It’s 6 a.m. on Sunday morning. For boxers who are days away from a career-defining fight, it’s either a time to save for solitude or perhaps a morning run to begin shedding off the last few pounds in order to successfully make weight.
With luggage in hand, a weary Shawn Porter, the WBC welterweight champion, heads straight toward a makeup chair at the historic Fox Studios in Century City.
It’s just another stop in a whirlwind camp that’s included consistent training in Las Vegas and Washington as well as special events and sparring in Los Angeles and New York.
Porter, who moonlights as a TV analyst for “Inside PBC Boxing,” is headed back to the building that’s been a home-away-from home for him over the last year. Today, his job is to join the popular pigskin pregame program, “Fox NFL Sunday,” and promote his pay-per-view fight on the same network against Errol Spence on Sept. 28 at the Staples Center.
Porter (30-2-1, 17 KOs) will join Michael Strahan in a makeshift boxing ring for a four-minute segment and explain to millions how he’s going to defeat Spence (25-0, 21 KOs) on Saturday to strip him of his IBF belt.
Porter, a Cleveland Browns fans, is wearing a tailored suit, his customary fat, double-Windsor-knot tie and is draped in Browns hues from head to toe. When the Rolex-wearing fighter takes a seat, his team-licensed socks are revealed. The flashy yet crisp look is a far cry from the days when he was wearing hand-me-downs from his siblings.
Away from TV, Porter keeps a casual Cleveland-like mentality, paired with jeans and a T-shirt. Once the camera pans on him, however, he flashes his personality and a smile.
Many prognosticators are pegging Porter to lose the fight against the favored Spence. However, similar to the Browns’ upstart mentality and outlook this year, Porter said he’s positioned to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the year thanks to his pitbull-like tenacity.
“I’m going to be a reflection of what Cleveland is. I have the grit and fight and desire to win, just like the city. We’re about fighting and earning everything that you have by any means necessary,” Porter said in his dressing room, minutes after finishing his TV duties for the day.
“Spence hasn’t been in a ring with an animal like me. I have to be a dog, touch him and make him feel me. He won’t be able to catch my rhythms. I pride myself on making people uncomfortable. He smiles at that, but he’s never pushed his way through someone who brings a combination like I do.”
“Showtime” Porter wants to falsify “The Truth” Spence and provide a champion-starved city with another reason to celebrate beyond the 2016 NBA championship LeBron James brought to the city.
“People always call me ‘champ’ all the time everywhere I go. I just tell them to call me ‘Shawn.’ There’s countless champs, but only one Shawn Porter,” he said. “Respect and admiration comes from the belt and being a champion. It will triple once I beat Spence.”
Porter promises to beat Spence and unify the 147-pound division as a date with WBA titleholder Manny Pacquiao likely will be considered for the winner by the end of the first quarter in 2020.
Like Pacquiao, the blue-collared Porter is religious. “James 1:12” is stitched on his left dress-shirt collar. The passage reads: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the lord has promised to those who love him.”
Porter, 31, is the father of 20-month-old son Shaddai, which in Hebrew means “god almighty.”
Shaddai’s name came to Porter during church service one day when his pastor Randall Cunningham, the former NFL quarterback, was preaching at the Remnant Ministries church in Las Vegas.
The church was the same place where Porter and Spence shared a moment last year when Porter invited his boxing brethren to a pickup basketball game. Spence ended up showing up — and showing out.
“He came in that day, and he was a competitor. He went harder than anyone else on the court. There’s plenty of respect on both sides,” said Porter. “I’m respectful and a nice individual, but it’s not like we have each other’s numbers. I know he has my dad’s number, though.”
Kenny Porter, Shawn’s father and lifelong trainer, once coached Spence for a year ahead of his 2012 Olympic run as a technical director for the U.S. men’s national team, and was even raving about the undefeated Dallas native and current star when they traveled the world together for amateur fights.
“[Errol and Shawn] were never friends. That’s what people got misconstrued. Errol was my guy,” affirmed Kenny.
Shawn did not offer any jabs toward Spence, but hinted they would come during fight week.
“This fight is a mental war as much as it’s a physical one. I’m going to take advantage of that — 100% , especially during this week’s lead up,” Porter said with a smile. “It has to happen. I’m going to get under his skin and bother him.”
Then, he immediately wore his pundit hat much like he does for Fox on TV and started offering his scouting report on Spence.
“He’s young, technically savvy and tenacious. People say, ‘he’s the next coming.’ His skills, along with social media, has made him a big name. I don’t envy it though,” said Porter. “I have advantages that are flying under the radar. Guys can’t handle my aggressive attack. You saw it with Danny Garcia.”
The Garcia fight was Porter’s finest hour as a professional, right next to beating Adrien Broner. Porter flustered the Philadelphia fighter and handed him his first career loss via unanimous decision for the WBC belt he currently parades around. His first defense of the title in February in Carson was less convincing, as he nearly missed weight and barely escaped with a split decision win against Cuban Yordenis Ugas.
The skillful Spence, who’s on an unknown road to perhaps one day fight Terence Crawford, will sport a 2 1/2-inch height advantage, three-inch reach advantage and two years in youth. He’s coming off an impressive one-sided destruction of previous unbeaten Mikey Garcia and has also beaten Kell Brook for his IBF title, a fighter Porter once lost to.
Win or lose, after his fight Saturday night, Porter will return to school in pursuit of a degree in psychology with a minor in journalism or communications. Boxing and a burgeoning amateur career took precedence after high school, but when he hangs up the gloves, he wants to become a sports psychologist in addition to his TV duties.
“I have school planned out in my mind, and I know it’s going to work. My dad wants us to wake up every morning with intent. I know he’s going to cry when I graduate,” said Porter.
“We have a genuine relationship together, which is sometimes rare for father-son duos in boxing. We’re going to take love, trust and friendship that’s required to be successful into the ring together, and fire on all cylinders. When the upset happens, he’s going to be a part of the reason why. It’s god’s plan.”