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It Wasn’t The Queen That Needed Saving as Andy Ruiz Jr. Dethroned Anthony Joshua

Bernard Fernandez

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Andy Ruiz

NEW YORK – The sellout crowd of 20,201, a significant percentage of whom had journeyed here from the United Kingdom, warmed up for the main event by turning Madison Square Garden into a mass karaoke performance. First they warmed up by loudly singing along to Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” before attaining an even higher decibel level with an enthusiastic rendition of “God Save the Queen.”

As it turned out, it wasn’t Queen Elizabeth II who needed salvation Saturday night, but magnificently sculpted Briton Anthony Joshua, widely considered by this Union Jack-waving audience as the one, true king of the heavyweights. Although the 6-foot-6, 247-pound Joshua always has looked the part of an unconquerable warrior monarch, on this historic night he would be exposed as something less by a chubby fill-in opponent whose longshot bid to end AJ’s royal reign must have seemed only a bit more likely than one of his comparatively few on-site supporters winning the Powerball Lottery.

In what arguably was the most shocking upset since Buster Douglas knocked out seemingly invincible heavyweight champion Mike Tyson in Tokyo on Feb. 11, 1990, Ruiz (33-1, 22 KOs) arose from a third-round knockdown – the first time he’d been on the deck as a pro – to floor a stunned Joshua (22-1, 21 KOs) twice in the same round before tacking on two more knockdowns in round seven. Although Joshua beat referee Michael Griffin’s count after his fourth trip to the canvas, he stepped backward, on unsteady legs, to a neutral corner and put his arms atop the highest strand of the ropes. Griffin quite reasonably interpreted that as a sign of surrender and awarded Ruiz a technical knockout victory after an elapsed time of 1 minute, 27 seconds.

Thus did the seventh title defense for Joshua, the super heavyweight gold medalist at the 2012 London Olympics who was fighting for the first time on American soil, end on a discordant note. But the flip side of his supporters’ dejection was the sight of Ruiz, his considerable love handles jiggling like a shaken gelatin mold, leaping in exultation as his corner team rushed forward to celebrate with him.

Not that Ruiz, a U.S. citizen from Imperial Calif., who became the first fighter of Mexican descent to capture a world heavyweight championship, had surprised himself along with the thousands in attendance and many more around the world who watched the fight via the DAZN streaming service. No, far from it. Ruiz insisted he had known all along that he had all the attributes to defeat Joshua, his lack of a magnificent physique notwithstanding.

“Nobody thought I was going to win, but everybody that bet on me is going to make some serious money,” a smiling Ruiz said at the postfight press conference. (He went off at +1100 in the Las Vegas sports books, yielding a profit of $1,100 to anyone who bold enough to risk a $100 wager on him.)

“Before this fight was going to happen I was saying in a lot of interviews that I would rather fight AJ than any other heavyweight out there. I knew that I could beat him. Every fighter has flaws and I think AJ has bigger flaws than Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury.”

Wilder, the WBC heavyweight champion who has steadfastly maintained that it is he who most deserves to be recognized as the best of boxing’s big men, wasted no time in concurring with Ruiz’s estimation that Joshua, who had entered as the WBA, WBO and IBF titlist, has never deserved to be recognized as the No.  1 guy, and maybe not even as No. 2 or 3 or possibly even 4.

“He wasn’t a true heavyweight champion. His whole career was consisted of lies, contradictions and gifts,” Wilder almost giddily tweeted after Ruiz chopped down the Joshua tree. “Facts, and now we know who was running from who!”

Until the 6-2, 268-pound Ruiz backed up his bold talk with action, the heavyweight division was widely considered to be comprised of a top tier of Joshua, Wilder and lineal champion Tyson Fury, with everyone else occupying lower rungs on the ladder. Now the round-robin tournament almost everyone in boxing had hoped would happen, with Joshua, Wilder and Fury sorting things out among themselves, has had that exclusive party joined by a gate-crasher who, upon further reflection, probably always was more dangerous than many had imagined. That sometimes happen with fighters – any athletes, actually – who fail to score high on the eye test. More than a few naysayers have dismissed Ruiz as a legitimately elite heavyweight because what first caught their attention is his paunch instead of his quite respectable punch, not to mention his nimble feet and fast hands for a guy who, by his own admissions, will never be a male underwear model.

