Spence Jr., Porter to square off Sept. 28 in LA

Boxing

LAS VEGAS — Welterweight world titleholders Errol Spence Jr. and Shawn Porter have talked about their desire to unify belts and now they will get their chance — against each other in a highly significant fight.

They will square off on Sept. 28 at Staples Center in Los Angeles in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card on Fox Sports pay-per-view, organizers announced at a news conference on Saturday at the MGM Grand, hours before another highly significant welterweight world title bout between Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman.

The much-anticipated Spence-Porter showdown was signed in April, just weeks after each had won their most recent bouts, but it took time to finalize the date and location. The winner could face the Pacquiao-Thurman winner next year.

The co-feature was also formally announced and not unexpected. It will match super middleweight world titlist Anthony Dirrell in a mandatory defense against former world titleholder David Benavidez.

“This is fight I’ve been asking for for a long time,” said Spence, who has known Porter and his father/trainer Ken Porter for years and has a friendly relationship with them that will be put on hold for the next few months. “Since I was 14-0 I’ve been calling out the big-name fighters and they all decided not to fight me. I finally got this fight.

“I guarantee you I will become the undisputed welterweight champion of the world but I have to get through Shawn Porter first and become unified.”

Spence (25-0, 21 KOs), 29, of DeSoto, Texas, will be making his fourth title defense since traveling to Kell Brook’s hometown of Sheffield, England, and knocking him out in the 11th round in May 2017. He made two defense in 2018, a seventh-round knockout of former titlist and pal Lamont Peterson and a first-round destruction of mandatory challenger Carlos Ocampo in front of a hometown crowd in Frisco, Texas.

Then Spence headlined his first pay-per-view card on March 16 and rolled to a shutout decision against Mikey Garcia, a lightweight world titleholder who moved up two weight classes to challenge for his title, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

After the success of that pay-per-view event, Spence is back in the headliner role but in what shapes up as a much more difficult fight against Porter, a vastly experienced natural welterweight.

“This is going to be a tough fight. I’m not gonna lie,” Spence said. “Shawn’s a dog. He has an amazing heart. I’m not gonna say he has all the skills in the world, but he does have talent and he’s going to come to fight and give it his all. But I do believe I have the skills, the talent, the dog and the heart to make this — I’m not gonna say an easy fight — but I can stop him, and that’s what I’m looking to do.

“I’m gonna push the pace. I’m gonna look for the fight and look for the stoppage and go for the knockout in an impressive one-sided victory.”

Porter (30-2-1, 17 KOs), 31, of Las Vegas, has won four fights in a row since losing a close unanimous decision challenging Thurman for his welterweight title in June 2016.

Porter held a welterweight title from 2013 to 2014 before losing it via decision to Brook. Last September, Porter outpointed Danny Garcia to win a vacant belt, which an injured Thurman relinquished because he could not make his mandatory defense against Porter in a timely fashion.

On March 9, Porter made his first defense, winning a split decision against mandatory challenger Yordenis Ugas.

Spence is considered by many as the best welterweight in the world, but Porter believes he is right there also and that a win would prove it.

“This guy right here calls himself ‘The Truth,'” Porter said looking at Spence. “So today I’ll tell the truth and the truth is, without preaching, you guys are in for a treat. The truth is this dude has skills, he has power, he’s got speed. He’s got everything it takes but the truth is I have all those things as well.

“The truth is I don’t think you’ve seen him in the ring with someone who possesses all of those things — the speed, the quickness, the power, the intelligence, the mental fortitude, the dog, the fight. The truth is I have all of those things. The truth is it takes all of that to beat this guy. The truth is I am prepared to do all of those things.”

Benavidez (21-0, 18 KOs), 22, of Phoenix, will aim to reclaim the belt he once held when he became the youngest fighter ever, at age 20, to win a 168-pound world title in September 2017. However, Benavidez, after one defense, was stripped of the belt last fall following a positive random drug test for cocaine.

A suspension followed and Benavidez returned from a 13-month layoff on the Spence-Garcia undercard to knock out J’Leon Love in the second round. Before the suspension, Benavidez had been due to make a mandatory defense against Dirrell.

“I’m looking forward to reclaiming my WBC belt in my next fight against Anthony Dirrell,” Benavidez said. “This fight is overdue and I guarantee I will be ready for whatever he brings to the ring. The fans are really going to enjoy this one.”

During Benavidez’s layoff, Dirrell (33-1-1, 24 KOs), 34, of Flint, Michigan, became a two-time world titlist when he won the vacant belt by 10th-round technical decision against Avni Yildirim on Feb. 23. Dirrell suffered a bad cut over his right eye on an accidental head clash in the seventh round, but with the wound getting worse the fight was halted in the 10th and sent to the scorecards.

“I’m going to work my butt off, putting in extra hours in the gym, because this is one of the toughest opponents I’ve ever fought,” Dirrell, who did not appear at the news conference, said in a statement. “He’s young and he’s tough. But I’m more than ready for anything that he can bring. I bring an exciting fight. He knows that. The world knows that. He can talk, but nothing matters but what happens in the ring. I wanted this fight to be out west because I will fight anybody anywhere. It’s only two people in the ring and we’re going to give a good entertaining fight for the fans.”

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