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Issue Date: July 2008


Fighting | My Friend

Shawn Porter, 20, fights people he knows at times. But until recently, he’d never boxed someone he’d call a close friend. When he did, two instincts — “fight to win” and “don’t hit your buddy” — went head to head.
as told to Andy Netzel
I box because I like the thrill of winning. The competition is what I enjoy most. I don’t want someone to give me the win. I like someone who makes me work for it.

My dad is my manager, and sometimes he’ll tell me that a trainer has a hard workout for me. I laugh at that:Let’s see how hard it really is. If I say it was hard at the end, then, OK, it was hard. But I’m a competitor. It won’t be hard.

Last summer, I had a fight planned, “Night of the Future Olympians” in Cuyahoga Falls. We were at the weigh-ins, and I didn’t see the guy I was supposed to fight. My dad usually brings in two or three guys in case someone bows out.

My dad said he needed me to box Cuba.

Cuba is Luis Arias’ nickname. We’ve kept in touch since 2002. I know just about everybody who is a nationally ranked amateur boxer, so I’ve fought people I know, but not like this. Arias and I had become really good friends.

I asked my dad, “Are you serious?”

He told me I didn’t have to knock him out if I didn’t want, but I had to fight him hard.

The bell rang. We started the match, and I landed a good hard shot in the first round. Then, I backed off. My first thought was, Oh man, I hope he doesn’t go down.

Under normal circumstances, I prepare mentally for a fight. I know there are things I should and shouldn’t do. I know that there are things that will work and things that most likely won’t work. I know if I should use my speed and quickness or use my power and get to the body to wear him down. I use a lot of visualization and imagination. I’m almost day dreaming, trying to go through the match in my head.

It was different with Arias because I didn’t know what I should do. I’ve never thrown a double jab with my right hand and not mean it to hurt. A lot of the things I visualized, I pulled back and said, “No, I can’t do that. Naw, not that either.”

I landed a few good ones the next round. A few times I thought he was going to go down, and I backed up a little bit and stuck with speedy pitty-pat punches that didn’t have a large impact.

He threw some good body shots. I’m not sure if he held off on me or not. He fought a good technical fight.

After four rounds, the bout was over. I won. Arias made it a good, competitive match. He’s got really good skills. Most guys can’t take me to the fourth. If they do, they don’t last the whole round.

Arias wasn’t hurt after the match. He didn’t have a black eye or a busted nose. We got fat after the match. After spending so many weeks trying to make weight, after a fight you let loose. We went out for wings together. Wings and pool. I beat him at pool, too.

This spring, we were supposed to fight again. We both worked our way up to the national championships. There was a lot on the line. The champion gets a $1,000 check. I kept telling myself I couldn’t let our friendship get in the way. I knew it was going to be a tough match, but I knew it was a match I had to win.

If that meant hurting him, I was prepared to do it. We weren’t going to get wings afterward this time. I wouldn’t want to face him after a hard fight.

Then, I got a bad nasal infection. My eye puffed up and swelled. It wasn’t completely shut, but the doctors didn’t think it was good for me to get in the ring. I was prepared to do anything. I was going to fight with my eye halfway shut, three-quarters shut and give it my all. But they wouldn’t let me box Arias.

Not fighting him was harder than fighting him.

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