Shawn Porter begins climb back to title contention against unknown Sebastian Formella

It’s been nearly 11 months since Shawn Porter last wore a world championship belt around his waist. The world has changed dramatically in that time, but there has been one constant amid the chaos: Porter emphatically continues to believe that he defeated Errol Spence Jr. and is thus the true welterweight king.

Porter, though, understands how the business of boxing works. 

His opinion means nothing in the grand scheme of things, and so he has to begin the climb back toward the top rather than participate in a multi-million dollar pay-per-view against a big-name opponent.

Spence will meet ex-champion Danny Garcia — whom Porter defeated in 2018 — in a lucrative Nov. 21 pay-per-view bout. On Saturday (8 p.m. ET, Fox) at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, Porter will take on the little-known Sebastian Formella in a title eliminator.

Formella, 33, is 22-0 with 10 knockouts. He still works a full-time job and has few recognizable names on his résumé. It could be the kind of fight that is ripe for the bigger name to look past, but if you thought Shawn Porter may be looking ahead, well, you don’t know Shawn Porter.

“My job is to prepare to the best of my ability and fight the guy they tell me is going to be standing across from in the ring,” Porter said. “I worked very hard to get ready for this. This is a big fight for him, but it’s a big fight for me, too. The most important fight for any fighter is the next one up. I understand that. I am not looking ahead in the least.”

Shawn Porter during the roundtable discussion at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas. (Photo by Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images)Shawn Porter during the roundtable discussion at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas. (Photo by Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images)
Shawn Porter during the roundtable discussion at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas. (Photo by Bradley Collyer/PA Images via Getty Images)

Formella figures to be at his best, because Porter represents by far the most significant opponent of his career. If he defeats Porter, he puts himself among the fighters at the top of the division, where there are numerous lucrative fights to be made.

It’s just another opponent for Porter, but for Formella, it’s the pinnacle of a career. And he’s spent time analyzing Porter’s move-forward pressure style in the hope of unlocking a key to victory.

“Porter makes a lot of pressure,” Formella said. “He can bridge the distance very well with his fast movements and he is very strong on the inside. You always have to be careful and concentrated. You must not let him drag you into his fighting style. We’ve analyzed Porter, and we know it’s going to be tough. But it’s boxing and the nice thing about our sport is that a lot of things can happen that you don’t expect. We have a tactic set up and I’m going to throw everything at him to get the win.”

Porter expects Formella to circle and move. If he made it a street fight, it would be music to Porter’s ears, because that’s the style he loves the best.

He’s a guy who feeds off the enthusiasm of the crowd, and was at his best against Spence when the crowd was most into it.

Against Formella, not only is he facing an unknown opponent, but he’ll do so with no fans. It’s something all fighters have to learn to deal with quickly given the circumstances created by the pandemic.

Head to Porter’s gym in Las Vegas to watch him train and it’s alive with music most of the time. But as he’s trained for Formella, it’s been more like a funeral parlor than a lively boxing gym.

“I like to spar and train with music,” Porter said. “But there was no music this time. My Dad [Kenny] likes that because he said it’s important for me to hear him and with the music sometimes, that was hard. But for this camp, it was just myself and my sparring partner and our coaches and that was it.

“That’s kind of what it is going to be like on Saturday and so I think it’s really done a lot to help get me ready.”

A win will keep him in line for another big fight. He’s interested in a bout with WBA champion Manny Pacquiao, whom he used to work for as a sparring partner. He could get a shot at the Spence-Garcia winner. Or he might even be a viable opponent for WBO champion Terence Crawford.

But Porter is a veteran and he knows the deal.

“There’s a lot of stuff out there, but first things first,” he said. “I have to win the fight in front of me and then we can talk about other things.”

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