<
>

Five things we learned from Keith Thurman's win over Shawn Porter

After a fun and explosive title bout on Saturday, here are five things we learned when Keith Thurman retained his welterweight title with a close but unanimous decision win over Shawn Porter in Brooklyn, New York.

1. Fights like Thurman-Porter need to become the rule, not the exception

A 50-50 title fight between prime fighters? Check. Airing in prime time on free TV? Check. And -- wait for it -- the fight not only lived up to the hype but also exceeded expectations? You're not dreaming, folks. This is how boxing used to be, and it's a reminder of one simple fact: If you build it, they (the viewers) will come. And if you match your best fighters against each other with something to fight for, you'll get the performances put forth by Thurman and Porter.

Yes, there are financial realities involved in putting big fights on free TV, including purses, sponsorships, etc. But Saturday night was a snapshot of where boxing could be and a reminder of just how gripping an entertainment product it remains to the casual fan when properly presented. Fifteen months after launching with much fanfare, Premier Boxing Champions hasn't consistently come forward with the best matchups despite a slew of prime TV slots and a stranglehold on boxing's deepest and sexiest division. But PBC came through in a big way Saturday. In a year already littered with too many pay-per-views headlined by fights that are far from being PPV-worthy, Thurman-Porter was something special.

2. There was something vintage about their performance

Three weeks removed from junior lightweights Francisco Vargas and Orlando Salido brawling to a majority draw, it's not as if boxing's hard-core fan base was without strong options for fight of the year contenders. But fights that contend for this award often feature boxers of lesser caliber and prominence, typically from smaller weight classes. Thurman and Porter -- a pair of high-profile welterweights with big personalities -- each fought with a sense of determination from Round 1 to the final bell that isn't seen enough at the highest level. Yet despite featuring plenty of two-way action in close space, Thurman-Porter won't garner fight of the year votes for brutality or violence alone. Instead, the fight stood out for the constant ebbs and flows of momentum and the high skill level maintained despite the hectic pace, which was a credit to the hunger of both. The fight seemed a lot like Shane Mosley's first victory over Oscar De La Hoya in 2000, which admittedly seemed a lot like the welterweight classics of the 1980s.

3. At this exact second, Thurman is the best welterweight in the world

It might not stay that way for long, however. Not only is the division deep, but there's this young man named Errol Spence Jr. who could be on the verge of taking it over. Thurman showed a mixture of skill, power and toughness to hold off the hard-charging Porter, connecting on 44 percent of his punches. Thurman also showed some vulnerability, which makes it hard to outright declare that he's definitively better than the group right below him, which features the likes of Kell Brook, Timothy Bradley Jr. and Danny Garcia. It will be fun finding out, though, provided Thurman is allowed to be matched as aggressively as he wants to be. The last two years featured too many lateral and backward steps. But if we can believe we have seen the last of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, who dominated the waters at 147 pounds for the last decade, Thurman appears to be the class of the division. For now.

4. Porter fought like a champion in defeat

Substitute any trio of judges on Saturday and it's very possible Porter would be the one leaving the ring with the belt. The fight was that close and difficult to score, producing many rounds which forced judges to decide whether Porter's activity and raw aggression was more effective than Thurman's thudding power shots. While Thurman, the bigger puncher and more skilled fighter, enjoyed more eye-catching moments -- which likely went a long way toward handing him the close win -- Porter showcased more than an incredible chin and resolve. The former titlist mixed up his often reckless style well. Although he was typically the aggressor, Porter boxed when he needed to, countered Thurman with looping right hands, and was effective enough to the body that it appeared he was close at times to breaking Thurman's will. Porter's resume includes impressive wins over former titlists Adrien Broner, Devon Alexander and Paulie Malignaggi, but this may have been the best version of Porter we have ever seen. It's hard not to imagine the always-humble Porter winning another world title, while proving to be the toughest of outs for any elite foe.

5. We need a rematch. Just not right away.

While Porter is plenty deserving of one, there's too much good business to be had at welterweight to need to run it back instantly. With the majority of fighters under friendly promotional and managerial arrangements, PBC has no excuse not to match Thurman -- immediately -- against another top fighter in order to take us one step closer to clarity within the division (although Thurman could be headed to a mandatory defense against David Avanesyan). Thurman-Porter II will still be here a year or two from now, whether it's a unification bout or whether both are coming off defeats. And it will still be fun and important. But let's find out what Thurman-Garcia (or Thurman-Brook or Thurman-Amir Khan) looks like first.