Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Garcia-Porter: Slim Margins

For a number of years Danny Garcia (34-1, 20 KOs) and Shawn Porter (28-2-1, 17 KOs) have been reliable performers under the Al Haymon boxing umbrella. Although neither has ascended to superstar status in the sport, both have notched some impressive victories, but they also have come up short against top-caliber fighters in the welterweight division. Each has been a former titlist at 147 (Garcia also was a champion at 140) and they've performed similarly against common opponents – knocking out Paulie Malignaggi and losing a competitive fight to Keith Thurman. 

On September 8th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn (televised by Showtime), Garcia and Porter will face each other in what should be a fascinating matchup. The winner will most likely be in line for a huge fight against titleholder Errol Spence Jr. while the loser will continue to circulate as a B+ attraction in the sport. 

Photo Courtesy of Amanda Westcott/Showtime

Garcia and Porter (both 30 years old) have known each other since the amateur days (where they fought in different divisions). And although they share similar records, KO percentages and career trajectories in the professional ranks, how each achieves success in the ring is starkly different. Garcia's ring identity is that of a poised, pocket counterpuncher. He draws out a mistake from his opponent and then pounces. Featuring a cracking left hook and a variety of right hands, his success can be attributed more to timing and punch accuracy than sheer power. 

Porter has developed into one of the premier pressure fighters in the sport. Bull rushing opponents with loads of power punches and fierce inside combat, Porter wears out foes through brute force and will. It's not that he's without technical skills, but they are only a part of his repertoire.

What makes the Garcia-Porter matchup so interesting to me is that each fighter possesses the exact strength that could nullify the other. Garcia can be outworked and perhaps there are questions about his fire. Although he has only lost one fight officially, he has been on the fortunate end of a few decisions. In a handful of the competitive fights that he won, for example against Lamont Peterson, Zab Judah and Mauricio Herrera, there were large stretches of those bouts where he was clearly second best. 

Porter has never had any concerns about his work rate or his competitive spirit. But in his only losses (against Thurman and Kell Brook) he was outclassed by cleaner punchers. Brook controlled the pocket with his jab and pinpoint counters. Thurman used his boxing skills and feet to reduce Porter's effectiveness. Garcia is not a fighter who will be intimidated by Porter's aggression. He's faced bigger punchers (Lucas Matthysse) and better athletes (Amir Khan). In addition, if it comes down to cleaner work, his punches are easy for judges to see. Porter can smother himself in close quarters and many of his punches are only partial connects. It can be very challenging to ascertain what he lands 100% cleanly. 

In talking with a handful of industry types and several boxing fans about the matchup, I've been amazed at the variety of predictions. Essentially every possible result (Porter KO, Porter decision, Garcia KO, Garcia decision, and draw) has been suggested to me, and there is a legitimate case to be made for all of them. It's rare when a major fight has so many feasible outcomes on the table. 

Here are a few things I know about the match: Danny Garcia has a rock-solid chin. I've seen him hurt before, specifically against Judah and Thurman, but I've never seen him go down. Because he's so poised in the ring and so keenly aware of his surroundings, Garcia is masterful at disguising to his opponents when he's hurt. And even if Garcia is clearly affected by a big punch, he is very dangerous in this circumstance. He has a wipeout counter left hook that demolishes overconfident fighters (hello, Amir!). In addition, he knows all of the veteran tricks to buy time, from holding to tying up to using the ring to fouling. Could Garcia be knocked out? Sure, but it will take one special performance to achieve that. 

As for Porter, I'm not sure if I've ever seen him hurt. He was certainly dropped by a counter left hook by Adrien Broner, but that was a flash knockdown and he persevered through that moment with aplomb. Many fighters have landed cleanly on Porter with their best artillery and he has seemed to take the incoming fire just fine. 

However, there are a few things about the fight that I'm unsure of. Both Porter and Garcia have problems stringing together dominant 12-round performances against top fighters. Garcia can often be a "tale of two halves" type of boxer. He had great first halves against Peterson and Judah, but struggled in the latter portions. After trailing Matthysse early in their fight, he came on strong in the back half. It's never clear where and when Garcia may switch off, but rest assured he will. 

Porter's issue is slightly different. Because he fights in such a high-energy style, there will be a couple periods during the fight in which he can't sustain his effort, or he'll just take a round off. Those breaks happened against Devon Alexander, Broner and in his last fight against Adrian Granados. Perhaps most distressingly, Porter was cruising against Granados and then stopped his offense by the end of the 10th round. Yes, he was up significantly on the cards, but still he let Granados tee off on him to end the fight. Those last few rounds were so concerning to some boxing observers that more than a few suggested that Porter was either injured, or perhaps that age had finally caught up to him (his kamikaze style doesn't lend itself to long peaks in the ring). 

All of this leads to doubt, but in a satisfying way. I'm excited to go to Brooklyn for the fight, and I really don't know what will happen, or what tea leaves to read. There is no conventional wisdom for this matchup. Positive and negative signs exist for each fighter. Does Danny really punch hard enough at welterweight to keep Porter off of him? Is Porter starting to slip away from his athletic prime?

It's also worth considering one other important factor in the fight: the judges. Porter's style, which has been refined in the Las Vegas gyms, appeals to judges who like the aggressor in each round, an attribute that is often more pronounced in the western part of the United States (such as with a judge like Dave Moretti). Danny Garcia plays to those who favor clean punching, something that in my opinion is more popular with New York/New Jersey judges (think Steve Weisfeld). 

When asked for my opinion on the matchup, I've told people that I think this will be a judges' fight – by which I mean that I believe it will be close and it will come down to the individual stylistic preferences of the particular judges. It very well may be a 6-6 or 7-5 fight that could go either way, with the "either way" dependent on what scoring attributes a boxing judge favors; there may not be a right or wrong answer. 

Or perhaps it won't unfold that way at all. Errol Spence looms, and the winner of Garcia-Porter stands to make excellent coin for that fight. For Garcia and Porter, $2.5M or so could be their final nest egg, that last remaining piece of financial security. In addition, both fighters have relished being underdogs in their careers. Although neither has lined up to face Spence to this point, rest assured, for the right amount of money and attention in the sport, I think that both Garcia and Porter would relish the opportunity to fight the bogeyman at 147.

But first things first. They have a hell of a fight on their hands. Every small decision from sleep to training schedules to judge selection to corner advice could make up the small margin that shades the fight from 6-6 to 7-5. One moment of fatigue or brilliance could be enough to swing a round, and potentially the fight. The margins may really be that thin. The fight is out there for whoever's hungrier, sharper, and perhaps a bit more fortunate. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

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