In an age of exciting young talent galore, Shakur Stevenson may have the highest ceiling. Stevenson will be looking to continue his career unbeaten streak Friday night when he takes on Robson Conceicao. (ESPN and fuboTV — 22:00 ET).
Stevenson (18-0, 9 KOs) could end his 130lb campaign with this fight. After winning the WBO featherweight title in October 2019 over Joet Gonzalez, Stevenson moved up to junior lightweight. Four fights later, Stevenson produced one of his most impressive performances when he stopped Jamel Herring in 10 rounds to win the WBO title. In April, Stevenson won the WBC belt by defeating Oscar Valdez, becoming the unified champion at just 24 years old.
Stevenson lacks attractive fights at 130 pounds. Earlier this year, Emanuel Navarrete began talks to move up in weight to face Stevenson, but talks quickly fell through. With the future at 130 pounds looking somewhat hazy, moving up to lightweight, even with the division losing Teofimo Lopez and Ryan Garcia, has many more serious potential fights for someone with Stevenson’s skills. Fights with Vasily Lomachenko, Gervonta “Tank” Davis and undisputed champion Devin Haney will make boxing fans salivate.
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Things got a little more interesting on Thursday whenand dropped both of his titles on the scale. Stevenson weighed 131.6 pounds and told the commission he would not use the two-hour window to try and shed the remaining weight. Stevenson is now ineligible to win his pair of titles on Friday, while Conceição still can.
Conceição (17-1, 8 KOs) won the gold medal in the lightweight division at the 2016 Olympics ahead of his native Brazil. Later that year, he turned pro and scored 16 consecutive victories to receive his first world title challenge.
Conceiçao was on the wrong side of a controversial decision against Oscar Valdez for the WBC title. While many felt that Conceição deserved approval, the majority disagreed with the 117-110 card dealt to Valdes. This scorecard was so egregious that it became a real rarity in boxing with judge Steven Blea. apology and step back from judging to “go through a rigorous training and vetting program”.
Valdez also failed pre-fight VADA drug testing, but was still allowed to defend his title, adding an additional level of controversy to Conceição’s first career loss.
“I am very motivated,” Conceição said through an interpreter during their press conference. “I have been preparing for this moment all my life. The world could see that I’m better than Oscar Valdez. I had to win so [Stevenson was] not actually defending two titles, because actually one was supposed to be mine. I’m just a champion without a crown and I’m ready for Friday night.”
Now he has a second chance to win a world title, including the WBC belt that Stevenson won by dominating Valdez.
Friday night’s co-op feature will see another Olympian receive more attention as Keyshawn Davis takes on Omar Tienda Bahena at lightweight. Davis, 23, won a silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Games. He has been 5-0 since turning pro in 2021, with four of those fights ending early. Bahena, 34, has a professional record of 25-5 and has only been stopped once.
“Right now I feel like I’m 18 again. I’m blooming right now. I can’t wait to show everyone how good I look on a Friday night,” Davis said in a interview with Ring magazine. “I know Tienda is older than me. He’s more experienced than me, but I can tell he’s scared. I saw it in his face. He’s not going to try too hard. He enjoys the moment. He has always been in the ring. In the ring, he goes out to fight. He is not afraid to take hits. He will apply pressure. I’m not afraid to take hits, even if they don’t hit me. But I love to fight. When you have a fighter who can do that, it’s extraordinary.”
Stevenson vs. Conceiçao fight map, odds
Odds via bookmaker Caesars
|Shakur Stevenson (c) -2000||Robson Conceicao +1000||WBO and WBC junior lightweight titles|
|Keyshawn Davis -4500||Omar Bahena Shop +1600||Light|
Outcomes against common opponents don’t always create math that turns into predictive. However, it’s hard not to notice the ease with which Stevenson handled Valdez and Conceicao’s fight against him. Stevenson is a master boxer with good defense and phenomenal distance control that allowed him to smash Valdez while Conceição made a tough decision that he may or may not have deserved to win.
Stevenson’s skills have led to many of his fights being labeled “boring”. It’s not entirely unfair. He doesn’t take unnecessary risks, even against fighters where he could clearly step on the gas and achieve impressive results. But the blame must also lie with his opponents for not being able to get him to give up such an effective style that won him several world titles in two weight divisions at such a young age.
The thought is that the opponent should put pressure on Stevenson, take away his ability to dictate the distance and pace of the fight, and hit hard enough to hurt Stevenson and make him hesitate to counterattack. Unfortunately for Conceicao, his punches are not very effective. He can be aggressive and has solid technical skills, but his lack of strength means he’s missing one of the cornerstones of his game plan to defeat Stevenson.
Stevenson is simply better wherever the fight can go, and since Conceicao is unlikely to break Stevenson’s chin, the biggest question is whether Stevenson decides to try and make a statement and get the knockout. Pick: Shakur Stevenson via UD