Shawn Porter isn’t exactly known for handing out bold proclamations. But before his latest title fight this weekend, the Akron native was talking wild. Not about his opponent, or the boxing scene in general, but about his beloved Cleveland Cavaliers.
Still slightly stung by the departure of LeBron James to the Los Angeles Lakers, Porter is choosing to look at the Cavs 2018-19 season with a glass half full approach and actually thinks they can—like a true diehard—flirt with the postseason.
“Definitely have some adjustments to make with personnel, but I’m going to hold onto what I just said—.500 next season,” Porter said. “I think this year we’ll find out what [head coach] Ty Lue has because for a long time it was LeBron James’s team and without him there we never were able to see a good Cavaliers team.”
The idea the Cavs will be close to .500 seems far-fetched by most NBA observers. And while he might be talking out of turn when he says the Cavs are good enough to make a run at the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, he isn’t talking crazy when he says he wants Errol Spence, the top welterweight, after he takes care of business in Brooklyn Saturday.
“Honestly, this fight is A. And what I’ve been told is B will be Errol Spence, which would be a humongous fight for boxing, for myself, and for his team as well,” Porter said.
Before “Showtime” Porter (28-2-1, 17 KO) squares up against Garcia (34-1, 20 KO) for the vacant WBC welterweight title at Barclays Center (Showtime, 9 pm ET), we caught up with the 30-year-old pugilist to ask why he’s done worrying about earning respect, when a fight with Spence could actually happen, and what kind of impact he thinks James’s celebrated new school will have on the community.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
This fight is a pretty big one. Why is winning this one so crucial to your career going forward?
It’s definitely a legacy fight. Guys that you fight along the way that are just there to help groom you along the way to prepare for moments like this. This is the biggest fight of my life. The one closest to this was (Keith) Thurman. The WBC title is on the line and it’s mine for the taking.
Some fans will question that this fight is as relevant now as it would’ve been years ago, and when I say relevant I mean hyped and massive and fans foaming at the mouth had it happened when you guys were first circling each other. Do you still sense fans are as hyped now as they would’ve been?
I feel like this fight is happening on time. The first time I said Danny Garcia’s name and the first time he said my name was when Danny moved up to the division three years ago. Back then, everybody wanted the young lions to fight each other. Back then it was just never going to happen. So this fight is happening when it’s supposed to. He’s coming off a big knockout. I’m coming off two big fights. Both of us have been itching to become champion again for a long time so I just think in every shape and form this fight makes sense.
Some would even question whether Danny deserves a shot at you. Does he?
When he moved up to the division he got a chance at Robert Guerrero for the WBC title and I didn’t think he deserved that. At this point, him and I have been world champions before. Him and I are the only two in the division fitting to fight for the WBC championship. I don’t think there’s another fight that has the magnitude that he and I possess for this championship fight.
Danny frequently says he doesn’t get the respect he deserves.
That’s his fault.
But my question for you is do you feel you get the respect you deserve.
I do. But him and I are two different fighters. I’m a fighter that comes and brings it every night. You know what to expect when Shawn Porter’s in the ring and you always get that. My work speaks for itself. All the respect that I have throughout boxing, I’m not looking for anymore or any less right now. For me, respect is the last thing that I’m after right now. I’m after a title. I’m after a legacy. I’m after a big fight and being able to beat a big name.
Angel Garcia, Danny’s father and trainer, is a well known instigator. He’s said some pretty outlandish things over the years. Is there any way he can get under your skin prior to the fight?
I think Danny Garcia will remain poised and nevertheless ready for the opportunity. I don’t expect Danny’s dad to try and do anything to get us uncomfortable or getting us out of our game. They know what they’re up against and anything spoken outside of the ring will not be opportune for them.
What’s the path to victory against Danny?
