No question about it, Errol Spence Jr.-Shawn Porter delivered

LOS ANGELES — It was a welterweight unification clash that won’t soon be forgotten. Errol Spence Jr. added the WBC belt to go along with his IBF title after his victory over Shawn Porter at Staples Center on Saturday night. The scores read 116-111 twice for Spence, and 115-112 for Porter.

The fight was as close and competitive as the split decision indicated. It wasn’t until Spence scored a knockdown of Porter in the 11th round that many felt as though Spence had any breathing room on the scorecards.

While many expected Spence to have an easier time in defeating Porter, he was pressed both physically and psychologically like never before. There was a hard price paid for this victory. In the end, it was Spence’s superior skills and power that proved to be the difference.

For Porter, while he took another defeat, he earned a measure of respect that had been absent in all his previous victories. He lost his belt, but he walks away with a heightened stature with the boxing public.

So what did we learn?

Was the way the fight played out surprising?

Errol Spence Jr. added the WBC belt to go along with his IBF title with his victory over Shawn Porter. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

I have to be honest, my belief was that while Porter is the consummate “try hard” guy, I didn’t think he had the overall skill set and talent to really press Spence to the brink the way he did. Sure, many believed that the former high school running back from Akron, Ohio, would make it difficult and uncomfortable for Spence early on, but the expectation was that the southpaw from Texas would pull away in the second half of the bout.

Well, that clearly wasn’t the case.

Porter was more than just hanging in the fight by being awkward and difficult. He was landing clean right hands and left hooks to the body that were visibly impacting Spence. There had never been a previous fight where you saw Spence’s head jerk back from getting struck so clean.

Spence had been able to dismantle his foes late with a two-fisted attack in past fights, but outside the knockdown in the 11th round, you never got the sense that Porter was ever on his way out. Even after his short trip to the canvas, he fought back valiantly to finish the round on his feet.

Many will remember this as a Spence victory, but what will truly define this night was the heart and determination of Porter.

Danny Garcia vs. Errol Spence? Discuss

Though Garcia was brought into the ring after Saturday’s fight and talked about as the next matchup partner for Spence, that fight is underwhelming on several fronts.

Garcia hasn’t been very active in recent years, and last September he lost to Porter in a rather forgettable affair. There are a lot of deserving welterweights on the scene, why should Garcia jump the line?

This matchup is a letdown and there are better fights to be made at 147 for Spence, who will move up in weight sooner rather than later.

The bottom line is that Spence wants in on the Manny Pacquiao sweepstakes, but that interest doesn’t seem mutual. With the dramatic nature of the bout Saturday night, who would complain about Spence-Porter II?

If Pacquiao wasn’t going to fight Spence under any circumstance — even if Spence has two welterweight straps — why not run this fight back? It was not only unexpectedly competitive, but it was extremely entertaining. There would certainly be public interest in the rematch and it’s an easy bout to make.

That said, while there’s also still plenty of interest in Spence facing WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford, that potential matchup probably will be moved even further on the back burner.

So what’s next for Porter?

Though he’s no longer a world champion, Porter’s stock has never been higher and he absolutely stays in the mix at 147 for the time being. There are several compelling possibilities that exist for him. A rematch against Keith Thurman, who beat him in a razor-thin decision in 2016, stands out, or as noted before, a return bout with Spence.

But you wonder, given the physical nature of what took place Saturday, does Spence really want to go through that again? There’s a reason why those who have faced Porter in the past do not want to give him rematches. Taking on Porter is something you do once when you absolutely have to. It’s probably not something you do again because you choose to.

Is Spence the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world?

No, but he added another solid résumé-building victory to his ledger. As of now, he is the only unified welterweight champion in the division (with Pacquiao and Crawford as the other belt holders at 147). Spence is clearly among the best fighters in the world, but for the time being, based on his overall accomplishments, it’s hard to put him above the likes of Naoya Inoue, Canelo Alvarez and Crawford, who have all won titles in multiple divisions.

