Porter puts himself back in welter mix

LAS VEGAS -- With the lone bump in his path toward contention in the welterweight division smoothed out, unbeaten Shawn "Showtime" Porter is ready for the next level.

"I want to line them up," Porter said after dispatching a game Julio Diaz in Thursday's rematch of their spirited 2012 bout. "'Showtime' says line them up."

Porter, who still has yet to record a signature, breakthrough victory despite showing promise as a rising contender, took a noted step back in his first bout with Diaz last December. Despite the crowd-pleasing nature of the all-action affair -- a split draw made possible by a resurgent effort from the veteran Diaz -- many thought Porter should have been handed his first defeat.

The rematch, however, was a different story.

Although far from bland, with both fighters exchanging heavy combinations at close range throughout, the fight was much more of a statement effort for Porter, who scored a unanimous decision (98-92, 97-93 twice) at the MGM Grand Conference Center.

Porter, who bounced back in May with a near-shutout of then-unbeaten Phil Lo Greco, was commanding in his execution against Diaz on Thursday. The Cleveland native used a variety of feints to set up stinging three-punch combinations and established himself to the body throughout.

But what prevented the rematch from playing out as a repeat of their first bout was Porter's refusal to allow Diaz into the fight, meeting nearly every punch landed by the former lightweight titlist with a resounding and instantaneous counter shot.

The strategy routinely took the wind out of Diaz's advances.

"I felt like I had him the whole time," Porter said. "I went to the body early and I thought that was really effective. We had a great game plan, and about 75 percent of the fight, I carried out the plan."

Where Porter actually fits in a crowded house at welterweight still remains to be seen. But Thursday's performance officially placed Porter's journey toward title contention back on the tracks.

All he needs now, of course, is that one breakthrough victory that solidifies the diminutive, yet frenetic fighter as a top threat.