It’s going to be everything. It’s going to be boxing from the outside. Meeting him right there in the middle of the ring. And also backing him against the ropes. I’ve seen guys outbox him. I’ve seen guys pressure him. And up until against Keith Thurman, he was able to overcome all of it. I think if we put enough in front of him and mix it up, it’ll be too much to deal with.
Do you entertain thoughts of the consequences of losing a fight of this magnitude heading into it?
I’m full of confidence right now. So the thoughts that enter my mind are what I’m going to do to beat him and how I’m going to beat him. Things of that nature. No negative thoughts.
The welterweight division is still boxing’s deepest and most talented overall. You’re trying to get on a path to attempt to unify it, although that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Do you have a plan mapped out to go out and do that or is the division too mucked up right now?
No. Honestly, this fight is A. And what I’ve been told is B will be Errol Spence, which would be a humongous fight for boxing, for myself, and for his team as well. Obviously there’s a little rumble from a 140 contender looking to come up in Mikey Garcia, but aside from that I’m of the understanding that Errol Spence is going to be next.
If you came out of the Danny Garcia fight in relatively good shape, you’d be down to fight Spence in December?
Yeah, for sure.
I know you lost the fight, but how highly do you revere your battle with Keith Thurman from two years ago?
It was definitely a bittersweet moment for me. The fight was superb. When I didn’t get my hand raised it was shocking moment for me. I feel like I did everything I could to win the fight. But two years later, I have nothing about good things to say about that night. It was a beautiful night of boxing and definitely one of the best night’s I’ve ever had performing. It was just so I didn’t get my hand called up at the end. No hard feelings about that fight at all. If it happens in the future, hopefully it’ll be another great fight.
You’re dying to get another shot at Keith when he gets back in the ring, right?
Obviously he’s got to get back in the ring. When he fought me, he was at the top of his game. Some of those rounds were just riveting. I watched the fight afterward, I couldn’t believe the things I was doing that night and him as well. You have to take your hat off to Keith doing a tremendous job pulling out the victory. But he’s far away from where he was in 2016. In order for me to get back in the ring with him I have to see a glimpse of 2016.
Do you think we see him fight in 2018?
I don’t know when we’re going to see him back. But I’m confident that when he comes back it’ll be the same good old Keith in the ring.
You’re a new father. How has fatherhood changed your perspective on the fight game and your future in boxing?
It hasn’t. I spend enough time with him and then I go out and do what I have to do. In terms of me feeling any differently about boxing because of him, not at all.
"I’m going to hold onto what I just said—.500 next season. I think this year we’ll find out what Ty Lue has because for a long time it was LeBron James’s team and without him there we never were able to see a good Cavaliers team."
Have to talk about your Cavaliers here with LeBron going to the Lakers. How bad did that hurt?
The thing that just really shocked me was he made the announcement a lot sooner than I expected him to. I just feel it’s going to be very weird seeing him in purple next season. Nevertheless, I’ll be there to root for him and my Cleveland Cavs as they try to pull it together and figure out how to get back to championship [caliber].
But real talk, how bad are they going to be next year?
They have a lot of returning starters. I think when you regroup and something’s missing, hopefully these guys will band together. I love the rookie that we have [Collin Sexton]. I think he’s an absolute talent. I think he’s gotta gain some weight and manage his emotions and temper during the game. But other than that, I love the trash talk and I love the competitive spirit in him. I’ll say .500 next year.
That’s ambitious because when LeBron wasn’t on the court they looked like a JV squad.
Definitely have some adjustments to make with personnel, but I’m going to hold onto what I just said—.500 next season. I think this year we’ll find out what Ty Lue has because for a long time it was LeBron James’s team and without him there we never were able to see a good Cavaliers team.
What kind of impact is LeBron’s school going to have on the community?
Oh man, it’s going to be un-believe-able. I’m still learning about all the different things he’s offering—not just kids but the entire community. I think he’s done all the right things. Even with him leaving the city, he’s still going to have a big impact on Northeast Ohio and I definitely think he’s a remarkable athlete and person with the moves he’s made off the court.