Although Ruiz has officially weighed in as high as 292½ pounds as a pro, and his weight for the Joshua bout was five pounds heavier than he had come in at for his most recent ring appearance, a fifth-round stoppage of Alexander Dimitrenko on April 20 in Carson, Calif., that outing took place just five weeks before he took on AJ. He was, by his somewhat relaxed standards, in excellent condition.

Still, some of the questions that were posed to Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, regarded the possibility of Joshua having taken Ruiz too lightly, if you’ll pardon the expression, or Ruiz being chosen because he might have been considered a relatively soft touch after the originally scheduled opponent, Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, was obliged to withdraw after failing three separate drug tests for banned substances. Hearn insisted that neither suggestion held any merit.

“I said in the buildup that this is a tougher fighter for Anthony than Jarrell Miller,” Hearn said. “They’re not dissimilar in (physical) stature, but Andy’s faster, he has better movement, a better boxing IQ. The Miller fight would have been much easier.”

But if Ruiz constituted such a threat, why didn’t Hearn replace Miller with Manuel Charr or Trevor Bryan, both of whom were lobbying for the pinch-hitting role and the fat payday that came with it?

“We wanted to give a proper fight,” Hearn answered. “With all respect to Manuel Charr and Trevor Bryan, they’re not worthy challengers. We wanted a proper test for AJ. When you come to Madison Square Garden, you’ve got to give the public a real fight. We knew that Andy Ruiz would give Anthony Joshua a real fight. Unfortunately, he gave him more of a fight than we hoped he would. We really felt that Anthony is the best heavyweight in the world and he would win tonight.”

Hearn said Team Joshua would enforce the clause for an immediate rematch, most likely to be held in November or December in the United Kingdom. It will be interesting to see if Joshua, whom Hearn said “will be absolutely devastated” when the realization of what had just happened kicks in, can replicate the feat of countryman Lennox Lewis, who was knocked out by Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman, but came back to avenge those losses in emphatic fashion.

“Great fighters come back and improve,” Hearn noted. “Some fighters come back the same (and lose again to the guy that beat them). The future will show how Anthony Joshua responds.”

For his part, Ruiz – who succeeded where past Mexican or Mexican-American heavyweight title challengers Chris Arreola (three times), Eric Molina (twice), Manuel Ramos and even Ruiz himself, in an earlier bout with then-champion Joseph Parker, didn’t – said he doesn’t anticipate being a one-hit wonder.

“I’m still pinching myself to see if this is real, man,” he said. “But this is not the only victory that I get. I’m not going to let the belts go.”

It might require another win inside the distance over Joshua, on his home turf, to convince any remaining doubters that Ruiz isn’t simply some incredibly lucky guy who caught a superior fighter on an off-night. At the time of the stoppage two judges – Julie Lederman and Michael Alexander – had Ruiz up by a single point, 57-56, while the third judge, Pasquale Procopio, actually had Joshua ahead by the same tally.

“I did not want to leave it up to the judges,” Ruiz said, a frame of mind he no doubt will carry into the do-over.

Several Undercard Bouts Also Were Keepers

A stellar undercard was punctuated by several bouts that were main-event worthy, the most notable of which was won by Callum Smith.

Smith (26-0, 19 KOs), the 6-foot-3 super middleweight from Liverpool, England, knocked down former three-time world title challenger Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam (37-4, 21 KOs) once in each round en route to being awarded a third-round TKO, enabling him to retain his WBA 168-pound belt as well as his WBC Diamond belt. Smith again called out unified middleweight champ Canelo Alvarez.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Looking Ahead to Canelo-Kovalev, Looking Back at Robinson-Maxim

Jeffrey Freeman

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Looking Ahead to Canelo-Kovalev, Looking Back at Robinson-Maxim

Will boxing history repeat itself again? 

