“It’s special,” Porter, 31, said of the District.
The Ohio-born Las Vegas resident’s love affair with the District took root roughly a year ago when he trained for the first time at Bald Eagle boxing club under the tutelage of Barry Hunter, the highly regarded trainer who operates the facility.
At the time, Porter was preparing to face Danny Garcia for the WBC title, and Porter’s father, Kenny, his regular trainer as well as a longtime friend of Hunter’s, suggested they temporarily relocate training camp to D.C. from Las Vegas.
Porter (30-2-1, 17 knockouts) embraced the change of scenery while working with Hunter, whose stable of fighters includes former unified 140-pound champion Lamont Peterson, and has added the District as a regular stop in his prefight training routine.
“I was just telling Lamont the other day, what I see of D.C. on TV and what I get when I come here is two different things,” Porter said. “TV shows you the rough part of D.C. They show you the homeless. They show you the guns and less of the roses.
“But when I come here, man, what I do is very small, but the energy starting here at the gym is unlike any other gym I’ve ever been in, and that’s coming from being 8, 9 years old until now.”
The adulation from fight fans in the national capital region, which boasts a long tradition of accomplished boxers, including Hall of Famers Sugar Ray Leonard, Riddick Bowe, Mark Johnson and Winky Wright, comes to Porter as well.
Porter said when he steps outside his hotel in D.C., he is frequently greeted with, “Hey champ!” or “We’re rooting for you in the next one!”
According to Porter, he doesn’t even receive that level of appreciation in or around his birthplace of Akron, Ohio, or in Las Vegas, where he has lived for the past six years and fought twice in high-profile bouts, the last a victory over Adrien Broner in 2015.
“It’s not the fact that they recognize me,” he said. “It’s the respect that they give me. It’s the respect that they give the sport, and that’s my drive. My drive is to be a good reflection of first my team, first my family, my close friends and then a good reflection of the sport.”
Porter has taken a somewhat circuitous path to reach the upper tier of the most competitive division in boxing.
Standing 5-foot-7, he fought at 165 pounds as an amateur, reportedly winning 276 bouts, and made a run at qualifying for the 2008 U.S. Olympic team. When he failed to do so, Porter turned professional, making his debut Oct. 3, 2008, still fighting at middleweight.
It didn’t take long for Porter to realize his compact frame meant he needed to fight at a lower weight class to have any opportunity at an extended professional career.
So he eventually settled on 147 pounds in 2012 and a year later collected his first title, scoring a unanimous decision against Devon Alexander for the International Boxing Federation belt, serving notice he belonged in the conversation among top welterweights.
“I see him as a tough opponent,” said Spence (25-0, 21 KOs), 29, the heavily favored IBF champion. “He’s the world champion, and he throws a lot of punches. He’s very energetic, so that’s why he’s a success. He’s a rough guy, and he does whatever it takes to win.”
Porter vs. Spence is the main event on a Premier Boxing Champions card available via Fox pay-per-view.
Porter did have issues making weight for his last fight. He successfully defended his title via split decision against Yordenis Ugas on March 9 in Carson, Nev., but did not look particularly sharp in the process, perhaps depleted physically after barely meeting the weight limit.
The previous day Porter had weighed in at 148.8 pounds but was allowed several hours to drop to 147. After failed attempts to sweat it off, Porter resorted to a haircut that put him at 146.6 pounds.
Porter, according to Hunter, began this camp earlier than when he fought Ugas, allowing additional time for his body to acclimate without sacrificing stamina or power.
“Mentally he’s great. Physically he’s great,” said Hunter, who first saw Porter fight in the amateurs two decades ago. “What I want to do is make sure that we’re always solid mentally because once you start losing it here in the mind, your body starts to listen to the mind and starts to break down.”