Shakur Stevenson wants to be fast-tracked
The early reviews on 2016 Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson, who was at the center of a bidding war, as he turned professional, were decidedly tepid. It wasn’t that Stevenson – who ultimately inked a deal with Top Rank and co-managers James Prince and Andre Ward – was terrible but, in his first several fights, he had failed to really impress observers.
However on April 28, at the Liacouras Center, in Philadelphia, he blew out Patrick Riley in two rounds. On this particular night, Stevenson was more assertive and looked like a blue-chip prospect.
Stevenson, who returns to the ring versus Aelio Mesquita, this weekend at the MGM Grand, in Las Vegas, in support of Jeff Horn vs. Terence Crawford, concurred, “I would definitely say that’s the best I’ve looked. I feel like I’m a lot more comfortable now.”
At just age 20, it’s clear he still has some maturing to do physically but versus Riley, he looked much more stout.
“I wouldn’t say I feel much stronger but I’m kinda learning how to sit down on my punches, learning how to pick my punches right instead of just throwing them like an amateur. I’m learning how to pick them, make sure I sit down on them. I wouldn’t say that I got stronger – I think I got a lot smarter,” stated Stevenson, 6-0 (3).
The performance opened the eyes of Bob Arum, the founder of Top Rank.
“Now with the experience and the confidence to sit down on his punches, he’s always shown he’s a masterful boxer. Now he shows that he has real power in his hands,” said Arum, whose company is considered the best at developing boxers into world champions and attractions.
And the precocious Stevenson (who is a featherweight) believes he can be put on the fast track, stating with confidence, “I feel there’s some champions that they’ve got the titles and I can beat them right now.” Some may consider that outright hubris but perhaps this comes from not only his recent outing but his sparring sessions with WBA lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko.
“It’s been real valuable,” he said of the experience, late last year, with the now three-division world champion. “Actually I begged to go out there. I called a lot of people at Top Rank to try to make that happen, try to get me out there to spar with him and when I called before they would tell me that he was fighting an orthodox fighter. So I couldn’t really go spar him.
“But when he was fighting (former junior featherweight champion Guillermo) Rigondeaux, it was my chance to go out there and take it.”
It’s clear that many young boxers don’t want to be slow-cooked but microwaved into the upper echelon of the sport nowadays. But Arum says it’s not really the new template, “No, it depends really on their experience they’ve had in the amateurs and also their physical capabilities. Some guys you’ve got to move slow; some guys you’ve got to move quicker. Teofimo Lopez, look at how quickly we’re moving him. He’s like a wild stallion that you can’t hold back.”
During their days at Top Rank, Oscar De La Hoya fought for his first major world title after his 11th bout and Floyd Mayweather Jr. needed just 17 developmental fights.
“There is no set way you develop a future star,” continued Arum. “All of these guys are individuals; all of these guys have different capabilities. Some you put on the fast track, some on a slower track.”
As for the pace of Stevenson’s career, the cagey Arum admits that won’t be his call.
“I’m not the guy who’s got the good eyes; that’s (Bruce) Trampler and (Brad) Goodman,” he explained to UCNLive.com, referencing Top Rank’s two highly regarded matchmakers. “They see things that I don’t see. They were very pleased with Shakur’s performance in Philadelphia and they’re going to know when to move him and when to go a little slow. I listen to them – I’d be stupid if I didn’t.
“Because even though I’ve been around boxing as long as I have, I still don’t have the eye they have and also my eye – like everybody when they see things – they’re biased by their position and my position is as a businessman and they are essentially free from that. So their view of the fighter is, in a way, purer than mine.”
According to Top Rank’s Vice President of Boxing Operations Carl Moretti, should Stevenson come out relatively unscathed this weekend, he’s scheduled to box again on August 18, in Atlantic City, and then twice more to finish out 2018. By the end of this year, he will be a 10-round boxer.
Stevenson is pleased with the path of his pro career thus far, “Yeah, I’ve been trying to get more comfortable every fight, so I feel like, my last fight, I’m starting to feel a lot more comfortable and this fight I should be a lot better too. We’re going to see.”
Here’s this week’s edition of “The 3 Knockdown Rule,” in which Mario Lopez and I discuss this weekend’s cards on Showtime and ESPN+.
I’m really high on junior middleweight Serhii Bohachuk, who scored another impressive KO at the Avalon on Wednesday night. This could be Abel Sanchez’s next really good TV fighter…Will have more on this later but the IBF ruled to strip unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin as its beltholder earlier this week…”Camp Life” is debuting now on ESPN+, a behind-the-scenes look at Terence Crawford’s preparation for this weekend’s bout…So was tonight LeBron’s final game as a Cavalier?…I’m a huge fan of Terrell Owens but him not showing up for this Pro Football Hall-of-Fame induction is a terrible move…Well, Bryan Colangelo has plenty of time to fiddle around on Twitter now…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.