The Stock Market of Boxing - Assessing the Value of Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter

All it takes is one punch. At least that’s the axiom on what the entirety of combat sports – notably boxing – is built. A sneaky hook that connects on the right spot, a straight that stuns someone long enough to lose time for a moment, an uppercut that could behead a king with ferocious swiftness.

Yet, in waiting for that one punch, or to borrow from the nickname, Keith Thurman found that he needed ‘One Time’… plus one more time plus a third to get the best of his friend and former sparring partner ‘Showtime’ Shawn Porter. On Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the defending WBA welterweight champion retained his title in a hotly-contested bout that’s a strong contender for “Fight of the Year.”

Seen by most boxing observers as the heir apparent to Floyd Mayweather Jr., the undefeated central Florida native is ever more conscious of how hype and results don’t always go hand and hand as a boxer ascends up the ranks. In a lead-up interview with Mark Kriegel for Showtime, Thurman made one of the more accurate comparisons of an athlete you’d ever hear, likening a boxer’s career to the stock market.

"As a fighter, your value goes up, mostly with every victory. But the one thing that does happen, just like in the stock market, you take a hit, you take a loss, you don’t represent yourself fully to that market value, it drops overnight."

You can point to any year, any division and any era in the history of boxing and you can find multiple careers that went from blue-chip prospects waiting to file an IPO – that pay-per-view shine – to descending into penny stock territory because of a loss at the wrong time. Even within the last decade in the welterweight division, the crown jewel of the sport over that time, there have been a “whatever happened to” list of fighters that became stepping stones for someone else’s greatness instead of their own.

With this bout, the video provides evidence of how two combatants can raise their individual and collective values in the sport. With Thurman, a crafty and assertive fighter who prides himself on his defense (a mentor of sorts is former light middleweight champion Winky Wright), he was challenged in a manner far different from past fights. Where he would normally step in and out of action and cut out much of the ring from his opponent, he was taken out of his typical rhythm for much of the fight, notably in the middle rounds where both fighters traded strong hooks in multiple flurries between them. With Porter, whose offense is less refined, but comes with a pitbull-like aggressiveness, the question would be could he sustain the high energy into the final rounds if he didn’t get caught slipping because his defense is not as slick as Thurman’s.

Somehow, someway, perhaps because of years-long familiarity with each other, both fighters answered each other’s questions about their strengths and weaknesses. Thurman’s short uppercuts brought him points in the long-run, but within each flurry, they gave him some space from the all-consuming Porter in order for him to try to get into his rhythm. Porter stood strong amidst some stunning shots from Thurman, perhaps in a way of showing how his momentum wouldn’t be stopped dead in its tracks because of some hard shots up high.

So in light of what was a fairly controversial decision on Saturday, when asked how to assess both his own stock as well as Porter’s, Thurman was effusive and entertaining about where both men stood.

“I mean, still, with that kind of performance, you’re looking at two amazing athletes…. the beauty of Shawn Porter is that when he lost his IBF title, he lost to an undefeated fighter (Britain’s Kell Brook). When he lost tonight, he lost to an undefeated fighter. So, Shawn Porter is not number one in the world. Shawn Porter is not number two in the world. But Shawn Porter is an exciting and great fighter in the welterweight division, and NOBODY can deny that. So yes, he is still valuable and, yes he has a marquee. And me being undefeated and still the WBA champion, my stock has risen.”

And when you really think about it, Thurman is spot on about his friendly foe. Porter, who had been seen less as a true contender for the lineal championship, walked out of Brooklyn with a far greater perception than he came in with. Better yet, in the forty-eight minutes between the first and last bells, the predominantly pro-Thurman crowd went from dismissing ‘Showtime’ to cheering him as if he grew up in ‘do-or-die’ Bed-Stuy.

In the immediate post-fight euphoria, both fighters talked about a rematch, though the decision obviously rests with the Thurman camp, which repeatedly said in the post-fight press conference that it wants a unification bout with WBC champ Danny Garcia. That both Thurman and Garcia are major title holders, undefeated and (as driven home often in the promotion of Saturday’s bout) in their prime will create a bidding war between fight venues across the country. Yet, in relation to the stock market of boxing, Porter may also be able to rebound from a couple of dips in the last year, if his team plays its cards right. After losing to Brook in 2014, the former titleholder won his previous two fights, including a win over the maddening Adrien Broner before the Thurman loss. With strong showings against some well-known fighters, Porter further enhances his own name and should continue to be in play for major fights.

What made Saturday’s fight – and rather the entire fight card, which included an impressive showing from super welterweight Jarrett Hurd (and a game, but overmatched Oscar Molina) – the early contender for "Fight of the Year" was that much of the bout played into the ideal archetype of the brawler versus boxer – the smooth and exacting march of Thurman versus the pressuring, all-encompassing approach from Porter.

Hype is everything in boxing, and while many continue to lament the multiple times that bouts have failed to live up to top billing, they still seek out the moments that do because of Saturday’s scintillating main event. When one strips the hype of the location, the title or CBS’ continued victory lap for sporting events it broadcasted in 2016, Saturday night was special because two pugilists (and yes, friends) set out to display their complete arsenals in a poetic contrast. Both men knew that contrast was the essence of their bout – a referendum on each other’s styles and stocks in the glamor division of the sport.

With the depth within the welterweight division even after Mayweather’s retirement and Manny Pacquiao’s further dalliance with politics, there’s a legitimate chance that a rising tide will lift all boats. With Thurman calling out Garcia, Brook calling out Thurman, Errol Spence Jr. lying in wait and Porter remaining in the hunt, the next couple of years may find all of these men priming for some major paydays, or rather, highly-valued boxing stock.

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