LOS ANGELES – Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr. (26-0, 21 KOs) unified the IBF and WBC Welterweight World Titles Saturday night against two-time champion “Showtime” Shawn Porter (30-3-1,17 KOs) in an action packed main event of a FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View from STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.
“It feels good to win,” said Spence. “This is a lifetime dream. It shows hard work pays off. Thanks Shawn Porter, my whole team and all my Texas people for coming out.”
The back and forth brawl immediately garnered well-deserved Fight of the Year conversation as the two welterweight champions traded power punches from the opening bell to the end. Porter showed his trademark aggressive style throughout the action, smothering Spence while throwing his own power punches.
“Shawn Porter is a rough and awkward fighter,” said Spence. “I didn’t get off what I wanted to. He’s a true champion. He made it tough.”
That left it up to Spence to weather the oncoming storm and find spots to land power punches of his own. According to CompuBox, Spence landed 44% of his power punches, to 25% from Porter.
“He’s a strong kid,” said Porter. “We both came in to do the job. I think I had a little more than what he expected, but he handled it. Congratulations to him and his team. We’re proud of what we did.”
In round four, Porter had Spence in some trouble, as his power shots to the head and body put Spence on the defensive. The strategy from Porter stayed the same throughout, as Spence began to adjust and find a home for his offense, especially the sweeping left hook.
Round eight saw the action taken up to yet another level as Spence initially got the worst of one of the numerous exchanges, before settling in and responding enough to keep Porter at bay. The high-octane fight continued to entertain heading into the championship rounds with the fight up in the balance.
Spence landed one of the decisive blows of the bout in round 11, connecting flush with that sweeping left hook and scoring a knockdown when Porter’s knee and glove hit the canvas. As expected, Porter rebounded strong, going at Spence and putting him on the back foot for most of the remainder of the round.
“I think that knockdown was the difference,” said Porter. “I couldn’t come back to the corner with my head down after that.”
The final round was more of the same, with both fighters going toe-to-toe and leaving the STAPLES Center crowd on their feet and roaring until the final bell. The final punch stats saw both men throw nearly an equal number of punches, with Spence edging Porter 745 to 744 in punches thrown and 221 to 172 in punches landed.
“All my punches have bad intentions,” said Spence. “By boxing Mikey Garcia, I wanted to show people I could do it with that style. Porter was throwing a lot. I wanted to show I was the bigger and stronger welterweight.”
After 12 rounds the close nature of the fight yielded a split decision from the judges. One judge saw the fight 115-112 for Porter, overruled by two judges who saw it 116-111 for Spence. In the ring after the fight, Spence was confronted and called out by former two-division champion Danny Garcia for a potential showdown next.
“It was a top dog fight tonight,” said Garcia. “I want you next Errol. It was a tough rugged fight. Shawn Porter is a tough fighter. I’m here to say I want next.”
“My how the tables have turned,” said Spence. “I’ve told my team, you line them up, I’ll knock them down.”
The pay-per-view co-main event saw unbeaten David “El Bandera Roja” Benavidez (22-0, 19 KOs) regain the WBC Super Middleweight World Championship from two-time champion Anthony “The Dog” Dirrell (33-2-1, 24 KOs) with a ninth-round TKO victory.
“Everything just fell in place perfectly,” said Benavidez. “From the suspension to all the big fights I’ve been in. All of that helped me out in this fight. I did not make a mistake or open myself up more than I needed to. I worked behind my jab and got the stoppage. Things are going to get better and get tougher and I’m ready for the challenge.”
The fight followed a similar pattern throughout, with Benavidez stalking his opponent looking to unload power shots, while Dirrell circled the ring looking to counter and keep him at bay with his jab.
Benavidez stayed in control through the early rounds, until Dirrell turned the tables momentarily in round four trying to batter Benavidez against the ropes, but he was unable to daze the 22-year-old.
In round six Benavidez broke through with a critical moment in the fight, landing a punch that opened up a cut over Dirrell’s right eye. With the blood pouring, the cut was immediately a problem for Dirrell, who now had limited vision to stop the incoming assault.
