Monday, September 10, 2018

Opinions and Observations: Garcia-Porter

270 punches. Over 12 rounds, that comes to over 22 punches per round, not an insignificant number. That's the margin in which Shawn Porter out-threw Danny Garcia on Saturday. Those 270 punches represented a lot of time in the fight when one boxer was trying to accomplish something offensively while the other wasn't. More than anything else, the 270 can help explain why Porter won a unanimous decision over Garcia. It certainly wasn't landed punches, where despite Porter's superior work rate he only landed 12 more shots in the fight, according to CompuBox. 

Of course there's more to fights than punch counting. Saturday's match featured a number of close rounds. Overall, Garcia was more accurate on a punch-by punch basis while Porter was busier. Ultimately, the judges only agreed as a collective on four frames, suggesting a mind-blowing eight swing rounds. 

Photo Courtesy of Tom Casino/Showtime

Occasionally there are bouts, such as Mayweather-Castillo I or Wright-Soliman, where the far busier fighter loses, but as a rule, when there is such a vast discrepancy in volume, usually the more active fighter wins. And in close rounds where it isn't easy to determine which fighter won, the busier one, when all else is equal, makes a compelling case for himself. 

I wanted to address the "when all else is equal" because I think that played a critical role in Saturday's fight. Many rounds were fought to a standstill. Garcia did significant damage with an overhand right at the end of the first round and hurt Porter with a number of hard shots in the third. Porter has a fantastic seventh round and generally asserted himself more in the second half of the bout. Yes Garcia landed his fair share of convincing power punches but Porter had his own successes with hard shots to the body. 

With the exception of the first round, Porter out-threw Garcia by over 20% in every frame. Some rounds like the 10th featured more action than others, but ultimately a concrete pattern developed. And it wasn't just Porter throwing more on aggregate, with a few big rounds here or there; he significantly eclipsed Garcia on activity each round. Taking Garcia's best blows with few problems and mixing in scores of hard body shots and clean jabs, Porter made a strong case for winning close rounds. 

But it should also be noted that the fight could have had another outcome with a different slate of judges. Don Ackerman (116-112), Julie Lederman (115-113) and Eric Marlinski (115-113) all scored the bout for Porter, but tallies on press row were mostly in the range from an 8-4 Porter win to 7-5 for Garcia (a guy next to me actually had it 117-111 for Garcia!). 

I ran a twitter poll on which fighter should have won and with over 400 responses Porter received 63% of the vote. Seventeen percent had it a draw while 20% had Garcia winning (I scored it a draw from ringside). If that poll is representative of how the public viewed the fight, certainly three judges could have been picked from the side that didn't see Porter winning the fight, and those scores could very well have been legitimate. 

Essentially fights like Garcia-Porter are coin flips once the judges become involved. Porter lost a similar fight a few years ago to Keith Thurman, where all three judges had Thurman winning by 115-113 in a bout that very well could have gone either way. Garcia won such a fight against Lamont Peterson in 2015, squeaking by via majority decision while many in press row and watching at home thought that Peterson did more than enough to win. Flip a coin enough times and there will be wins AND losses. 


If one wanted to look for an example of a fight where conventional wisdom proved to be 100% correct, Garcia-Porter proved to be such a case. Garcia was sharper, Porter was busier, the fight was close, and the judges could have picked either guy. That the fight played so close to the script doesn't mean it was a disappointment. The Bond and Jason Bourne movies are all formulaic, but many of them are quite enjoyable to watch; formulas don't necessarily indicate mediocrity.

Garcia-Porter was a well-contested affair with both boxers proving why they have become world-level fighters, but also why they have struggled against their best opponents. Garcia can land his counter left hook and right hand against any fighter. He does some crafty things like throwing a variety of right hands and a sharp counter jab. But he can be outworked and he only seems to fight at one pace. He lacked urgency in many of the early and middle rounds against Thurman. In the championship rounds on Saturday, he landed his fair share of solid power shots, but he didn't fight with an extra gear. Although he made a case for winning the final rounds, his case left doubt. 

Porter is a top effort guy and fights in a style that few want to face. Featuring all sorts of grappling and mugging on the inside, he exerts significant psychological pressure on his opponents. He goes to the body well with his left hook and his devotion to landing downstairs provides opportunities to land clean head shots. 

Photo Courtesy of Amanda Westcott/Showtime

But Porter's defense can be exploited by sharp punchers. In addition, there is still a feeling where he and his team are not 100% committed to pressure fighting. Take the first two rounds of Saturday's fight for example. He stood at range and got very little accomplished. It was clear to see that Garcia was better from that distance. After the fight, Porter was asked if he was pleased with how the bout started and he answered affirmatively that he had executed the plan. And what a strange plan that was! That decision could very well have cost him the fight. 

Porter had an extensive amateur background and possesses a fundamentally strong boxing base, but he has only made inroads at the top level of the welterweight division as a pressure fighter. He lacks the height and other physician dimensions to win consistently with another style; he certainly tried every conceivable ring identity on his way up the ranks as a prospect. Sure, there is value in versatility but that only helps if it can lead to winning fights. Yes there may be points in a bout where Porter may need his boxing foundation to take a round off or protect himself when hurt but when he's not fighting in an aggressive style, he's not winning. It usually is that simple. 

Ultimately, Garcia and Porter are at best foils for the truly elite. They can present problems for top opponents but the best should be able to solve them. However, let's not bury them either. Both are honest fighters who give a professional effort every time that they are in the ring. They produced a solid account of themselves on Saturday with the crowd rising in applause on multiple occasions. So Garcia and Porter may not be destined for the top echelon of the sport. That's OK. There is more than enough room in boxing for the very good.  

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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