In modern era prizefighting it is almost unheard of for a reigning middleweight champion to challenge a reigning light heavyweight champion for his title. It’s a fifteen pound climb on the scales; the second biggest weight gap between any of boxing’s eight original weight classes.

Undisputed middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler was wise to resist the temptation; choosing to let Michael Spinks go up 25 pounds to heavyweight rather than moving up himself to challenge the then undefeated Spinks “Jinx” for his unified light heavyweight titles.

As it turns out, Michael could handle the heavyweights. He beat Larry Holmes twice and blitzed Gerry Cooney. He might well have handed Hagler an ugly loss, maybe even one by knockout.

Bernard Hopkins moved up to light heavyweight a year after losing his middleweight titles. He won some and lost some before being knocked out of the ring, and out of boxing, by Joe Smith Jr.  James Toney went from middleweight to heavyweight but he did it slowly over two decades.

CHAMPIONSHIP POUNDS

More often than not, it is the natural middleweight champion (160) fielding challenges from welterweight (147) or junior middleweight (154) while today’s light heavyweight champions (175) sometimes see action from the super middleweights (168) who pack on seven extra pounds.

The most recent example of a middleweight champion moving up in weight to box a defending light heavyweight champion for his title is still Sugar Ray Robinson’s ill-fated challenge of Joey Maxim at Yankee Stadium in New York City on June 25, 1952. Theirs was one hell of a fight.

According to the United Press, the summer heat in the outdoor ring reached 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Robinson weighed-in at just 157; Maxim at 173. Robinson was better, quicker, and more skilled. Maxim was stronger and he took a much better punch than the lighter Sugar Ray.

“Time after time [Robinson] danced into the attack with his stinging combinations and slipped away from Maxim’s jab,” penned Jack Hand from ringside for the St. Petersburg Times sports page. “But the time came when he could dance no more. As the 13th ended, he collapsed wobbling against the ropes near a neutral corner and had to be dragged to his own stool.”

Robinson retired in the corner after the thirteenth round‒well ahead on points. Referee Ruby Goldstein also failed to go the distance due to desert-like temperatures and dehydration. Ruby was replaced by referee Ray Miller after an especially sweat-drenched tenth frame.

22222robinson maxim e1529974298391 620x465

The only one in the ring who could take the literal and proverbial heat was Maxim, thus he became the only fighter to stop Robinson, the greatest pound-for-pounder of all time, before going on to engage in a trilogy with Archie Moore; losing all three bouts by unanimous decision.

Robinson retired but came back three years later in 1955, actively competing until 1965.

As a middleweight.

HISTORY AWAITS…

On November 2 in Las Vegas, Nevada at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Golden Boy’s superstar “Canelo” Alvarez will challenge WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev.

The unique move by Alvarez comes after an anticipated third fight with Gennady Golovkin failed to materialize in 2019. Airing on DAZN, there is no catchweight BS and Kovalev (1-1 against Latinos named Alvarez) will be allowed to box without having a hand tied behind his back.

Whether he gets fair officiating in Vegas is another story. Canelo, like Robinson, will be attempting to make history by winning a third world title in as many weight classes but can he pull it off? Is Canelo finally biting off more than he can chew after gradually easing into middleweight and then seizing the crown last September from the long reigning Triple G?

“Historic fights have been a hallmark of this company and we are pleased to once again live up to the high expectations we’ve set for fans. The best pound-for-pound fighter is also boxing’s biggest star. I am certain he will stop Kovalev,” predicts Canelo’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya.

Oddsmakers have already installed Canelo as the betting favorite (4 to 1 on some books) just as they did in 1952 when Robinson was favored (13 to 10) to defeat the then 78-18-4 Maxim.

With all due respect to Vasyl Lomachenko and with all promotional hyperbole aside, Canelo is arguably the top rated P4P boxer in the world today with decision victories over Gennady Golovkin, Miguel Cotto, Erislandy Lara, Austin Trout, and Danny Jacobs on his record.

His lone loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. made him a better boxer, particularly on defense. The skilled redhead is now 52-1-2 with 35 knockouts. He rolls with the punches like ‘Money May’ and by that I mean to say he shoulder-rolls and parries like no Mexican fighter I know of.

