A few weeks ago, Shawn and Kenny Porter adopted a puppy from the animal shelter. They were in for an incredible surprise when they brought home their new family member: Grace was not just any dog. She had been with her previous owners during a car crash that killed them both. The only way she survived is because of the seat belt around her neck that saved her life.
The “kenny porter wife” is a story about a tragedy that creates an unbreakable bond between Shawn and Kenny Porter.
8:48 a.m. ET
ESPN’s Mark Kriegel
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — Shawn Porter and I met in early 2016 as he was ready to fight Keith Thurman, the finest welterweight in the world at the time. Porter’s unusual physique was the first of three things that stood out right away. He had fought at 165.3 pounds for the most of his amateur career. Even the 75-kilogram restriction was too much for a child whose other sport was playing safety and running back in the tough high school football leagues of northern Ohio. Porter received letters of interest from California, Southern California, Virginia, and Georgia Tech, but he decided to pursue boxing instead.
It seemed absurd at the time, as it does today. Why would any child choose to grow up in a filthy gym when he could grow up in a nice athletic dorm? Nonetheless, it emphasized the second of Porter’s distinguishing characteristics. That’s the look on his face.
Fighters aren’t usually joyful people. Please accept my apologies for generalizing, but I am not mistaken. They’re scavenged from bad situations, and the sport of boxing does nothing to alleviate their malaise. Porter, on the other hand, is a dangerous exception, a really joyful fighter. As if it were the normal state of his face, his grin remained wide, generous, and practically ever-present.
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6 p.m. ET on @ESPN Saturday’s early prelims feature Terence Crawford vs. Shawn Porter.
7 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and ESPN+ Prelims: Terence Crawford vs. Shawn Porter on Saturday
9 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV Saturday: Terence Crawford defends his WBO welterweight belt against Shawn Porter in a 12-round fight.
Finally, there was Kenny Porter, his father, who was guarded, broad-chested, drill-sergeant Alpha, and, as could be seen, skilled with his hands. I’m not the sort to smile. Shawn’s exercises, from boxing to swimming, were meticulously planned by him. Kenny, now 56, wasn’t only overbearing; he was also controlling, not just in his child’s situation but physically in his space, caressing him constantly and never allowing him out of his sight. Kenny condemned Shawn to race on the treadmill in an oxygen deprivation tent, and it appeared to be their sole physical separation.
I was thinking to myself, “Somehow, someway, this isn’t going to end good.”
Shawn informed me later that day, “You don’t understand it.” Sure, he had resisted his father’s insistence on ultimate power at times. He’d dash away and drive away, just to return.
Shawn did, in fact, break his father’s rib while sparring, but he claimed it was an accident.
Shawn smiled and remarked, “I’m blessed.” “I’m committed to what we’re doing and to my father. That’s something I think about all day, every day.”
Now, more than five years later, we gather for another round of interviews with Terence Crawford, the WBO champion, just days before his title defense on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay. From the heydays of Oscar De La Hoya to Floyd Mayweather to Manny Pacquiao, welterweight has been boxing’s most glamorous category for at least a quarter-century. If the line of succession has been murky since Mayweather’s retirement, this bout should help to clarify things up. Crawford, 34, is the division’s most skilled fighter, while Porter, 34, is the division’s most relentless and veteran competitor. Crawford is heavy-handed, ambidextrous, and has a high boxing IQ as well as a vicious streak.
“Can you tell me what you have that he doesn’t?” Shawn is the one who asks.
“This is my spot,” he says.
He’s referring to his father.
It’s a point that not even Crawford, who is known for his prickliness, would dispute. Kenny and Shawn are both amateurs, and he knows them both. “What he can pull out of his kid, certainly nobody else can,” Crawford admits.
Crawford-Porter is available as a pay-per-view on ESPN+.
