The next major boxing event is upon us. A pair of top welterweights in the already loaded division are set to meet in the middle of the ring on Saturday night in Las Vegas with the WBO title at 147 pounds on the line.
Terence Crawford (37-0, 28 KOs) will attempt to make the fifth defense of his title in arguably the first dangerous test he has faced 147 pounds when he takes on former two-time champion Shawn Porter (31-3-1, 17 KOs) inside the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas.
Given the platform and stakes of this weekend's pay-per-view event, there are no shortage of storylines entering this matchup. Let's take a closer look.
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1. Finally, boxing did right by Crawford
It may have taken four years since the time Crawford became the first undisputed champion of the four-belt era at 140 pounds before moving up to welterweight, but he finally has an elite foe -- one still in his prime -- to stack up his impressive skills against. The fact that Crawford is now 34 makes it almost criminal we have been forced to wait this long as "Bud" has lingered in welterweight exile on the outside looking in of the political and network divide. We may not do this often in this routinely unsavory sport, but credit is due to the WBO for ordering the fight after naming Porter the mandatory opponent. Although Crawford has regularly appeared in the top five of just about every pound-for-pound list, it has been difficult to properly rate him due to the smorgasbord of faded names and not-quite-ready for prime time players he has fought against at welterweight up to this point after having his way with the elite at both 135 and 140 pounds.
2. Which version of Porter has the best shot at giving Crawford trouble?
That will be the question trainer Kenny Porter will be forced to answer as the father/son duo prepare for a plan of attack against the sublime Crawford. Porter has become the chameleon of the division. Long known for his recklessly aggressive style of leading with his head and forearms to get inside, Porter showcased an all-new attack against Danny Garcia in 2018 to capture the vacant WBC title when he relied on feinting and herky-jerky footwork patterns to constantly keep the slow-footed Garcia guessing. Porter used somewhat of a hybrid style that was still heavy on pressure to give unbeaten unified champion Errol Spence Jr. all he could handle in their thrilling 2019 unification that ended in a split-decision loss. But Spence has since admitted he abandoned his game plan altogether from the opening round in what turned out to nearly be an ill-advised move that was fueled by overconfidence he would be able to overwhelm Porter with ease. Don't expect Crawford to play so easily into Porter's best-laid plans. Therefore, the timing of when to switch up styles will be key. Crawford typically has his way with aggressive fighters, although he has yet to face someone at welterweight with the combination of speed and physical strength that Porter possesses.
3. Crawford's impending free agency still looms large over the result
Is Porter just the first of the elite welterweights Crawford will face before the end of his career or simply the only one? And what about that Crawford-Spence super fight that is getting dangerously close to its expiration date? With Crawford entering the final bout of his Top Rank promotional deal, these are important questions that need answering, particularly if Crawford wins. With the exception of rising stud Vergil Ortiz Jr., who fights for Golden Boy Promotions on DAZN, all of the 147-pound fighters who matter reside under the Premier Boxing Champions banner. Six months ago, it seemed as if Crawford was a shoe-in to be leaving Top Rank after Hall-of-Fame promoter Bob Arum badmouthed him publicly for being a consistently poor draw. But both sides have been quiet of late and Top Rank has enough elite talent in the divisions below welterweight (including Josh Taylor and Teofimo Lopez Jr.) who may one day move up to make re-signing a decent move for Crawford. Still, it would be hard to swallow seeing such a generational talent like Crawford not get to fight the majority of his contemporaries, which include Spence, Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, Yordenis Ugas and (until recently) Manny Pacquiao. Not to mention a still-rising Jaron "Boots" Ennis.
4. Porter deserves much more love and respect
Even with the majority of elite welterweights in this particularly deep era at 147 pounds all being represented by PBC, that doesn't mean each have been willing to face one another all the consistently. That's why the matchmaking decisions by Porter deserve recognition. Since 2013, Porter has faced the following welterweights while they were still in their physical prime: Devon Alexander (25-1), Kell Brook (32-0), Adrien Broner (30-1), Keith Thurman (26-0), Danny Garcia (34-1), Ugas (23-3) and Spence (25-0). In addition, he also fought former champions Paulie Malignaggi and Andre Berto before their full decline, along with a difficult two-fight series against former lightweight champion Julio Diaz, which featured a split draw in their first meeting. No, Porter hasn't been victorious in every fight. He has, however, consistently dared to be great by seeking out the best, including a failed bid to attract Pacquiao shortly after the Filipino legend handed Thurman his first pro defeat. Porter not only makes fun fights on a regular basis, he makes big ones. That's why his growing legacy remains extremely underrated.
5. Expect Porter to bring out the very best of who Crawford is
Given his typical wide advantages in everything from speed and power to IQ, most of Crawford's welterweight run has been one-way traffic. At some point in the first half of the fight, Crawford switches to southpaw. From there, he slowly stalks and breaks down his opponent in almost surgical fashion, with all five 147-pound appearances ending via stoppage. Porter, however, has the ability to force Crawford to fight off the back foot immediately. And should the fight become a high-paced thriller like it has the potential to be, expect Crawford to showcase exactly what makes him so great. If we're being fully honest, Crawford hasn't been legitimately pushed -- even despite the flash knockdown he suffered in 2019 against Egidijus Kavaliauskas -- since his 2014 lightweight title defense against Yuriorkis Gamboa. What was most notable about that fight was how nasty Crawford became in the midst of two-way exchanges, which ended in his spectacular ninth-round stoppage of Gamboa to hand the Cuban dynamo his first pro defeat. Porter has all the making to bring out that same beast inside Crawford, which is why this fight is so anticipated.
Who wins Crawford vs. Porter? And which prop is a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to see Brandon Wise's best bets for Saturday, all from the CBS combat sports specialist who has crushed his boxing picks in 2021, and find out.