BROOKLYN, NY -- Up through the rafters of Barclays Center, it seemed, you could hear it. The dull thud, thud, thud of each punch hitting a kidney, or a check bone, or a jaw, interspersed with a cacophony of oohs and aahs from the sellout crowd.
The referendum put out by Premier Boxing Champions on CBS on Saturday on whether or not boxing could still sell on primetime network TV was answered with a resounding yes.
Especially when the two fighters are Keith “One Time” Thurman and Shawn Porter. The two twenty-something welterweights didn’t disappoint before a live audience of 12,718. In fact, they combined to put together a strong candidate for the 2016 Fight of the Year.
In the end, it was Thurman that was able to fend off Porter’s charges and retain the WBA welterweight title in a highly disputed controversial result by unanimous scores of 115-113 on the scorecards of judges Eric Marlinski, Waleska Roldan and Steve Weisfeld.
Let’s say it now—there will be a rematch. And let’s also venture to say that CBS, which was showing boxing for the first time in nearly 40 years, since broadcasting Muhammad Ali’s first fight against Leon Spinks on February 15, 1978, may be more than happy to show it—if Showtime doesn’t snatch it up for pay-per-view.
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The decision was greeted with derision from the crowd. Many thought Thurman (27-0, 22 KOs) lost, based on Porter’s body attack and harder punches landed.
“I want to thank Shawn Porter for a tremendous fight, he’s a great warrior,” Thurman said. “Defense is the key to victory He smothers his punches a lot and makes it difficult for the judges to score. I was able to rock him with clear, effective blows and I believe that was the difference today.
“It's all about defense. I had a great defense today.”
The first round saw a lot of Porter (26-2-1, 16 KOs) lunging after Thurman, and “One Time” carefully retreating. But it did produce a template for what Porter was going to do—and that’s attack the body any way he could. During clinches. Each time he locked up Thurman with his head down. Every time he was close to him.
Porter was firing wide shots to the kidneys any chance he got.
The second round was much the same as the first, with Porter charging and crowding Thurman.
In the opening of the third, a red welt began forming on the left side of Thurman’s lower back. But the question that hung there was how much could Porter keep up the frenetic pace. In the waning seconds of the third, Thurman nailed Porter with a right that momentarily stunned him. Porter replied with a flurry of shots that Thurman had to feel.
Thurman connected with a hard left jab that caught Porter in the face in the fourth.
Then with less than a minute in the fourth, the two exchanged wildly, some punches even connected. It was a great action that was greeted with a standing ovation by a good portion of the crowd.
After seven, Porter may have had a 4-3 edge. And roughly just over a minute left in the eighth, Porter took the initiative with a combination of shots to the body that may have hurt Thurman. It certainly had One Time reeling backwards.
In the ninth, Porter was relentless. He pinned Thurman against the ropes and imposed what appeared to be his physical strength against possibly the weaker fighter in Thurman. He kept up with the same intensity and game plan, attacking the body and breaking Thurman down.
Thurman’s left cheekbone was swollen as he came out for the 10th. And if Thurman had one saving grace, he won on the accuracy of his power punches, connecting on 203/405 power shots (50.1%) and 235-539 total punches (43.6%), to Porter’s 236-662 (35.6%) total connects and 177 of 460 power shots (38.5%).
The last four rounds were telling: Thurman connected on 78-137 (57%) to Porter’s 67-170 (39%). Porter’s output dropped considerably in the last two rounds, landing 26 of 71 (26%) to Thurman’s 40-70 (57%).
“At the end of the day, I'm blessed.” Porter said. “We worked hard, Keith is a great champion. My dad says to keep your head up. I think I won the fight, but I'm satisfied because the competitor came out tonight.
“We need that rematch. I know the fans want that rematch. If he gives me another chance, I'm going to work hard in the ring and leave with his title.”
On the undercard, Jarrett Hurd (18-0, 12 KOs) methodically dismantled previously undefeated Oscar Molina (13-1-1, 10 KOs) in a 10-round junior middleweight fight. Hurd got off to a quick start by knocking down Molina in the first round off a right uppercut.
Molina collected himself well in the second round, but Hurd was still able to use his height and reach advantage.
That changed in the third round, as the fight style steered more in favor of what Molina likes to do. And by the sixth round, Molina gradually found himself back in the fight.
The sixth saw the two trade in close quarters. Hurd would shoulder his way inside and try to land that nasty right uppercut again, and Molina would return fire with a wide left hook.
Though after six, Hurd still held a slight lead.
Again in the seventh, the two played a game of who can hit the hardest. Molina didn’t have much wiggle room. His face was coming apart slowly. Molina’s left eye was swelling, making Hurd’s right even more lethal.
With just over a minute left in the eighth, Hurd landed a thudding right on Molina’s chin. Losing steam, Molina had little to throw back. It seemed pretty apparent then that Hurd was going to help himself to a nice victory over a tough opponent on network TV.
In the closing seconds of the ninth, referee Ricky Gonzalez started taking a closer look at the punishment Hurd was unleashing on Molina. At 2:02 of the 10th, Gonzalez finally called it. Molina simply had nothing on his punches.
It was a good call.
“Molina is a great fighter,” Hurd said. “This is definitely a big win for my career. He was taking a lot of shots, but he knew how to survive. It was a big uppercut that knocked him down in round one. People know from my last fight that I have a great right uppercut. This fight here puts me up with the top contenders in the division. I felt like I could have gone three or four more rounds. I was getting stronger as the fight went on.
“We wanted to get him out early because we knew that he had a lot of ring experience. We had to break him down first. I'm very happy. This was the first fight on CBS since a Muhammad Ali fight. I made history today. This is a blessing. Me and my team have done a great job.
“I can't see what the ref sees. He was hurt a couple of times. I don't think it was a bad stoppage. Molina is a very tough guy who just kept coming through. We're going right back to the gym so we can get in there again.”
Punch stats bear out what each fighter tried to do. Hurd used a more complete attack, landing a total of 275 of 744 punches (37%), and 55 of 185 jabs (29.7%), to Molina’s 126 of 376 total punches landed (33.5%) and just 19 of 74 jabs (25.7%).
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