might want to make his next ring battle a neighborhood affair.

The conversation carries on.

Kenny, questioned about some of the tough nights ahead in the ring for his son, says, "He knows what he signed up for."

The subject goes back to father-son dynamics and Shawn says, "Someday, I think I'll make a pretty good dad."

Follow Bill Dwyre on Twitter @dwyrelatimes

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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