Shakur Stevenson returns to his native Newark, New Jersey, right on the cusp of greatness, if not glory. At 25, Stevenson owns an Olympic silver medal, as well as titles in two weight categories.
Until Thursday, when he failed to make weight, Stevenson was the unified champion at 130 pounds. He was stripped of these titles after weighing in at 131.6 pounds. The fight will continue – Conceição is eligible to win the WBC and WBO belts – after Stevenson and Conceião reach an agreement on a financial penalty, sources said.
Stevenson and Conceiçao, the Olympic champion, will face off Friday in the main event (10 p.m. ET, Sportzshala/Sportzshala+), which Shakur says will be his last fight before he launches a 135-pound campaign that, finally, prove how great Stevenson can become.
“I gave it my all,” Stevenson, Sportzshala’s No. 9 weight class boxer, tweeted. “I’ve been a pro all my career and gained weight, but my body just can’t go over 130 pounds. My health must come first. Next fight I’ll go up to 135 pounds.”
In fact, losing Stevenson’s titles won’t affect him negatively, although if it happens again at 135 pounds, that’s another story. For now, Stevenson’s inability to tip the scales towards the 130lb limit will just hasten his entry into the really meaningful fights that will test him like never before.
At both 126 and 130 pounds, Stevenson feasted against opponents well below his level. Both weight classes lacked depth and elite boxers while Stevenson competed in the divisions. At 135 pounds, he will have to fight not only bigger opponents, but also much more experienced boxers.
According to Caesars Sportsbook, Stevenson is the 30-1 favorite to defeat Conceição and go undefeated. The intrigue for Stevenson lies at lightweight, where Devin Haney is the undisputed champion and star boxers Vasily Lomachenko, Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia (occasionally) compete.
Stevenson has a shot at becoming the world’s most talented boxer – thanks to his elite defense, proper punch placement and ability to judge distance – but he can’t really prove it until he moves up five pounds to lightweight and faces top fighters. . in that division.
“I think three years from now, as long as I continue to dominate and continue to do what I plan to do, I will eventually move up this list,” Stevenson told Sportzshala on Wednesday. “I know Terence [Crawford] and Canelo [Alvarez] is at the end of his career. So I just see myself as someone who comes right behind them and takes first place.”
How about Shakur testing his defensive prowess against southpaw “Tank” Davis’ powerful punch? Or a battle with Garcia, a super-fast fighter with a huge social media following, that could lead him to superstardom? And while these fights may prove difficult to complete due to the increasingly fragmented nature of the sport, Stevenson must press for them to take place.
Fights with Haney and Lomachenko should be much easier. Stevenson, like them, is promoted by Top Rank.
“I think they are all great fights,” Stevenson said. “I think they’re all good [fighters], but you have to give credit to Devin Haney. … Gotta respect real belts. … I am a fighter. If I go to a certain weight class, I am not trying to become an Intercontinental Champion or [reign in] any of these organizations [where] they have smaller belts and everyone claims they are champions.
“I’m trying to be the undisputed champion, just like Devin. I’m trying to be a real champion. So you have to respect Devin Haney when it comes down to it. dude.“
Haney defends the undisputed championship against George Kambosos Jr. in a rematch on October 15 on Sportzshala. Assuming he wins a second time as expected, Haney could head into a high-stakes fight against Lomachenko in the spring. And while that may leave Stevenson waiting in the wings, it could also be a good opportunity for him to settle into 135 pounds with a lighter fight in his lightweight debut in the first half of the year.
For now, Stevenson will be looking to build his profile in what was to be his homecoming as a champion. After a reduced 126lb title, Stevenson won a 10th-round TKO against Jamel Herring in October 2021 to take the 130lb title and added a second belt in April, crushing Oscar Valdez in an impressive performance.
Stevenson was unable to finish Valdez from a distance, but he lost to the Mexican in the 6th round and only lost two rounds on two scorecards.
“Valdez gave me many opportunities to showcase my skills,” Stevenson said. “I think with this dude [Conceicao], he will try to sit back and box. … But I’m going to show the world my dog.”
Indeed, Conceição, whose only loss was a controversial decision against Valdez, prefers to throw counters while Valdez likes to apply pressure and fight at close range. It simply means that Stevenson will have to come forward and fight himself if he wants to maintain his momentum to the top of the rankings regardless of weight class.
Of course, Conceiçao has plans of his own, and for the second time in so many title fights, he will be at a disadvantage. His September 2021 Valdez title fight was cleared despite the presence of a banned substance in the title holder’s system.
“I am very motivated. I have been preparing for this moment all my life,” Conceicao said at a press conference on Wednesday. “The world was able to see that I am better than Oscar Valdez. I should have won… I’m a champion without a crown and I’m ready for Friday night.”
Of course, Stevenson has the skills, with his precise jab, great footwork and rim handling, to simply outbox Conceição, the 33-year-old Brazilian. But if Stevenson wants to make a statement that will make fans buzz about what numbers will be key in 2023, he must entertain too.