Guys like Shawn Porter make boxing great.
He's an easy-going, charismatic sort; kind to fans and approachable with media. He gives plenty of himself to help promote the sport he loves.
He's a talented fighter who seemingly gets better each time out, but he's never satisfied. He's so eager to impress, to put on a show, that if someone mentions he hasn't always been on such a fast-moving upward arc, he doesn't take it personally.
A reporter mentioned that Porter is currently on a roll, but that his career seemed like a series of plateaus and upward movement. He'd get better, stay at one level for a while, than dramatically rocket upward.
He's in one of those upward periods now, coming off three fights against Julio Diaz, Devon Alexander and Paulie Malignaggi where he looked increasingly better each time.
"I hope I'm not plateauing at any point," said Porter, who is 24-0 with one draw. "I think I work hard in the gym to make every fight better than the last one. But if that's what you see and you're telling me that, then it's up to me that I don't allow you to see that any more. I don't agree or disagree with that [contention], but I accept what you said and I'm going to do my best to keep going up and up and not plateau until I retire."
He's also willing to work for what he wants. He defends his IBF welterweight title Saturday in the main event of a Showtime-televised card from the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., against unbeaten Brit Kell Brook.
If Porter disposes of the 32-0 Brook, he should become one of the leading candidates for a bout against Floyd Mayweather, assuming the pound-for-pound king defeats Marcos Maidana when they fight a rematch on Sept. 13 in Las Vegas.
There are few obvious Mayweather candidates, and public demand is sure to play a role in who gets the gig next.
Fighting Mayweather is like being given an hour free at the high-limit slot machine: You might not get rich, but the opportunity is tantalizingly close. If Mayweather is beaten in one of the final bouts of his storied career, the guy who does it will become a legend and will guarantee himself massive purses well into the future.
Virtually any fighter of substance in and around the welterweight division wants in on the lottery, and Porter has a better case than most.
One of the reasons it's so easy to root for Porter is because of his style outside the ring. He could be screaming for that bout with Mayweather, but he'd rather prove himself. He knows what it will mean if he gets such a bout, but he's not the type to get caught up in it.
Porter takes the approach he'd rather spend all his free time concentrating on getter better, so that if the call comes, he'll be ready for the challenge.
"There are a lot of fighters out there who are so focused on getting into the Mayweather sweepstakes," Porter said. "I'm not necessarily fighting to get into that sweepstakes. I'm fighting for my career, for myself, my team, my family. I know that along with that comes the pleasure of being in that sweepstakes, but it's not at the point where I'm desperate to look spectacular against Kell just to get a fight with Mayweather.
"I want to beat Kell, and look spectacular doing it, for myself, my family, my career. I do feel in some ways that fight is going to happen for me, but I'm not sitting here praying and crossing my fingers hoping for it. Floyd's going to make that choice and he's going to make it based on the reasons he has. All I can do is create a demand for the public to see me fight and watch me perform, and if that's enough to get Floyd to pick me, then great."
Porter, 26, scored an impressive victory over Alexander on Dec. 7 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to win the world title. He thoroughly out-boxed Alexander, himself an elite talent, and served notice he was ready to compete with the finest welterweights.
He followed that with a vicious TKO of Malignaggi in just four rounds, where he was teeing off with fast, hard, powerful combinations against a guy who was notoriously difficult to hit in the past.
The division is loaded with a lot of skilled welterweights on the rise, including Timothy Bradley, Keith Thurman Jr., Chris Algieri, Amir Khan, Robert Guerrero, Alexander, Maidana and Brook, as well as veterans like Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez.
That makes each fight more significant, because guys can't afford to lose when there are so many talented choices competing for the same spot.
But Porter is quickly headed to the top of that list, both in and out of the ring.
He's kind and passionate, but he's an even bigger joy to watch in the ring.
He's not a household name yet, but if he stays on the path he's on, it won't be too long before he becomes one.
- Sports & Recreation
- Floyd Mayweather
- Shawn Porter