Shakur Stevenson has himself to blame for his current predicament.
The 26-year-old WBC World Lightweight champion from Newark, New Jersey announced his retirement on January 29.
The World Boxing Organization ordered Stevenson's Top Rank stablemate Emanuel Navarrete of Mexico (38-1-1, 31 KOs) to face Denys Berinchyk of Ukraine (18-0, 9 KOs) for its lightweight title. The title was vacated by unified, undisputed division champion Devin Haney after moving to the junior lightweight division. Navarrete, whom Stevenson had previously called out, is out as a possible Stevenson opponent.
Stevenson's Last Fight: Horrendous
In November, Stevenson (21-0, 10 KOs) defeated Edwin De Los Santos of the Dominican Republic (16-2, 14 KOs) in a unanimous decision. De Los Santos' 40 connected blows over their 12-round fight were the lowest in CompuBox’s 38-year history. Stevenson, who wasn't much better, landed 65 punches.
Stevenson missed a significant opportunity to build his brand. The fight took place during the week of Formula One's inaugural Las Vegas Grand Prix. Race fans from all over the world were in town. Top Rank put its faith in Stevenson to deliver a fantastic performance, but that didn't happen.
Stevenson said he was sick going into the fight. Most fans weren't interested in hearing the excuses. Future Hall of Famer Gennadiy Golovkin battled the flu before his January 2013 title defense against Gabriel Rosado, but he still knocked him out.
This wasn't the first time Stevenson had a forgettable night in the ring.
In June 2021, Stevenson dominated the hard-hitting Jeremia Nakathila of Namibia (23-4, 19 KOs), dropping the Namibian fighter in the fourth round from a short right hook. However, once he got a taste of Nakathila's power, Stevenson stayed defensive for the remainder of the contest.
“To be honest, I didn't really like my performance,” Stevenson said. “I felt I could've performed a lot better. You had an awkward fighter throwing hard punches, and he knows how to grab and get away. He was a real awkward fighter.
“I tried to [get him out of there] a little bit, but I started getting hit with some solid shots. I ain't really like it, but next time I'm going to work on moving my head a little bit more and step it up a little more.”
ESPN analyst and Hall of Fame fighter Timothy Bradley Jr. was brutally honest in assessing the Stevenson-Nakathila fight.
“I'm still trying to digest what we just witnessed,” Bradley said. “I understand that was a mastery boxing lesson from Shakur Stevenson, but this is the entertainment business. I was having a hard time at times actually staying [awake].”
Stevenson Needs To Accept Getting Hit Happens
Stevenson is understandably unhappy with his options. He's won world titles in three different weight classes and is one of the top talents in boxing. However, Stevenson’s bad performances have left a bad taste with fans. It doesn’t convince your boss you're deserving of a big fight.
Typically, when Stevenson faces a fighter with some pop, he's extremely risk-averse. Top Rank won't be willing to pay top dollar for it and neither will the fans. Getting hit is a part of the business. No one is asking him to get knocked out, but let's see some offensive prowess.
Stevenson's Argument Falls Short
Fernando Beltran, who promotes Navarrete with Top Rank, was asked about a hypothetical fight between his fighter and Stevenson and blasted the idea.
“Let me change the question: would you like to see that fight?” Beltran said in a Spanish language interview for Fight Hub. “I wouldn't. I wouldn't even like to see Shakur Stevenson in the ring against anyone.
“He's more boring than mass at three in the afternoon.”
Stevenson posted in response to X/Twitter, “No they can't [beat me], so that's why they [call me boring]. But that's expected for somebody who had a draw wit somebody I made easy work out of.”
Navarrete has an aggressive, awkward style among the more entertaining in boxing. But excitement is not the only part of the equation.
Navarrete Has Priority With the WBO
Emanuel Navarrete has an advantage in the WBO’s rules. The 29-year-old Mexican was granted “super champion” status by the WBO at junior lightweight last year. It allows its champions to petition for immediate mandatory challenger status in another weight division. Navarrete need not risk his junior lightweight title to fight for the lightweight title. Stevenson’s desire to face Navarrete is secondary in priority.
As long as Stevenson stays the course, he will get the fight with Navarrete. He has his own bargaining chip in the WBC title, which increases the likelihood of a unification bout between the two fighters. The most important thing for Stevenson to do right now is to remain active.
Stevenson Must Earn Bigger Fights
Fans want entertainment. Floyd Mayweather Jr. was often criticized in the second-half of his career for being risk-averse, but the former five-division world champion still managed to be wildly entertaining, and lit up the punch stats. Stevenson needs to find a healthy medium between the two. It might take him a few fights to get there, but that could mean the difference between getting the fights and the money he wants and likely deserves, or not. But if there's anyone who can do it with the skills they possess, it's Shakur Stevenson.