On Saturday night, Kenny Porter will be in Shawn Porter’s corner for his son’s bout against Terence Crawford. Getty Images/Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc
Shawn Porter is no exception to the rule that fighters are made in precise times of cosmic sorrow; his is only a generation removed. It is his father’s trauma that has made him the warrior he is. It was about 1970. Kenny was a four-year-old boy from Cleveland’s east side. James, his younger brother, was placed in his care at the age of three. Kenny recalls fond childhood memories of playing tag and riding his brother’s Big Wheels. But he remembers the neighborhood’s archetypal night rulers better: pimps, numbers bosses, gangsters, and — atop this felonious nocturnal hierarchy — one Don King, who was at the time serving a manslaughter sentence at the Marion Correctional Institution.
Kenny remembers his mother doing the math for him. “It forced her to leave the home in the middle of the night.”
The night is one of them: “My brother and I were left alone after dark. And, much like any tiny kid, what do they desire when you leave them alone? They’re looking for their mother.”
Kenny handed James something to eat, which he remembered being candy. But it didn’t stop him from sobbing, so they went in search of their mother. “Crossing the streets, we made it all the way to the home where she was at, which happened to be a gambling house, a drug house,” Kenny recalls. There, they ran the unlawful numbers.
“Right across the street, right in front of the place… we made it…”
We’re almost there.
“We didn’t quite make it across the street. James was killed when he was struck by an automobile.”
James is buried in a grave that is unmarked. According to Kenny, there just wasn’t enough money.
At the penultimate press conference before Saturday’s bout, Shawn and Kenny Porter share the stage. Getty Images/Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc
Kenny Porter once told me, “I’VE ALWAYS BEEN LOOKING FOR MY BROTHER SINCE THAT HAPPENED.” “I’ve always wanted something like that.”
Kenny grew up enraged and determined. He battled his way through the neighborhood, participating in amateur boxing and finally toughman competitions. He usually ran the streets, however. He says, “Players, drug traffickers — they were my heroes, my role models.” “Those were the folks I aspired to be like. Every day, I was warned I’d be dead or in prison before I was 21.”
I inquired as to who informed you.
“I’m talking about my mum.”
Kenny was a parent twice before he turned 21. Kenneth II came first, followed by Shawn on October 27, 1987, less than a year later. Both boys were born to a devout Christian mother.
Kenny recalls telling mom, “God has spoken to me and told me that a father is required to raise his boys.” “I felt as though I had been given the chance to defend what was mine, to raise it, and to ensure that it was cared for as it should be.”
Shawn remembers a happy childhood split between his adoring mother and his tough-guy father. During the day, a bleary-eyed Kenny looked after the boys while working a 5 p.m. shift cleaning offices and an 11 p.m. shift as a hospital orderly.
Kenny had found work at a metal processing factory 45 miles outside of Cleveland by the time the boys were in junior high school. With the heat and industrial-strength chemicals splashing about, it wasn’t pleasant labor, but it allowed him to get the kids out of the city and into the suburb of Cuyahoga Falls.
“I never smoked or drank. I didn’t hang out with anybody “he declares “I didn’t have any acquaintances.”
He ruled over a confined existence: work, church, house, and gym.
Without a complete confession of intent, the lads were not permitted to leave the home.
What are your plans?
How long do you plan on staying?
There was homework to be done. There was construction on the road. There was gym work to be done. There is always a lot to do. Kenny, on the other hand, was looking for affirmations rather than answers: “What are you going to do today?”
“I’ll do my best.”
Kenny II proved to be a competent middleweight. His most recent bout was in the semifinals of the 2009 Cleveland Golden Gloves, according to Boxrec.com. He was defeated by Terrell Gausha, a future Olympian, on points.
Shawn, on the other hand, was unique. He possessed an extraordinarily high-revving engine and a strong desire to please everyone, particularly his father. Shawn’s dynamism was on display in his very first amateur bout, in which he was down in the last round.
“Do you know what a thunderstorm is?” Kenny inquired.
Shawn smiled and nodded. He was eight years old at the time.
He said, “I want you to go out there and hurl punches like a thunderstorm.” “Just pour it down on him.”
Shawn went into a sprinter’s crouch and flung himself at the opponent at the sound of the bell, as per his father’s instructions. Then there was the downpour. It had less to do with boxing and more to do with adherence to his father’s teachings if the moment established the foundation of Porter’s relentless approach.