RISKY BUSINESS

“The second phase of my career is continuing as planned,” says Canelo. Whether or not that includes a third fight with GGG remains to be seen but Kovalev’s Main Events promoter Kathy Duva is happy to see Golovkin wait. “Canelo is to be praised for challenging Krusher Kovalev. Win or lose, he will make history and Sergey is extremely pleased to get the chance to test his mettle against another future Hall-of-Famer. I have a feeling that this will be one for the ages.”

Last month against Anthony Yarde, Kovalev, 36, showed that he is still very vulnerable to the body. During the eighth round of his WBO title bout in his Russian hometown of Chelyabinsk, Kovalev’s abdomen came under attack from Yarde who almost did what Andre Ward did in his rematch with Kovalev; namely buckle the big guy over and make him quit from bodyshots.

Kovalev weathered the storm and used his long stiff jab to put Yarde down and out in the 11th.

Canelo, 29, is coming off a May win against Danny Jacobs, a unanimous decision in which he proved beyond a shadow of any doubt that as the one who beat Golovkin, he is the best and most accomplished middleweight in the world‒the legitimate world champion of the division.

There’s really nothing left to prove there.

“I want to be remembered as one of the greats in boxing and that is why I continue to work hard and continue to take on these type of fights, so that I can keep on writing my own history. That is why I’ve decided to jump two weight classes. Kovalev is a dangerous puncher, and he’s a naturally bigger man but those are the kinds of challenges and risks that I like to face.”

“In order to be the best you have to beat the best,” acknowledges the 34-3-1 (29) Kovalev. “I always tried to fight the toughest opponents in my division. Canelo wanted to fight me; to step up to a higher weight and challenge for my belt. I will be ready on November 2nd,” he promises.

If he hopes to beat Canelo and redeem himself for the technical knockout losses to Ward (in 2017) and Eleider Alvarez (in 2018), Kovalev will have to be in the best shape of his ten-year career and more ready than he’s been recently to go hard for the full twelve rounds.

Poor stamina must not be an issue again. It’s time to put down the vodka and pay close attention to trainer Buddy McGirt. “He still has that fire inside to be the best,” insists Buddy.

Alvarez is a thunderous body puncher and the best counterpuncher in the game today. But it’s hard to land downstairs or counter to the head effectively when you’re being kept at a safe distance by a bigger, stronger man using his long reach and superior power to his advantage.

Kovalev pumps an outstanding jab and it’s his most important weapon for upsetting Alvarez.

While one can see Canelo working his way inside and crushing a tiring Kovalev’s body, one can also see a motivated Kovalev taking advantage of this golden opportunity to remind us all of the talented fighting machine who beat Bernard Hopkins and appeared to have done enough to deserve the judges’ decision in his first encounter with the now retired P4P star Andre Ward.

BACK TO THE FUTURE

They say that history is written by the winners but in the case of Robinson-Maxim, it appears to have been written by the loser, or at the very least by those sympathetic to him. Ask anyone about the fight today and all you’ll hear about is how Robinson wilted like a raisin in the sun.

Maxim gets little to no credit.

But according to Maxim’s manager Jack Kearns, all the hot talk was just hot air, an excuse.

“Robinson was nailed good in the belly in the tenth and again in the twelfth. And he got a left hook and a right to the head at the end of the thirteenth when he was on the ropes. If the bell hadn’t rang he’d be dead,” he said. “We had Joey lay back and let Robinson punch himself out.”

Who’s to say it didn’t work?

If Canelo’s plan is to wait until Kovalev gets winded and then go to work on his body like Ward and Yarde, he might be able to achieve what even the great Sugar Ray Robinson was unable to accomplish. And if Kovalev is fit and ready on fight night as promised, he has the physical tools to win; proving that a good big man almost always beats a good (even GOAT) small man.

Canelo-Kovalev is a real fight.

May the best man win.

*****

Boxing Writer Jeffrey Freeman grew up in the City of Champions, Brockton, Massachusetts from 1973 to 1987, during the Marvelous career of Marvin Hagler. JFree then lived in Lowell, Mass during the best years of Irish Micky Ward’s illustrious career. A new member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a Bernie Award Winner in the Category of Feature Under 1500 Words, Freeman covers boxing for The Sweet Science in New England.

