LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Errol Spence successfully defended his International Boxing Federation (IBF) belt and seized the World Boxing Council (WBC) title yesterday, defeating Shawn Porter by a split decision in a welterweight unification fight.
The 29-year-old Spence had to go the 12-round distance for the victory in a close slugfest with two belts on the line in one of the deepest divisions in boxing.
“I wanted to show everybody that I can sit there and bang with one of the roughest, toughest fighters in welterweight,” said Spence. “I feel like I am the bigger, stronger and smarter welterweight.”
The two fighters traded blows throughout, especially in close quarters where Spence did some of his best work in front of the crowd of 20,000 at the Staples Center.
He recorded the only knockdown in the 11th round when he hit Porter with a vicious left that wobbled the former WBC champ. Porter didn’t hit the canvas but his knees buckled and his left glove touched the ground, preventing him from going down. But Spence (26-0, 21 KOs) failed to follow up with the knockout after Porter rose to his feet and said “let’s go”.
Two judges had Spence winning 116-111 and the third gave it to Porter 115-112.
Spence was thought to be in line for a fight against Manny Pacquiao but the promoter Al Haymon poured cold water on that mega showdown by having officials in the ring announce Spence would fight Danny Garcia next.
Porter (30-3-1, 17 KOs) may have lost a close decision but he won the hearts of many boxing fans with his dogged, aggressive style. He would charge forward, at times trying to smother Spence with a barrage of blows. But it didn’t always work as by the middle rounds, Spence figured out he could step aside and land short left hooks to Porter’s head.
Some of the exchanges between the two were so wanton and the blows rapid-fire that the fighters landed simultaneously punches to each other’s heads.
Spence said Porter’s mauling style made him uncomfortable at times.
“Porter is a rough fighter. I looked sloppy at times but give credit to Porter. He comes to fight,” said Spence.
On the undercard, David Benavidez regained the WBC super middleweight title with a ninth-round stoppage of fellow American Anthony Dirrell.
Benavidez, who was stripped of the crown after a positive drug test, was overpowering Dirrell when the champion’s corner threw in the towel.
The 22-year-old Benavidez improved to 22-0 with 19 knockouts. He was coming off a stoppage of J’Leon Love in March.
Dirrell, who was giving up 12 years to his rival, suffered a nasty cut over his right eye in the seventh round. By the time the fight was stopped, he could only see out of his left eye.
Dirrell took the vacant crown in February by beating Turkey’s Avni Yildirim. He suffered just the second loss of his career to go with 33 wins and one draw.