Lem's Corner: Notebook
By Lem Satterfield
SHAWN PORTER ON THE ‘UNSPOKEN’ 2016 WELTERWEIGHT TOURNAMENT
Shawn Porter feels as if he’s in the eye of a brewing storm, and the former welterweight champion couldn’t be happier about it.
Porter (26-1-1, 16 KOs) wants to prove himself the superior athlete when he challenges WBA champion Keith Thurman (26-0, 22 KOs) on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING on CBS presented by Premier Boxing Champions on June 25. Beyond that, win or lose, Porter will remain in play in the talent-laden welterweight division.
Thurman-Porter continues the 147-pound round robin of action that began in January when former 140-pound champion Danny Garcia (32-0, 18 KOs) won a unanimous decision against former champion Robert Guerrero for the vacant WBC welterweight title. Last month Jessie Vargas stopped Sadam Ali on a ninth round TKO to win the WBO title and Kell Brook successfully defended his IBF title with a second round stoppage of Kevin Bizer.
This month Errol Spence Jr. (19-0, 16 KOs), a rising young welterweight title contender, will take on former 140-pound champion Chris Algieri on the PBC on NBC at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 16, and ex-welterweight champions Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz will meet in a rematch on FOX and FOX Deportes at the StubHub Center on April 30.
All of them are in the mix to supplant the retired Floyd Mayweather, Jr. as the king of the welterweight division.
Porter views his match as the first domino in the race for supremacy in the division.
“This fight with Keith is happening at the right time. It’s a big fight in the division given all of the matchups happening this year,” said Porter. “It’s like an unspoken tournament: One guy moves on and continues fighting other guys who have titles or a big name. Sooner or later there’s going to be that one guy who has that straight lineage.”
Porter would welcome rematches against Adrien Bronerand Kell Brook, who beat Porter for the IBF title. But for now Porter, who was born in Akron, Ohio and now lives and trains in Las Vegas, is focused on Thurman. He believes he will be more than Thurman can handle when they meet.
“I don’t think Keith’s seen anyone as young and energetic with my combination of quickness and speed,” said Porter. “Can Keith be a warrior and match my punch out-put and go toe-to-toe, heart-for-heart? I have more of what it takes to be a champion than Keith does.”
GARY RUSSELL JR. WILLING TO ‘CHASE’ VASYL LOMACHENKO
Gary Russell Jr. (26-1, 15 KOs) wants to begin unifying the 126-pound titles if he can successfully defend his WBC title against should against Patrick Hyland (31-1, 15 KOs) at Foxwoods Resort at Mashantucket, Connecticut on SHOWTIME on April 16.
But he still has WBO champion Vasyl Lomanchenko (4-1, 2 KOs) in his sights. He would love nothing more than meeting him in a rematch, even if it means going up in weight to meet him.
“Lomachenko might move up in weight at some point, and I’m willing to chase him,” said Russell. “I know that a couple of other guys that I might want to compete against may also move up in weight.”
Russell has won two straight since losing a majority decision to Lomachenko for the WBO title in June 2014, including dethroning Jhonny Gonzalez by fourth-round stoppage for the WBC title last March.
Russell-Hyland takes place a week after Lee Selby (22-1, 8 KOs) of Wales defends his IBF title against Eric Hunter (21-3, 11 KOs) at the O2 Arena in London.
Abner Mares 29-2-1, 15 KOs) challenges Jesus Cuellar (28-1, 21 KOs) for the WBA title as part of the KeithThurman-Shawn Porter welterweight title championship showdown on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING on CBS presented by Premier Boxing Champions on June 25.
There is also a planned summer clash between WBA 126-pound champion Leo Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 17 KOs) andunified 122-pound champ Carl Frampton (22-0, 14 KOs) of Northern Ireland.
“I definitely plan on staying down at this weight class,” said Russell. “I honestly feel as though, right now, the smaller weight class is in full demand of my attention with all of the talent that is there.”
ABNER MARES SEEKING A RETURN TO THE “OLD MARES”
Abner Mares was previously known as a strategic, crowd-pleasing boxer-puncher with calculated power and infighting abilities. After suffering a few setbacks, Mares plans to return to the man who navigated a spectacular five-fight run from August 2011 to May 2013, earning world championships at 118, 122 and 126 pounds.
Mares, 30, returns to action when he takes on WBAfeatherweight champion Jesus Cuellar in the co-feature of the Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter WBA welterweight title match on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING onCBS presented by Premier Boxing Champions on June 25. Mares will be in his first fight under trainer Robert Garcia, Cuellar’s former corner man.
“The old Abner Mares had great boxing skills and technique that has gotten lost in brawling tendencies that makes the fight a lot harder,” said Mares. “I think the only way to get it back is all thanks to Robert. It’s as simple as reminding me that I’m better than what I’m doing. I’m trying to give my fans a show and put it on the line, but I have the talent to make fights exciting but also easier for myself at the same time.”
The title-winning victories came against Joseph Agbeko in back-to-back matches at 118, Eric Morel at 122, AnselmoMoreno at 122 and Daniel Ponce De Leon at 126.
Most notable was Mares’ mentality in the return bout with Agbeko. In the first match Mares scored a majority decision over a foul-filled 12 rounds in August 2011. In the rematch he scored a near shutout in a unanimous decision victory four months later.
“That second Agbeko fight is perfect for defining and showing what type of fighter I am. I think that Abner was awakened after the first fight, being criticized about low blows and targeted as someone who fights dirty,” said Mares.
He was 26-0-1 with 14 knockouts before suffering a shocking first-round stoppage loss to Jhonny Gonzalez,who floored him twice in 2013.
“I got so tired of it and just put my head and my mind into improving my technique. I literally told myself that I’m better than that, and I went back to the drawing board. I came out as a ferocious fighter, but at the same time, I was clean and simple in my thinking in there. I demonstrated a lot of different abilities and styles.”
Mares won three straight before falling to Leo Santa Cruz by unanimous decision in a hard-fought 12-round match last August.
“Each fight is going to define you,” said Mares. “In my case, I have the right trainer and the team to re-awaken me and to remind me of how good I can be.”