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The Avila Perspective, Chap 65: September’s Dueling Fight Cards

David A. Avila

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Rivaling fight cards in Los Angeles and Las Vegas last weekend still managed to attract more than 7,000 fans in each location.

Tyson Fury, the lineal heavyweight champion, headed the pseudo Mexican lineup at T-Mobile Arena and brought more than 9,000 fans into its vast accommodations. Jaime Munguia, the super welterweight titlist from Tijuana, Mexico brought more than 7,100 followers to the Dignity Health Sports Park.

Both cards were streamed by ESPN+ and DAZN respectively. The beauty of streaming is that fans individually can see them whenever and wherever they are as long as there is phone reception.

Fury’s return to the actual heavyweight throne was nearly derailed by Sweden’s Otto Wallin, proving that anything can happen in a prize fight. The punch that opened up a cut near Fury’s eye almost stopped his potential mega fight with Deontay Wilder early next year.

Top Rank probably envisioned dollar bills floating toward an incinerator when Fury’s blood dripped during the fight. Luckily the referee was Tony Weeks and he’s a fighter’s referee who doesn’t mind inside fighting or bloody fights. In my estimation he’s the best referee in Nevada and one of the best in the world.

A day earlier Devin Haney showed off his fighting abilities at Madison Square Garden Theater with some flashy weaponry. The Las Vegas prizefighter with the sizzling combinations demonstrated his defensive wizardry too in immobilizing Zaur Abdullaev and battering the Russian lightweight.

“I’m not a prospect,” insisted Haney when an interviewer injected that phrase. “I’m a champion.”

Last year, he met former world title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos at Pechanga Resort and Casino and proved his pedigree with a dominating performance. That’s when his prospect status ended for me. You don’t dominate a guy like Burgos who went the distance with Mikey Garcia and Japan’s Hozumi Hasegawa. Burgos only lost to those guys and now to Haney. Burgos used every trick he knew and invented a few more but Haney kept his cool and convincingly defeated Burgos.

The Las Vegas kid is for real.

Thompson Boxing Promotions, the Little Giant

This Friday the Southern California based outfit Thompson Boxing Promotions has two fight cards it’s co-promoting, one in Texas that can been seen on Showtime and another in Ontario, California that will be streamed on RingTV.com.

Featherweight prospect Ruben Villa (16-0) meets Jose Durantes Vivas (17-0) in the main event of a ShoBox card on Showtime in Midland, Texas. Villa is no stranger to televised bouts and once again he’s facing an undefeated opponent. Durantes now lives and trains in Southern California and recently fought on a Garcia Promotions card in San Bernardino.

On the same Texas card, Michael Dutchover (10-0, 7 KOs) returns to his hometown and meets once beaten Thomas Mattice (14-1-1) in a lightweight clash. The native Texan trains in Santa Fe Springs, California and has a five-fight knockout streak. He’s very aggressive but has learned to patiently weave his way through his opponent’s defense. This time he faces a veteran with plenty of skills.

On the same night, Thompson Boxing stages a boxing card in its regular location, the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, where many of its former discoveries like Timothy Bradley, Mauricio Herrera, Josesito Lopez and Yonnhy Perez performed before headlining major boxing cards.

Petr Petrov (40-6-2, 21 KOs) headlines the Southern California card and faces Dedrick Bell (23-30-1) of  Memphis, Tennessee in the main event set for eight rounds.

Others on the card include Isaac Zarate, Anthony Chavez, Arnold Dinong, and Mario Hernandez.

Doors open at 6:30 and the fights begin at 8 p.m. For more information call (714) 935-0900.

Commerce

On Friday night about 50 miles west, Bash Promotions has a lengthy boxing card at Commerce Casino in Commerce, featuring top prospects Christopher Zavala, Miguel Contreras, Narek Abgaryan and others. A flash sale that gives 50 percent off ticket prices is available when you purchase online at Bashboxing.com and mention FLASH. Nine bouts are currently scheduled.

