Shakur Stevenson has a lot in common with Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen. They both put a lot of distance between themselves and their competition and lately, no one can catch either of them. The problem: it’s not always much fun for fans to watch.
With Formula 1 taking over the Las Vegas Strip, Stevenson of Newark (21-0, 10 KOs) felt no need for speed. Instead, he fought a measured, tactical fight against Edwin De Los Santos of the Dominican Republic (16-2, 14 KOs). Stevenson controlled the fight by working his right jab and closing off all opportunities for De Los Santos to engage with him. The scores read 116-112, 116-112 and 115-113.
It wasn’t entertaining, but it was an effective strategy. It gave Stevenson the vacant WBC World Lightweight title, his third division title in just nine fights. Stevenson knew it wasn’t his finest moment.
“I had a bad performance tonight. That’s all I’m focused on. I wasn’t really feeling too good. That’s OK, I got the win and that’s what I came here to do,” said Stevenson.
Stevenson denied rumors his left hand was injured; he didn’t throw it the entire night. “We go through a lot as a fighter. I’m good. I just didn’t feel good before the fight. I told myself if I feel like this in the ring, I’ll box and get the victory,” said Stevenson.
It’s exactly what he did. The fight set a dubious CompuBox record for the lowest number of punches landed in a championship fight in the history of CompuBox records. De Los Santos landed an all-time low of 40 punches. Stevenson landed just 65 punches. One hundred and five punches in 12 rounds isn't fun for anyone to watch.
Stevenson sticks to the game plan that works for him. Even as fans became restless and let boos and catcalls go, he stayed the course. De Los Santos kept himself in front of Stevenson, trying to find any opportunity to land a hard left hand. Stevenson wasn’t playing along.
De Los Santos expressed his unhappiness about the outcome. “I came to fight. He came for a track meet. I can’t say I’m on his level. I’m above his level. Stevenson didn’t come here to fight tonight. He got gifted a title, I’m the champion of the people. He would never give me a rematch in the ring. It would have to be a track meet.,” scoffed De Los Santos.
Robson Conceição Earns Draw Against Emanuel Navarrete
The co-main event couldn't have provided a bigger contrast.
WBO World Junior Lightweight champion Emanuel Navarrete of Mexico (39-1, 31 KOs) defended his title against a determined Robson Conceição of Brazil (17-3, 8 KOs), who won a moral victory by earning a majority draw through sheer will. Judges scored it 114-112 for Navarrete and two scores of 113-113.
“I’m happy to come away with the belt. I give a lot of credit to Robson Conceição,” said Navarrete. “We both did what we said we were going to do. We came out here and gave the fans a wonderful fight. He’s a tremendous fighter. His technique is next level. That’s what made it so hard.”
A smiling Conceição said, “I give Vaquero Navarrete a lot of credit. He’s such a powerful fighter. But I know what I did tonight, and I know I deserved the victory.”
Navarrete landed harder shots, but far fewer than Conceição, who used the skills honed in three Olympic games to hang in. Conceição landed 213 of 852 punches thrown (25%), against 116 of 487 for Navarrete (24%).
Navarrete Fighting From Behind
Navarrete was in danger of losing the fight as he often finds himself behind early. He caught up with two knockdowns and battered Conceição throughout the second half of the fight to overcome a strong start for Conceição, who won early rounds with an aggressive approach while still staying composed.
Navarrete struggled to get his bearings. He often seems like he’s losing a fight, until he’s not.
When he did, he dropped Conceição near the end of the fourth round with a short lead left uppercut followed by a hard right at the temple. Conceição fell forward to his knees.
Navarrete caught the Brazilian again at the end of the round with a big right hand, and he wobbled on his feet until the bell sounded, avoiding a second knockdown.
Navarrete dropped Conceição the second time with a wicked body shot to the right spleen and hip in the seventh round. Conceição’s good conditioning kept him in the fight. Before the tenth round, referee Thomas Taylor was concerned enough about the blood coming from Conceição’s mouth to ask the ringside physician to look him over.
Conceição willed himself to the final bell. He barely made it back to his corner after the 11th round, and his team had to help him to the stool. But in the final round, he fought on sheer determination to finish. He avoided his third loss in a title fight in a row. Conceição’s stock went up, and the 35-year-old Olympic gold medalist surely won the admiration of boxing fans for his efforts.
Navarrete vs Conceicao 2, Anyone?
Asked whether he’d give Conceição a rematch, Navarrete said “If it’s up to me, I will definitely give Robson a rematch. But it may not be up to me. If I get another crack at fighting Robson, now I know how he fights, what his technique is like, what his strengths are.”
Conceição is all for it. “I think we both deserve the rematch. He’s a wonderful fighter. I proved what I’m capable of. In a rematch, we would both train harder, we would give the fans an even better fight.”
While Stevenson dominated Conceição in their bout in 2022 with skill and a single knockdown, Navarrete dealt Conceição a beatdown but took far more incoming fire than Stevenson. Before Navarrete and Stevenson do business, he needs to revisit tonight’s matchup with an eye toward facing the skilled Stevenson.
Undercard Results: Prospects Shine
Two flashy fighters vying for Prospect of the Year honors delivered speedy knockouts in the spirit of Formula 1.
Emiliano Fernando Vargas of Las Vegas (8-0, 7 KOs) wrapped up 2023 with his sixth victory, and his seventh fight in 12 months. Vargas drilled Brandon Mendoza of Panorama City, California (6-3, 6 KOs), scoring two first-round knockouts, and then sealing Mendoza’s fate 57 seconds into the second round with two hard rights to the head. The 19-year-old lightweight is a serious contender for Prospect of the Year.
Uno, dos, adios. Abdullah Mason of Cleveland (11-0, 9 KOs) made quick work of opponent Jose Cardenas of Laredo (7-2, 5 KOs) with an impressive knockout, courtesy of a straight left at 1:55 of round two. Mason scored a knockdown in the first round on a check left hook. Cardenas never saw either punch coming behind a right jab setup.
Mason has serious speed behind his power. He’s another 19-year-old POTY finalist along with stablemate Vargas and ready for six and eight-round bouts in 2024.
Additional Results: Norman, Diaz, Isley, Murray Win
In other action, Brian Norman Jr. of Atlanta (25-0, 19 KOs) delivered an uninspired decision against Quinton Randall of Houston (13-1-1, 3 KOs) in their welterweight fight. Scores were 99-91 twice and 97-93. The two landed fewer than 300 punches combined across ten rounds, which tells the story of this bout.
Bantamweight Floyd “Cashflow” Diaz of Las Vegas (10-0, 3 KOs) got a solid test against Max Ornelas of Las Vegas (15-3-1, 5 KOs). Diaz had plenty of ring rust to knock off, and once he did, he scored two solid knockdowns in the second and again in the third round. But Ornelas battled back, and Diaz seemed to tire, but managed to hand on for a split decision. Scores were 78-72 and 76-74 for Diaz, and 76-74 for Ornelas.
Middleweight prospect Troy Isley of Alexandria, Virginia (11-0, 4 KOs) got a stiff test from a determined Vladimir Hernandez of Mexico (14-6, 6 KOs). The pair went the eight-round distance. With several close rounds, the judges were in agreement with scorecards of 77-75.
Jackson “White Chocolate” Murray of Sydney, Australia (6-0, 4 KOs) remained undefeated after dominating opponent Steven Torres of Reading, Pennsylvania (6-1-1, 6 KOs) in a six round heavyweight bout. Murray was the busier man, scoring a knockdown on Torres in the third round. All three judges scored the bout a shutout, 60-53.