Shawn, alluding to the death of an uncle he never met, says, “He grew up with the responsibility and the remorse and everything.” “It’s so rare that it’ll never happen again. That’s where it comes from, if you look at my connection with my father and how it’s constructed, and how he doesn’t want anything to go wrong like that moment.”
They established themselves as a regular on the amateur circuit. If Kenny didn’t make many friends, Shawn did, including a sullen, bellicose lightweight from Omaha, Nebraska, among them.
Shawn remembers, “Terence Crawford has always had a short fuse.” “Terence’s eyes would flood up with tears as he became more enraged. People looked at him as if he were a weakling. They didn’t get it, however. That’s how he expresses his rage. My father has clung to the myth of him and Terence getting into a fight.”
Kenny recalls, “We were in a US competition.” “Terence and I had a disagreement over something. I happened to be going through this dimly lighted area at the same time as he was, and we battled it out like gunfighters. It was bizarre since he didn’t simply walk away even then. He turned to face me and stood there watching me until I went away. The entire time, my fists were clinched.”
During their amateur boxing careers, Shawn and Kenny Porter met Terence Crawford, on the left. Getty Images/Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc
Kenny only remembers his mother once, during one of Shawn’s fights. That was in the year 2009. She rode a Greyhound bus from Cleveland to Memphis, where Shawn stopped a boy called Eloy Suarez in the first round.
Kenny recalls, “She never allowed herself to grow close to my sons.” “I realized out afterwards that it was because it reminded her of the boy she had lost.”
Her health began to worsen not long after the Memphis battle. “One night she simply woke up and looked at me and said, ‘You know you need to let it go,” Kenny remarked as he sat by her bedside.
She was referring to James.
Me? That’s exactly what Kenny intended to say. Isn’t it time for me to let go of that?
He didn’t want to disturb her since she was dying. As a result, he just handed her something to drink.
“Don’t be concerned about anything, Mama,” he said.
Shawn has become a two-time welterweight champion in the intervening years. If Crawford is the most gifted of the post-Mayweather welterweights, Porter has the most extensive resume in the division. Devon Alexander, Paulie Malignaggi, Kell Brook, Adrien Broner, Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, Yordenis Ugas, and Errol Spence Jr. seem to be among Porter’s opponents. They were mostly in their peak. As a result, if past performance is any indication, Porter’s should serve him well on Saturday. Porter believes he can use Crawford’s rage against him, despite the fact that Crawford remains his buddy.
It’s a battle for the ages for them both, and it has the potential to change the division’s history. But it’s still only a fight, and regardless of the result, Kenny Porter’s kid will be remembered as a remarkable anomaly: a happy fighter in an unhappy sport. Kenny kept a tight hold on his sons and raised them as hard as he did, and his pleasant, eager-to-please son did the same.
“No one else is likely to be able to pull what he can out of his kid.” Terence Crawford on Kenny Porter, Shawn Porter’s father
Kenny adds, “I’ve jumped out of aircraft with my kid at 18,000 feet.” “My boys and I have rode camels in the Sahara Desert. My boys and I have both swum in the ocean. At 100 mph, I’ve raced my kid in Corvettes and Porsches. My kid and I have won global titles. I’ve also eaten and prayed with my kid, of course.”
Nonetheless, Kenny was filled with dread at the prospect of Shawn being his own man and going his own way. Shawn married Julia a few years ago and started searching for a home to raise their two kids, Shaddai and Adonai, who are now 3 and 1.
In 2019, Kenny received the text he’d been waiting for: an address. He entered it into his GPS and proceeded to his vehicle. However, the GPS was recording his travel in feet rather than miles.
He questioned his kid, “Why did you do that?”
Shawn replied, “I thought that would be nice.” “I thought living across the street would be fun.”
Kenny Porter was a 17-year-old high schooler when he was killed by a drunk driver. Shawn, Kenny’s older brother, was devastated and thought his life would never be the same. However, Shawn found solace in the bond between him and Kenny. Reference: kenny porter age.
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