“He hit me with a clean shot,” said Dirrell. “That’s my first time ever being cut by a punch. It opened up. There was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t see the whole fight after that. My corner did a good job on it, but I really couldn’t see.”
Despite having his cut checked by the ringside physician in rounds six, seven and eight, Dirrell was able to use his veteran savvy to stay in the fight. As the fight went to round nine Benavidez increased his offense, slowing Dirrell down enough where he could tee off with power punches in the corner.
As Dirrell tried to navigate away from Benavidez’s offense, he began to take take more punishment and looked shaky on his feet. Referee Thomas Taylor officially stopped the fight 1:39 into the round, at the direction of Dirrell’s corner. Benavidez ended the fight with a 165 to 94 advantage in punches landed, with the biggest margin coming from his 101 power shots landed to just 41 from Dirrell.
“There are so many emotions coming at me at once,” said Benavidez. “We put so much hard work into this training camp. We left home and were away from everything. But I had the dream to become the youngest two-time super middleweight world champion and I made my dreams come true.”
“I would have kept going in there,” said Dirrell. “I’m not quitting against anybody. Everyone saw I didn’t go down. My legs were still strong, but I couldn’t do anything about it.
“We’re going back to the drawing board. I’m still fighting. We won’t end on a loss. You can put anybody in there with me.”
Additional action saw undefeated Mario “El Azteca” Barrios (25-0, 16 KOs) score a close unanimous decision victory over Batyr Akhmedov (7-1, 6 KOs) to capture the WBA Super Lightweight title in an action packed fight.
“I knew this was going to be a war,” said Barrios. “He was getting dirty in there but the Mexican warrior in me was not going to let this opportunity pass me by. I dug deep and got the victory.”
The action began with Akhmedov trying to get inside against his taller opponent, while Barrios looked to move and punish Akhmedov with pot shots from the outside. In round four, Barrios connected with a combo that stunned Akhmedov before Barrios followed up and scored a knockdown when Akhmedov’s glove touched the canvas.
“The plan was to gradually grow the activity,” said Akhmedov. “I knew that I had to win by a wide margin. After the first knockdown, I knew that I had to add activity more quickly than I had planned. So I started being more aggressive. I did everything I could to try to stop him.”
After surviving the round, Akhmedov picked up the aggression and began effectively closing the space down between his opponent. He began to land numerous clean left and right hooks that put Barrios on the defensive.
As the championship rounds neared, Barrios began to experience severe swelling in his left eye amidst the onslaught from Akhmedov. In the final round, Barrios was able to turn the tide back in his favor late in the frame. He delivered a pinpoint right hand that stunned Akhmdov and again forced him to put a glove on the mat.
After the knockdown, the fight went to the judges scores, who saw the fight 116-11, 115-11 and 114-112, all in favor of Barrios. The relentless pursuit after the first knockdown from Barrios ended with him holding a 238 to 135 advantage in punches landed, but it was not enough to sway the judges on this night.
“I promised my city of San Antonio that I would bring this title back home and I did it,” said Barrios.
“The judges see better than I can from the ring,” said Akhmedov. “I did everything I could. I thought I won the fight. They decided that he won the fight. When I watch the fight I’ll be able to tell you what it looked like. My job is to do everything to win. The judges are supposed to judge correctly.
“I tried to do everything I could. I was told that I wouldn’t be able to handle his experience, but he was on the ropes most of the fight. I beat him up and I thought I won the fight.”
The opening bout of the pay-per-view saw Josesito “The Riverside Rocky” Lopez (37-8, 20 KOs) knock out John Molina Jr. (30-9, 24 KOs) in the eighth round of their welterweight fight.
“We both carry power in our hands so it wasn’t a surprise someone went down,” said Lopez. “It easily could have happened to me with the power he has. I was able to catch him early, find openings and get the finish.”
Lopez landed a critical blow on his first punch of the night, snapping off an overhand right that connected flush with Molina and put him on the canvas early in the first round. Lopez was patient following up and eventually landed a vicious body shot that put Molina down for the second time in the round.
