By Michael Rosenthal
CARSON, Calif. – Shawn Porter is a wealthy man.
The WBC title holder has never been able to solve the problems he faced against the brilliant challenger Yordenis Ugas, but won his victory over a split decision and his belt in front of an unconvinced crowd on a cold Saturday evening at Dignity Health Sports Park.
The fight was hard to score, as indicated by the official charts: 116-112 and 115-113 for Porter, 117-111 for Ugas. Up to 10 turns could have been passed from one or the other way.
The main reason is that the fight was more likely to be a fierce battle than a fight, which is remarkable considering that Porter is normally an aggressive and swarming fighter who does not allow his opponents to breathe.
For some reason, he chose to wait for the defensive Cuban to take the first step and counter. The result was a monotonous fight almost devoid of energy. And fans who braved the unusually cold conditions in southern California were not thrilled.
Porter (30-2-1, 17 KO) attempted to make the crowd make noise a few moments before the start of the eighth day. They welcomed him before the end of the three minutes. Only they did not encourage. they booed loudly, which was not surprising given the lack of action.
And many still booed when the scores were announced. Ugas, a counter-pitcher, has launched relatively few punches, but many at the ring have thought that he had the upper hand over the exchanges when they happened.
Porter had big plans in this fight, saying that he wanted to fight – and beat – Manny Pacquiao, Keith Thurman and Errol Spence after Ugas to become the world's preeminent welterweight and seal his legacy as one of the best of his time. Instead, he narrowly avoided disaster before and during Saturday's fight.
He initially failed to reach the 147-pound limit of 1.8 kg on Friday, before returning within two hours to weigh 146.8 and save his belt. Then, his strange tactics and the refined skills of Ugas almost wiped out his plans in the ring.
Porter and Ugas (23-4, 11 KO's) watched each other for extended periods of time, bouncing on their feet, sometimes pretending, waiting for the other to do something. That's what pushed a frustrated veteran to the edge of the ring to shout, "There is not much going on here," a sentiment shared by all observers no doubt.
Sometimes the fighters collided, creating brief, violent exchanges. Porter landed a few shots but missed much more often than he connected, sometimes savagely. It was not a good look. He just could not find Ugas to land properly.
Ugas was no more busy than Porter. In fact, he may have launched fewer shots than the title holder. However, his shots seemed more precise and perhaps harder, which drew the attention of spectators from the arena and at least one judge, Zachary Young, who scored 117-111. for Ugas.
And Ugas seemed to be at his best in the final laps, which convinced many spectators that he had won the victory.
Instead, when Jimmy Lennon Jr. announced the final scoreboard and pronounced the word "STILL!," The Ugas house leaders jumped up in anger. They were certain to have been deceived.
Indeed, Ugas could not leave with the belt he thought he deserved. A good consolation is knowing that Saturday, he has emerged as an elite welterweight, likely to pose a problem to the best reserves of 147 pounds.
"No doubt, I was robbed tonight," Ugas said. "After the first round, I understood and I dominated the fight. He had no answer when I pushed him away. I have dominated the fight in my opinion.
"I showed tonight that I belonged to the welterweight elite fighters. All I can say is that I am ready to fight all the big names in the division. I'll be back."
Porter did not act like he dodged a bullet afterwards. He defended the unusual style that he used and thought that he had done enough to retain his title.
"We wanted to get him out of the box and eventually turn him on and on," he said. "But my father (coach Kenny Porter) did not think it was the smartest way to win the fight. We fought this way for 12 rounds and no one has ever seen it before.
"I'm a little frustrated that I can not access the body as much as I wanted or as much as we expected. When time passes, you have to do what works. Tonight, the movement of the feet worked and the Ugas had to reset.
"We had a good, smart fight tonight. I was consistent and I thought we had won the majority of the innings. "
Only Porter and his team were satisfied after this fight. The Ugas will always feel like he's being cheated by his dream. And fans, accustomed to being entertained by Porter, were as disappointed as they ever were with him.
"The crowd was expecting a big fight, but that's not how the fight was to be tonight," Porter said. "This style we used has left the fight close, we have won, we are still champions and we are looking forward to the rest."