BOXERS are barely given any time to recover or reflect before they’re asked what they plan to do next. At a time when Errol Spence Jnr should have been lauded for a gruelling and exciting split decision victory over Shawn Porter, fans voiced their displeasure that the IBF and now WBC welterweight champion failed to commit to the fight they want to see.

The outrage is understandable to a degree. A bout between Spence Jnr and Terence Crawford – widely regarded as the best two fighters in the 147lb division – should be a natural but the business of boxing, powered by warring promoters and broadcasters and sanctioning bodies, rarely answers to common sense. This is not a plea to stop demanding that the best fight the best, far from it, but perhaps the time to complain isn’t immediately after we’ve just witnessed something truly special.

And Spence-Porter was special. It had everything that boxing fans adore about boxing. The skills, bravery and excitement on display inside the Los Angeles Staples Center should have triggered universal respect for the two athletes who delivered what is surely now a frontrunner for Fight of the Year.

Neither Spence nor Porter took a backward step. Even in the 11th round when Porter’s hand touched down after taking the sweetest of left hands, the momentum of the punches he was trying to land himself ensured his forward motion remained. But therein lay the key to victory for the impressive southpaw who is showing new facets to his game with every passing fight. Porter’s plan to outhustle and disrupt the favourite on the inside almost worked, yet it should be noted that Spence’s ability to beat boxers at their own game – his raids downstairs were particularly spiteful – was the most telling truth of this 12-rounder.

Errol Spence
Southpaw Spence manages to hurt Porter Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions

Even when deep down in the trenches, Spence kept his head low, almost forcing Porter off balance, and fired sapping blows to body and head.

“Shawn and his team posed a lot of questions,” Spence said afterwards. “They said I’d never been tested before, that I’ve never been hit with a great shot before. But I showed that I’m a dog, that I do have a lot of grit and that I have that ability to take a shot and then give a couple back.”

Spence was full of praise for his rival. It was all a far cry from his taunts to Porter before the unification contest when he said, “You fight like a drowning dog and you don’t know how to swim.”

While Porter was indeed reckless at times, he had no problem staying afloat and competing with one of the most complete fighters in boxing. His jab troubled Spence and he showcased the kind of variety that never allowed the Texan to dominate. The opening three rounds were intensely watchable and the contest caught fire in the fourth as they exchanged fiercely. The pattern continued; Porter had success when coming in fast while Spence, the more composed, appeared to be landing the cleaner shots. Even so, as the 10th round began, the fight seemed very much in the balance.

Three further rounds of intense warfare followed. The knockdown in the penultimate session failed to drain the fight out of Porter but it was certainly a defining moment. At the close of the bout, expertly refereed by Jack Reiss, Spence looked like the winner. The two scores of 116-111 in his favour seemed fair though nobody felt that the 115-112 tabled in Porter’s favour was outrageous. In all, they told the right story about a close and thrilling fight.

“When I don’t win, I can’t hang my head,” Porter said. “When I don’t win, I can’t make excuses. This was a fantastic fight tonight. I’ll have to watch it back but I felt comfortable in the majority of the rounds. The one round I didn’t feel comfortable in was obviously the round when my hand touched the canvas. I listened to my corner, I did what was being asked and to make the necessary adjustments. But you’re not going to hear me say that was a robbery.”

Porter wants the rematch but it looks like Danny Garcia, another PBC-promoted fighter, will get the next shot at Spence. The showdown with Crawford, one hopes, is a work in progress but for now, respect to both Spence and Porter for delivering yet another thrilling welterweight battle.

Phoenix, Arizona’s David Benavidez regained the WBC super-middleweight title when he stopped Anthony Dirrell at 1-39 of the ninth. Though Dirrell, bleeding from a cut opened by a left hook in the sixth, was standing when the towel came in this will go down in the record books as a knockout under California rules.

Dirrell was plucky but outgunned. Benavidez, who lost this title in September last year after he tested positive for cocaine, negated Dirrell’s busy jab as he upped the pace in rounds four and five. Dirrell’s own output noticeable dipped as 22-year-old Benavidez’s increased. A left hook opened a cut in round six that was inspected by the doctor in the seventh after referee Tom Taylor suspended the action.

The 34-year-old, from Flint, Michigan, was hurt from body shots in the eighth. By the ninth, it was all Benavidez and the end – as it became increasingly one-sided – arrived at the right time.

Mario Barrios won a watered-down WBA lightweight belt with a 12-round unanimous decision win over Russia’s Batyr Akhmedov. The Texan dropped his rival in round four and again in the last to complete a rousing triumph via scores of 115-111, 114-112 and 116-111. Jerry Cantu was the referee.

The Verdict Spence Jnr scores latest impressive victory.

Errol Spence Jnr (147lbs), 26-0 (21), w pts 12 Shawn Porter (147lbs), 33-3-1 (17); David Benavidez (167 1/2lbs), 22-0 (19), w ko 9 Anthony Dirrell (167 1/2lbs), 33-2-1 (24); Mario Barrios (140lbs), 25-0 (16), w pts 12 Batyr Akhmedov (139 1/4lbs), 7-1 (6); Josesito Lopez (146 1/2lbs), 37-8 (20), w ko 8 John Molina Jnr (146 1/4lbs), 30-9 (24); Robert Guerrero (146 3/4lbs), 36-6-1 (20), w pts 10 Gerald Thomas (147 1/2lbs), 14-2-1 (8).