Again, beating Porter is a good win, but you could argue that Porter didn’t shine in his last bout to Yordenis Ugas in March, and before this weekend, Spence fought an overmatched Mikey Garcia, who was stepping up two weight classes. Spence is certainly an elite boxer, but you get the sense that where he ends up making his run to the top of the pound-for-pound rankings will come when he’s fighting at 154 and eventually 160.

Is David Benavidez back on the right track? Can he put his past troubles behind him?

Benavidez (22-0, 19 KOs) captured the WBC super middleweight title by wearing down a game Anthony Dirrell over nine rounds. Benavidez has never lost and he certainly is one of the elite 168-pounders in the world. He is like a snowball — once he gets started rolling downhill and gathering momentum, he is very tough to hold off as a fight progresses.

However, he’s also a bit flat-footed and methodical in his approach, and takes a while to get started at times. How would he would deal with the deft movement of IBF champion Caleb Plant or the offensive tools of WBA belt holder Callum Smith?

But keep this in mind, Benavidez, at age 22, is still developing in many ways.

In Dirrell, he was facing a veteran who had a lot of mileage and was on the back end of his career. You hated to see the shellacking he took in the ninth round, and it seemed unnecessary for him to come out after the eighth when it was clear that everything was one-way traffic by that point. He’s 34 and it’s about time to wonder if this was the last time we’ve seen him at the world-class level.

Who impressed the most Saturday?

Despite not getting the nod versus Mario Barrios, it was clearly Batyr Akhmedov.

Akhmedov came into the night with only seven bouts to his credit and, in the eyes of most observers, did more than enough to defeat Barrios for a version of the WBA 140-pound belt. Though he suffered two knockdowns, the southpaw from Uzbekistan pressured Barrios throughout and laid a two-fisted beating on him.

As the cards were read and Barrios was named the winner, a loud chorus of boos reverberated at Staples Center. It was clear who had won in the court of public opinion. It’s just too bad there will be a blemish on Akhmedov’s record and the belt that should be around his waist is around Barrios’ instead.

Akhemdov showed a pressured, swarming style that was fan-friendly and certainly would make for many good fights in the future. He is a fighter who isn’t afraid to stick his nose into the pile and get to work, and he showed against Barrios that he can consistently work his way inside and chip away at a bigger foe. Despite the unfortunate result of the fight for him, Akhmedov showed he will be a player on the 140 scene for the foreseeable future.

It’s time for John Molina to call it quits

After losing in eight rounds to Josesito Lopez, it’s time for Molina (30-9, 24 KOs) to walk away from boxing.

From the very beginning of this bout, where he was floored in the first, then again in the seventh, he looked like a old, faded fighter, one that simply doesn’t have his legs underneath him anymore. His punch resistance, one of his calling cards, has seemingly left him. It’s not just that he’s 36, but because of his hell-bent-for-leather style, he’s an old 36.

Molina was never really fundamentally sound as a fighter but relied on his natural raw power to carry him through tough moments. So with that, it was never going to be an easy ascent for him as a fighter as every bout for him was a grueling test of wills and toughness.

Molina was never a great fighter, but someone who provided some memorable moments. Who can forget his late-round comebacks against the likes of Hank Lundy and certainly his 10th-round miracle versus Mickey Bey, where he was able to hit the proverbial 10-run home run to make improbable comebacks? There was his 2014 fight of the year against Lucas Matthysse, where he floored “the Machine” twice before succumbing to the overall arsenal of the hard-punching Argentine.

But since his big upset victory over Ruslan Provodnikov in 2016, he has lost three of his past four and looked more and more diminished each time. Back in February, he lost to Omar Figueroa as he lacked his usual pop. On Saturday night, he looked like a fighter who simply had nothing left in the tank.

He has had a colorful career, but it should now come to a close.

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