Molina was able to rise to his feet and make it to the second round, and showed flashes that he might be able to change the tide of the fight. He slowed Lopez’s attack down in round two with a vicious combination of right and left hooks to the head.
“You can never take the fight out of a fighter,” said Molina. “I have a never say die attitude and I have my whole career. It was a tough fight, but the better man won tonight.”
“I knew he wasn’t going to quit,” said Lopez. “He’s a warrior. I had to keep on the pressure. I was thinking that hopefully the ref and the team made the right call to finish it at the right time.”
Lopez stayed patient however and jabbed while looking to set up the right hand that had knocked Molina down in the first. In round seven Lopez broke through again, this time landing a perfect straight right hand that put Molia on the canvas late in the round.
After a long look from the ringside physician and his own corner, Molina tried to take his chance at a fight-changing punch in the eighth round. Early in the round, Lopez was able to land several big power shots that prompted referee Ray Corona to stop the bout 39 seconds into the round.
“I wanted to keep going at the end,” said Molina. “I thought I was still coherent and could still move well. But you can’t go against what the referees say.”
“There’s a lot more ‘Riverside Rocky’ left,” said Lopez. “Robert Garcia has turned my career around. I’m a race car and like NASCAR, I’ve got a whole team behind me. I’m a top 10-level fighter. I’m going to give any fighter and any world champion a run for their money. I want memorable fights and I want the best.”
The main event of prelims on FS1 saw former three-time world champion Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero (36-6-1, 20 KOs) earn a unanimous decision victory over Jerry Thomas (14-2-1, 8 KOs) in their 10-round welterweight fight.
The early rounds were strategic, as Thomas relied on his movement while Guerrero looked to fire jabs patiently until he found opportunities for his power punches. Round three saw action jump up a bit as Guerrero landed a big straight left that pushed Thomas hard back into the ropes.
“I got some rounds in tonight, which was valuable,” said Guerrero. “We got what we needed and boxed our way to victory.”
Guerrero continued to stalk Thomas and attack the body as his opponent spent most of the fight set on circling the ring. However, in round nine, Thomas upped the presser and closed the distance on Guerrero. He landed numerous power shots that put Guerrero on the back foot.
It was Thomas’ best round of the fight, but he was unable to put Guerrero down or out and after 10 rounds the fight was in the judges’ hands. All three saw the bout in favor of Guerrero, by scores of 98-92 and 99-91 twice.
“I want to get back into those bigger fights,” said Guerrero. “I moved around and stayed smart in there tonight. The goal was to stick to the game plan and I did until the end of the fight, but then I got right back on it. You just have to keep working out the kinks and that’s what I’m going to keep doing.”
In the opening prelims bout, unbeaten top prospect Joey Spencer (9-0, 7 KOs) scored a third-round stoppage of previously unbeaten Travis Gambardella (5-1-2, 2 KOs) in their super welterweight contest.
Spencer started the action early, leading with power shots while also controlling the distance between him and his opponent. A series of body shots put Gambardella down twice in the first round, although he was able to make it to the closing bell of the frame.
“The body shots weren’t really the plan going in,” said Spencer. “I started off with head shots and he was taking those well. I put one downstairs and I instantly saw it affect him badly. I knew it was a wrap. I was going to keep going to the body.”
Spencer landed a powerful straight right hand to Gambardella’s head early in round two and quickly followed up with a flurry punctuated by another body shot that dropped him for the third time in the fight. Although Spencer looked to close hard, Gambardella was able to fight intelligently and make it through another round.
“I thought the referee was going to stop it in the second round,” said Spencer. “When he let him go I took a deep breath and made sure not to punch myself out. I stuck to my jab and let the rest take care of itself.”
Early into round three, Spencer went back on the attack and connected with a big left hook to Gambardella’s head. This time, referee Ray Corona jumped in and halted the bout 53 seconds into the round, giving Spencer the TKO victory.
“I’m so happy with the improvements that I was able to show tonight on the big stage,” said Spencer. “I’m really excited for what’s to come.”
Photos from Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions