Spence drops Porter in 11th, wins split decision to unify two belts

LOS ANGELES – The odds indicated that Shawn Porter did not have what it took to hang with unbeaten Errol Spence Jr.

Instead, the 16,702 fans in attendance at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, were treated to a Fight of the Year contender classic, the most difficult bout of Spence’s career to date. It was Spence, however, who clipped Porter late in the 11th round and won their 12-round classic welterweight title unification bout by split decision.

Judge Rey Danesco and Steve Weisfeld scored the fight 116-111 for Spence. Larry Hazzard Jr., though, had Porter winning 115-112. FightNights.com scored the fight 115-112 for Spence, who defended his IBF 147-pound title for the fourth time and added the WBC title to his collection.

With the win, Spence also set up a potential showdown with 40-year Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao and former two-division titlist Danny Garcia, who entered the ring after the fight to talk up a possible fight with Spence.

Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KO’s), 40, the WBA titleholder, would provide Spence the chance to add a third 147-pound crown, which would leave the 29-year-old native of Desoto, Texas, one belt shy of becoming the undisputed champion. That would mean Spence would have to face the fighter that every boxing fan wants to see him clash with -- WBO champion Terence Crawford.

“It feels good to win. This is a lifetime dream. It shows hard work pays off. Thanks Shawn Porter, my whole team and all my Texas people for coming out," Spence said to the roar of the fans.

Porter (30-3-1, 17 KO's), 31, an Akron, Ohio native training out of Las Vegas, beat Yordenis Ugas in a controversial split decision in March to become a two-time welterweight world champion. His father and trainer, Ken, said earlier in the week that he wanted to find out how Spence responded in a "dogfight."

Porter made it a rough fight from the onset and tested Spence more than any of his first 25 professional opponents.

Porter still received the short end of the stick, the third close decision of his career, each in welterweight title fights. Before Spence edged him Saturday night, he had lost only a majority decision to Kell Brook (which should have been unanimous) Brook, and a unanimous decision to Keith Thurman.

Like Spence, Brook, and Thurman were unbeaten when they topped Porter, but it was no easy task.

The bout began at a measured pace with both fighters trying to feel the other out. With just over 30 seconds remaining in the opening round, Spence caught Porter with a short right hook.

The crowd went bonkers just before the midway point of the second round because Spence stumbled backward after tripping on Porter’s shoe. Moments later, Porter nailed Spence with a straight left hand as he came forward.

Porter tried to manhandle Spence into a neutral corner late in the second round Spence stepped back and connected with two body shots to evade the threat.

Porter landed an overhand right to the side of Spence’s head. Spence was warned by referee Jack Reiss for a low blow.

Porter caught Spence with a cagey left hook that snuck around Spence’s guard early in the fourth round. Porter continued to jump on Spence and followed up with a left hook.

However, Spence bounced back to land an overhand left later in the fourth round that knocked Porter backward.

Porter clipped Spence with a straight right early in the fifth round. Spence came back with a straight left but Porter took it well and continued to charge forward.

They ended up in the center of the ring and kept swinging away at one another, but it was Spence who whacked Porter with a straight left hand to to the head shortly thereafter — to the rouse of the soldout crowd who were on their feet for much of the fight.

Boti fighters spent much of the seventh round shoving each other around for position. Porter landed a hard right to the body before the round concluded.

Spence boxed primarily off his backfoot in the eighth round to deal with Porter’s relentless pressure, but Spence could not execute on any opportunities. However, Porter did late in the round with an overhand right.

A right hand by Porter snapped Spence’s head in the ninth round, but both fighters ended up trading vicious shots on the inside in a toe-to-toe classic battle that left the crowd in a deafening roar at ringside.

It was more of the same in the 10th round as the frame was defined by Porter’s overhand right and Spence’s left.

A perfect left hook from Spence caught Porter on the button and sent Porter spiraling to the canvas.

Instead of taking time to recover, Porter got up quickly, and brought the fight to Spence again, pushing the champion back.

Spence went all-out for the knockout in the 12th round and Porter obliged, bravely going to toe-to-toe with the strong southpaw who was widely known as the “Boogeyman” of the 147-pound weight class. Porter cracked Spence with a right hand halfway through the final round. The champions hammered away until the final bell to a rousing ovation from the crowd.

According to Compubox, Spence landed 221 of 745 punches (30 percent) and Porter connected with 172 of 744 punches (23 percent).

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