Shakur Stevenson to face Viorel Simion in step-up bout
After scoring a couple of impressive stoppage victories in his two previous bouts, the highly-touted Shakur Stevenson, scored an eight-round shut-out of Carlos Ruiz in Atlantic City, on August 18. While the win was relatively easy, it was also rather unimpressive.
Shakur, who moved to 8-0 (4), said of that outing, “There were some issues going on but I felt that wasn’t my best performance but I still held it down and won every round.”
The 2016 Olympic silver medalist admitted he wasn’t necessarily thrilled with what transpired, despite the result.
“I’m my biggest critic, so I definitely was not happy with my performance, why it was that way, so I wasn’t trippin’ too much. I’m 100 percent healthy this fight,” said Stevenson, who is paired with the experienced Viorel Simion tonight in Omaha, Nebraska, as part of the ESPN broadcast that features Terence Crawford’s defense of his WBO welterweight title versus Jose Benavidez Jr.
During the summer Stevenson was arrested for his role in a brawl that took place in a Miami parking garage. Perhaps he was a distracted fighter going into that contest but Stevenson hints the issue was more physical than psychological. Stevenson said he isn’t allowed to talk too much about that incident but he did state, “I learned from that.”
Moving forward, tonight’s bout comes against the most seasoned boxer he will have faced thus far as a pro. “This is most definitely my toughest challenge up to date and I seen that (Simion)’s got two losses to Lee Selby and Scott Quigg and, with Scott Quigg, he won like five rounds out of 12. So it’s definitely my toughest opponent.”
In Simion, Stevenson is facing a boxer who has gone the 12-round distance more than a few times and has faced world-class-level opposition. For Stevenson, who turned professional in April of 2017, this will be his initial 10-rounder.
“This is definitely the time to test the water,” said the 21-year-old native of Newark, New Jersey. “Everybody believes in me. I believe in myself also.”
Brad Goodman, matchmaker for Top Rank (which promotes Stevenson) says this is certainly Stevenson’s best opponent to date, adding, “plus he’s the guy with the most experience.”
So why now? Top Rank has always believed in letting boxers develop at an appropriate pace but it’s clear they believe Stevenson can go at an accelerated pace – but with some caution. The original opponent for this date was Duarn Vue. Goodman explained, ”Vue had a problem in sparring. We had some guys at the last second and there were only a few guys ready to go at that time. One obviously was this Simion kid and the other one was Rafael Rivera, who I actually thought was a little bit too tough. Plus I also based it on Rivera getting ready for a fight next week, where Simion was getting ready for a fight at the end of the month.
“So I thought maybe Rivera would have been in a little better shape and I also like Simion better, just for the simple fact his two losses were to two former world champions.”
Going back to Stevenson’s most reecent outing, which was a bit of a snoozer, Goodman explained to UCNlive.com, “I figured he was going to win a decision and I figured he was going to knock those other guys out because he was being matched the right way. The kid has all the ability in the world and, as time goes on and he starts getting his physical strength, I think he’s going to score more knockouts. But when he fights the guys like he just fought in Atlantic City, he’s going to win 10-round decisions or eight-round decisions. And if this guy’s in shape, Simion’s going to win a 10-round decision here too.”
Stevenson is a southpaw with sharp boxing skills but not a fighter with particularly heavy hands. However with age and some physical development, “I think he’s going to start stopping guys, not early but he’ll break guys down with his speed and stuff like that,” Goodman believes.
And yes, Stevenson admits he will be gauging his outing versus Simion against that of Selby and Quigg.
“Every part of me wants to judge my performance off that. I’m not got going to lie to you, so I’m fully prepared,” said Stevenson, who makes his objective for 2019 clear: “I should have my world title shot.”
Whether that comes to fruition or not will in part be determined by how he looks tonight at the CHI Health Center (where he has a chance to impress a national audience on the “Worldwide Leader”). Sometimes how you win is as important as the actual result.
“Everything is a fight-by-fight thing and 2019 could be a very big year for him,” said Goodman. “To his credit he’s willing to fight anybody; he’s never backed down from a fight. He’ll fight anybody and he needs to be held back at times. Fighters want to fight and that’s why they have managers and stuff like that and it’s a slow process that he’s in right now.
“He wants to walk and he’s still in that crawling process but he’s going to be fine. We have all the faith in the world and we’re very confident in his ability. And we believe he’s going to be a world champion – sooner rather than later.”
Here’s this week’s edition of “The 3 Knockdown Rule” with Mario Lopez and me, in which you’ll hear from Matchroom Boxing Group Managing Director Eddie Hearn and we talk all things boxing and Khabib-mania…
This ESPN broadcast begins at 10:30 p.m. ET, with the undercard stream on ESPN+ starting at 7 p.m. ET…There’s a lot of boxing on this weekend with a couple of cards on DAZN, Facebook Watch and the Thompson Boxing Promotions stream (with Beto Duran and Yours Truly ringside from Salinas, California)…OK, so Miami isn’t going to have any problems with Virginia, right?…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.