You call it a bubble. Shawn Porter calls it Friday.
“Simple, man,” Porter said the other day. “We’re all in a bubble anyway.”
A boxer doesn’t need to run from the madding crowd. No one is there when he beats the sunrise by an hour to run six miles in a bike lane somewhere. No one but the trainer and the conditioning guy are there when the bags are punched or the ropes are jumped.
And when Porter and the vast majority of his peers began this game as kids, no one was there but the parents. Even when the typical boxer turns pro, his early fights are in front of dust-gathering seats, whether it’s a hotel ballroom or whether it’s 3 p.m. in a still-empty coliseum.
Diets are monitored. Girlfriends and wives aren’t (usually) in the picture. Several boxers go to the top of Big Bear, where they can think and visualize and maybe get a little bit mean.
Porter makes his first pandemic appearance Saturday night at Microsoft Theater, with nobody on the guest list.
The guy who took Errol Spence through the 12 most hellish rounds of his life in September is now stepping into this ring against Sebastian Formella, the 24th-ranked welterweight by BoxRec.com, a fellow who hasn’t fought outside of Europe.
Porter certainly hopes it is the kind of fight nobody minds missing.
“I expect the adrenaline to take over,” he said.
“The one thing we can’t forget about Saturday is that it’s a fight. Lives will still be on the line. We go 80 percent, maybe 90 percent in our sparring sessions. The energy you pick up when you’re in there, that will make the difference.”
Porter (30-3-1) lives in Las Vegas. “Guys were calling me when they were on the Strip, sending me pictures,” he said. “It was crazy with the lights down and nobody there. It was an eerie feeling.”
He also knows three people, in the same family, who kept fouling off the coronavirus until it went away. “I know that when you get it, you can get over it,” he said.
Top Rank took over a floor and a ballroom at the MGM Grand and sent boxing back into the breach, with armor and PPE in place. Its first card was June 9, less than three months after boxing froze.
Ballroom boxing has been a staple ever since, with the expected mismatches but with some unexpected stars, like UFC alumnus Clay Collard. It has been a godsend for talented kids who never would get close to prime time.
And the big cards are coming. Spence will meet former welterweight champ Danny Garcia on Nov. 21, maybe at Microsoft. Vasyl Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez will merge their lightweight championships Oct. 3 in Las Vegas.
Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder will enter a ring for the third time, Fury probably doing so via helicopter, at the Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium, probably on Dec. 19, in Las Vegas.
The welterweight division, always the leader in everything but clarity, likely won’t find resolution until 2021. Spence has recuperated from a one-car, high-speed crash in Dallas last fall.
But Spence had to dig mightily to stay unbeaten against Porter at Staples Center. He won that split decision only because of a chopping left hand that sent Porter, or at least his hand, to the canvas in the 11th round.
“I’m curious to see if Errol is the same old guy,” Porter said. “His warrior mentality is taking him back into the ring. But I tried to reach out to him a couple of times, after his accident, and didn’t hear back.
“I feel like I won that fight. I made that one mistake, reached out to throw a punch and got caught at the same time. He hit me low a few times, and that was overlooked. My hand touched the canvas and, to tell the truth, that was more disappointing than not having my hand raised.”
Spence holds the WBC and iBF titles, Terence Crawford is the WBO titlist and Manny Pacquiao has the WBA crown. Three ex-champs loom behind them: Porter, Garcia and Keith Thurman.
“I think all those belts will keep bouncing around,” Porter said. “Any of us can become champs. You have to look at the young guys, too, guys like Vergil Ortiz and Jaron Ennis. They’re very solid.”
Ortiz is 22, Ennis 23. Porter is 32. Everything stands still inside the bubble, except time.