Errol Spence Jr. and Shawn Porter promised a dog fight, and that’s exactly what they delivered in a back-and-forth classic welterweight unification bout Saturday before 16,702 at Staples Center.
After 12 rounds of rumbling, neither fighter showed any emotion, uncertain of the scorecards. When they were tallied, it was a split decision for Spence, who prevailed 116-111 twice while the third judge had it 115-112 for a displeased Porter, who nodded his head.
Spence (26-0, 21 knockouts) defended his International Boxing Federation crown and stripped Porter (30-3-1, 17 KOs) of his World Boxing Council belt. Spence also took one step closer to filling the shoes of the retired Floyd Mayweather Jr., who was watching ringside.
“This is a lifetime dream. It shows hard work pays off,” Spence said. “Shawn Porter is a rough and awkward fighter. I didn’t get off what I wanted to. He’s a true champion. He made it tough.”
Spence popped Porter in the 11th round with a punch that swiveled his head and knocked him down. Porter was clearly hurt as his gloved grazed the canvas, the highlight of a great fight in which Spence outlanded Porter 221 to 172 in punches, per CompuBox, while absorbing the most punches of any fight in his seven-year career.
“He’s a strong kid,” Porter said. “We both came in to do the job. I think I had a little more than what he expected, but he handled it.”
The fight got off to a fantastic start, Spence putting on a show in the third round — bobbing and weaving around punches and peppering Porter with overhand shots as his opponent was wildly swinging and missing.
Porter proved he was every bit the pit bull he promised to be in Round 4, standing in the pocket and making it a dog fight. By Round 6, Porter was fighting a strategic bout, showing his fleet feet with side-to-side movement and spinning in circles, charging forward when he saw openings and strategically hugging and holding.
In the eighth round, Spence got off an impressive body attack as Porter fought back with crisp counters.
Porter came back strong in the ninth, turning the tables and snapping Spence’s head back with a right hand.
Before the 10th round started, Spence showed confidence and pep in his step, dancing in his corner. They met in the middle of the ring like battering rams. Spence fired off a nearly dozen-shot barrage, but Porter kept charging like a bull.
After scoring the knockdown in the 11th, Spence marched forward and put an exclamation mark on his win with a strong finish.
“That knockdown was the difference,” Porter said.
David Benavidez, meanwhile, is now a two-time WBC super middleweight champion at the age of 22.
Benavidez (22-0, 18 KOs) bloodied and bruised a brave Anthony Dirrell (33-2-1, 24 KOs) to win the title with a ninth-round technical knockout in the co-main event. Referee Thomas Taylor stopped the fight 1 minute 39 seconds into the round at the instructions of Dirrell’s corner as the fighter was taking a pummeling in the fight’s final moments.
“There are so many emotions coming at me at once,” Benavidez said. “We put so much hard work into this training camp. We left home and were away from everything. But I had the dream to become the youngest two-time super middleweight world champion and I made my dreams come true.”
It was a tactical and even fight through the first four rounds, but Benavidez pulled away using brute strength and successfully stringing together vicious combinations. He cut Dirrell over his right eyelid in the sixth round and began breaking him down.
Ringside physicians inspected Dirrell twice before his team stopped him from taking further damage. Dirrell had fought with cuts over his eyes multiple times before.
“He hit me with a clean shot,” Dirrell said. “It opened up. There was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t see the whole fight after that. My corner did a good job on it, but I really couldn’t see.”
This was the second time Benavidez claimed the WBC title. He was stripped of his belt last year after a failed drug test and suspension. Dirrell won the title for the second time earlier this year after Benavidez vacated it, but couldn’t match the output of Benavidez. Dirrell, outlanded in punches 165 to 94, was down on all three judges’ cards at the time of the stoppage.
In other action, Mario Barrios (25-0, 16 KOs) squeaked by Batyr Akhmedov (7-1, 5 KOs) to win the vacant World Boxing Association super lightweight title with a unanimous decision.
Akhmedov outlanded Barrios 238 to 135 in total punches, and 181 to 113 with power punches, according to CompuBox, but was not awarded the win because he suffered two knockdowns.
Barrios brought San Antonio its first major boxing world title in 25 years. “Jesse” James Leija, who claimed the WBC super featherweight crown with a win over Azumah Nelson in 1994, was the last Alamo City native to be crowned as a champion.
Josesito Lopez (37-8, 19 KOs), known as “The Riverside Rocky,” battered and bruised Covina’s John Molina Jr. (30-9, 24 KOs) for eight rounds and scored a technical knockout.
Former three-division champion and Gilroy, Calif., native Robert Guerrero (36-6-1, 20 KOs) cruised to an easy unanimous decision win over Jerry Thomas (14-2-1, 8 KOs).