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Shawn Porter sets out on boxing’s comeback trail against Andre Berto

Local boxer is two wins away from becoming a champion once again

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Mona Shield-Payne

Boxer and former IBF welterweight champion Shawn Porter heads to the ring during a media workout at his gym, the Porter Hy-Performence Center, in Las Vegas, Nevada, June 8, 2016.

Porter Hy-Performance may double as one of the highest tech and highest temperature locations in all of town.

The training home of former IBF welterweight champion Shawn Porter off Paradise Road presumably has air conditioning, but it’s sparsely used. The more commonly turned knob is affixed to the altitude chamber, where Porter has spent a lot of time over the last couple of months.

“I personally have been going 15 rounds at an altitude of about 8,500 feet yesterday,” Porter said on a conference call last week. “I think that’s pretty special. We sparred 10 rounds with three different guys, and we pushed ourselves a few more rounds in the ring, and then also some sprint on the road as well. So, we’re working hard.”

Porter has no other choice. After going undefeated for the first six years of his career, he’s now lost close decisions in two of his last four fights — to Kell Brook and Keith Thurman.

Going .500 over a two-year span has permanently chilled the hottest of boxing careers in the past, but Porter is determined not to suffer the same fate. He can scorch right back to the top if he beats Andre Berto in the main event of a card that starts at 6:30 p.m. Saturday night from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and airs on Showtime.

The winner earns a shot at the WBA welterweight title that the unbeaten Thurman currently holds.

“(Berto) was the guy that I was told will be the one to position me back to a world championship fight, and then boom, we’re at the press conference announcing the fight, and they tell us it’s for an eliminator,” Porter said. “I couldn’t have been more surprised. I don’t think there was anything in my life that I’ve ever been more pleased with or surprised other than that. When (Lou) DiBella came up and said it would be for a title eliminator, my heart just glowed with happiness.”

Berto, who fights out of trainer Virgil Hunter’s stable in the San Francisco Bay Area, must have experienced similar euphoria. Once considered the top prospect in all of boxing, his stretch struggles in the ring make Porter’s seem tame by comparison.

After starting 27-0, Berto went 3-4 from 2011 to 2015. But the 33-year-old believes he’s back on the right track after avenging his first loss, to Victor Ortiz, with a fourth-round TKO in his most recent fight last year.

“From my first loss moving forward, I’ve been written off,” Berto said. “It’s just where the fight game is. From my first loss on, it’s been this and that. I’ve been through hard times.”

Perhaps the easiest to swallow of his four losses came two years ago in Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s last fight before retirement. Berto earned a seven-figure payday, but lived up to his status as a massive underdog in a unanimous-decision loss.

It’s a fight that Porter has studied intently going into his own bout with Berto.

“Watching the fight, I definitely admired, as any fight that Floyd Mayweather is in, his boxing ability, but that was something very effective against Andre Berto,” Porter said. “So, we’ll definitely pick our spots where we want to box; where we want to use the ring.”

Berto isn’t worried about Porter trying to employ a similar game plan to Mayweather. He’s expecting it.

“He’s going to play real slippery,” Berto said. “I believe that he is definitely one of a kind and showed it throughout the years. When it comes to Shawn, he does a lot of things wrong and he does a lot of things right.”

Porter has hunkered down in his camp to cut out the wrong. He realizes that not many fighters get a chance to bounce back from a pair of losses as quickly as he could against Berto.

He doesn’t want to waste the opportunity.

“I’ve been looking forward to this moment for a long time and I hope to just win,” Porter said. “We agreed to the fight with the understanding that this will lead to something better, but again, I didn’t know how long it would be. And then the man comes on the stage and says it’s for an eliminator, and I’m like, ‘wow.’”

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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