For more information call (844) 662-8499.

Bakersfield

Alfredo “Perro” Angulo (25-7, 21KOs) has a very tough test when he fights Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (34-1-1) in a super middleweight fight set for 10 rounds at Rabobank Theater in Bakersfield, Calif. FOX Sports 1 will televise the PBC boxing card.

Angulo has been training in Big Bear with Abel Sanchez and won his last fight via knockout at Dignity Health Sports Park last April. It was his first win in four years. Now he faces a former world champion in Quillin.

Quillin, 36, was KOed by Daniel Jacobs four years ago and hasn’t been very active since then. But he’s always been a very skillful fighter and we will see if Angulo’s working with Sanchez will be a factor in this super middleweight fight.

It’s a massive boxing card scheduled for 16 pro fights. Reminds me of the old Don King Production fights of the past that would begin at 10 a.m. and end at 1 a.m. the next day. Truth.

Also on the PBC card in Bakersfield are Thomas Dulorme, Gary Antonio Russell, Francisco Ochoa, Gary Antuanne Russell and many more.

Fights to Watch

Fri. Ringtv.com 8 p.m. Petr Petrov (40-6-2) vs Dedrick Bell (23-30-1).

Fri. Showtime 10 p.m. Michael Dutchover (13-0) vs Thomas Mattice (14-1-1); Ruben Villa (16-0) vs Jose Durantes Vivas (17-0).

Saturday Fox Sports 1 5 p.m. Thomas Dulorme (24-3-1) vs Terrel Williams (18-0); Peter Quillen (34-1-1) vs Alfredo Angulo (25-7).

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank

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Shawn Porter Explains Why He Isn’t in Over His Head Against Errol Spence Jr.

Bernard Fernandez

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There sometimes can be a thin line separating child abuse and a demanding parent’s version of tough love. Twenty years or so ago, the way Kenny Porter elected to draw out the athletic excellence and mental fortitude that he imagined existed within his grade-school-age son Shawn might have been misinterpreted, had their relationship drawn the scrutiny of a case worker for Summit County Children Services in the Porters’ hometown of Akron, Ohio. Not that Kenny ever laid a hand on Shawn in a brutal or excessive way, but an equivalent level of treatment might have been looked upon negatively by a child protective care professional objecting to the kid routinely being thrown into the deep end of the pool to fend for himself, or more to the point onto football fields where he was regularly required to compete against bigger, stronger and older boys not disposed to take it easy on the little guy.

“It’s how I grew up. It’s how my dad raised me and it’s where I come from. We were never allowed to shy away from any challenge and that’s how I lived my life,” Shawn Porter, now the WBC welterweight champion, said of his upbringing under Kenny, a relentless daily grind which also helped other would-be child athletic prodigies (like two-time Olympic gold medalist and current WBC/WBA/WBO lightweight titlist Vassiliy Lomachenko) rise to giddy heights while those made of less resilient stuff (see former USC and Los Angeles Raiders quarterback Todd Marinovich, profiled by TSS on Jan. 14) psychologically unraveled to the point they wanted nothing more than to cease trying to constantly please a parent for whom a merely good effort was never good enough.

“I was 10 years old playing football against guys who were 12 and 13 years old,” continued Porter (30-2-1, 17 KOs), who will be asked to tackle another herculean task Sept. 28 when he takes on the heavily favored IBF 147-pound titlist, Errol Spence Jr. (25-0, 21 KOs) in a unification showdown to be televised via Fox Pay Per View from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. “It doesn’t sound like that big a deal now, but back then when you’re 10 going up against preteens it is a big deal. So even at that young age my dad has always challenged me and made sure I not only put out my best but I was going against the best. I’m 31 now and this is 100% familiar territory because it’s where I come from.”

Although Shawn Porter now resides in Las Vegas, a tough town in a glitzier sort of way, his formative years were spent in northeast Ohio, a gritty, blue-collar region where working men in hard hats and dingy dungarees made their livings in steel mills or, more specifically to Akron, the factories that led to the Rust Belt city being labeled the “rubber capital of the world.” Porter likes to note that Akron also is the hometown of NBA superstar LeBron James, who as a child and adolescent also regularly went up against older boys, although in LBJ’s case he was nonetheless the taller, stronger, faster and more dominant player on just about every court he ever set foot upon.

Unlike youth-league football, where apparently age and size differences were sometimes overlooked in the leagues in which Shawn participated, amateur boxing required him to compete against kids more or less his own proportions. But there was still a way for Kenny Porter to ensure that his boy continued to test himself in trials by fire against those whose physical capabilities and potential seemingly dwarfed his son’s. A natural welter now as an adult, the 5-foot-7 Shawn Porter bulked up to an above-his-weight-class 165 pounds to throw down with future middleweight world titlists Daniel Jacobs and Demetrius Andrade and – talk about a relative David and Goliath matchup – undisputed cruiserweight champ Oleksandr Usyk, the 2018 Boxing Writers Association of America’s Fighter of the Year. Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs) is 6-foot-3 and makes his heavyweight debut on Nov. 12 in Chicago against Tyrone Spong, with the celebrated Ukrainian likely to be in the 215-pound range, or maybe even a bit higher.

So how did Porter fare in the land of the larger? Better than many might expect.

“I have wins against Jacobs and Andrade,” he said. “Me and Andrade were 1-1 in the amateurs. The last time we fought we were 165 pounds and I beat him. The experience is there. The experience against taller, bigger opponents is there.”

None bigger in retrospect, of course, than Usyk, whose skill set, southpaw stance and high ranking on almost everyone’s current pound-for-pound list are close approximations of Spence, if Spence were being viewed through a magnifying glass.

“I fought Usyk at 165 pounds back in the day when we were about 20 years old,” Porter recalled with obvious pride. “I beat him.”

Given his history, it seems somewhat odd that Porter, who has slain more than his share of fire-breathing dragons both in the amateurs and in the pros (most notably Danny Garcia), is such a significant underdog against Spence. Unless the betting line shifts in a major way, Spence will go off in the neighborhood of -800 (meaning you’d have to bet $800 to win $100) while Porter is +450. Not that a Porter victory would be considered an upset along the lines of Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson or Andy Ruiz Jr. over Anthony Joshua, but still…

Porter, not unexpectedly, does not consider Spence, who comes in with advantages of three inches in height and 2½ inches in reach, to pose a physical mismatch for him, be it by scale or tools.

“Looking at Errol Spence, I don’t think he’s a bigger guy than me,” Porter reasons. “I don’t think he’s one of the bigger guys in the division. I think that he’s been matched up against guys who have made him look a lot more powerful and bigger and stronger than he is.

“I’m comfortable with the knowledge of what I can do. Errol’s really good, but I think I match him speed for speed, quickness for quickness, power for power. The big question that needs to be answered the night of the fight is can he handle my aggression, my punch output? We’re banking on his not being able to handle my pressure and some of my other attributes.”

Spence has expressed the opinion that Porter is a “dirty” fighter, or something akin to a rule-bender if not exactly a rules-breaker, which to Porter sounds very much like he is getting into the Texan’s head where the seeds of doubt are sown.

“Errol is very driven and competitive, I get that,” Porter said. “I think he may be trying to psych himself up into thinking he can (become the first fighter to knock out Porter). If he can’t handle my pressure then you will find out real soon, if that’s what’s working for us, that’s what we’ll do. We’ll be rough, we’ll be hard, we’ll be rugged. We’ll keep the pressure on him and we all know pressure bursts pipes.

“I think he’s in trouble. The world is about to be shocked. I know how it feels to prove people wrong. I know what it feels like to do the impossible, things that people don’t expect you to do.”

Doing the impossible is an instinct that has been bred into Shawn and nurtured almost from birth by Kenny, who, as his son’s manager and trainer, remains his most ardent proponent and closest confidante. It doesn’t always work out that way, of course, but this is one father-son relationship in boxing that has deepened rather than divided.

Errol Spence Jr. might not be the highest mountain Shawn Porter ever has been tasked to climb. It remains to be seen if he is the steepest and most hazardous.

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