Didn't see that one coming…
Boxing fans got a trip to Swerve City, courtesy of Bob Arum and Top Rank, with news that Arum got US Olympian Shakur Stevenson of Newark, NJ to sign to their dotted line.
Word dropped Thursday and jaws were dropping, being that people assumed Floyd Mayweather had a bead on Stevenson after hitting the Games in Rio to see him fight for gold. SS lost to a crafty Cuban, but that is rear view mirror far, after the NJ youngster snagged an undisclosed signing bonus and hooked on with Arum and company, to be helmed by a conglomerate that's been doing this for 50 years.
He's co managed by Andre Ward and J Prince, which has us wondering if this move was the impetus for Floyd talking smack on Ward before the Jan 14's Badou Jack v James DeGale promotion.
I processed the signing with TR exec Carl Moretti. I admitted I was surprised by the signing, because people thought Floyd had an inside track, or that Ward would steer him to his promoter, Roc Nation. “We've been doing this for 51 years…boxing people know boxing …be surprised or not, your choice,” Moretti said.
So, strong play in outbidding other suitors, I told Moretti, coyly trying to get him to spill beans on the road to the signing. “I don't know about outbidding anyone. We put our best offer forward and let the process happen,” he said.
The kid fought as a bantamweight and snagged silver before snagging this pot of gold. He turns 20 in June. He will rumble at 126 pounds, said Moretti, date TBD. Top Rank is running in NY, at MSG Theater on St. Patrick's day with Irish Olympic middle finger thrower Michael Conlan headlining.
It wouldn't not make sense to throw Stevenson on the card as well. Right, Mr Moretti? “No,” the exec said.
Another surprise, they are dropping them left right and center today. April makes more sense, then…
I also asked NYC entertrainer Eric Kelly for his reaction and analysis to the news.
“Floyd made sure to spend some time at the 2016 Rio Olympics with Shakur Stevenson and other highly touted amateur prospects before they made that big leap in to the professional game. Being that Shakur seemed to be one of Floyd's favorite fighters, most were sure that Stevenson would sign with Floyd, especially since Floyd was offering $2,000,000.00 just to sign his name. Thats unheard of, for an amateur to boxer to come out of the Olympics and be offered so much money, especially since David Reid ('96 gold) and Ricardo Williams (2000 silver) were offered over a million to sign, but definitely not two million,” Kelly said.
“However, Shakur did sign a managerial contract with another one of his boxing idols, Andre Ward and his guy James Prince. Princd has history with Top Rank, Ward and Mayweather as he manages Ward and is the former manager of Mayweather. That was before Mayweather left Top Rank to work with Al Haymon and start his own Mayweather Promotions. Popular belief is that there was a little money dispute between Mayweather and Prince which involved Prince having to put a bounty out and make sure that Floyd paid up. My question is, since Ward is signed with Roc Nation, why didn't he maneuver Stevenson in that direction? What is most interesting to me is that TR also signed the 2012 Irish Olympian at 123, Michael Conlan. Both Conlan and Stevenson have decorated amateur careers, Conlan won bronze in 2012 and Stevenson captured silver in 2016. Now what's really crazy is that they are at or around the same weight. Mark my words, when the time is right, this is going to be a damn good evenly matched fight.”
Here is the Top Rank release:
LAS VEGAS, NEV. (February 10, 2017) — Top Rank® and Antonio Leonard Productions announced its latest signing and it's a sterling one — 2016 U.S. Olympic silver medalist SHAKUR STEVENSON.
Stevenson, 19, from Newark, NJ, sailed though every stage of his Olympic competition in Rio De Janeiro last summer before losing a close split decision in the bantamweight championship fight to 2012 flyweight Olympic gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez of Cuba. Ramirez swept the judges' scorecards in round one with Stevenson returning the favor in round two. In the third and final round, the closest of the three rounds, two of the three judges gave the round to Ramirez and the gold medal, by the slimmest of margins. It was the best finish for an American male boxer since Andre Ward captured the gold medal in the Athens Games of 2004. Ward is now part of Stevenson's management team along with James Prince and attorney Josh Dubin. The only boxer to make Forbes “30 Under 30” in its Sports category, Stevenson was selected by a panel of judges comprised of James Harden, shooting guard for the Houston Rockets, Phil Knight, Chairman Emeritus of Nike and Casey Wasserman, Chairman and CEO of the Wasserman Group. Stevenson will make his pro debut as a featherweight . The date and site of his pro debut will be announced at a later time.
“Top Rank is the best there is in boxing,” said Stevenson. “Look at their champions — great champions — like Terence Crawford and Vasyl Lomachenko. This is where I want to be.”
“Top Rank has a rich history in building superstars. We thought Top Rank would be the best fit,” said Ward.
“The best days for Shakur begin now, ” said Prince. ” We are excited to align him with Top Rank.”
“Top Rank is where we want to be,” said Leonard.
“He's young, he has charisma, reminds me of a very young Sugar Ray Leonard and our matchmakers Bruce Trampler and Brad Goodman say Shakur can fight,
said Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum. “He will box as a featherweight, the same weight division as Michael Conlan our Irish Olympian.”
“From the outset, Shakur was targeted by Bruce and Brad as one of the most skilled American boxers,” said Todd duBoef, president of Top Rank. “He possesses all the major components to be the total package — great skills matched with a winning personality. That combination bodes well for a very prosperous career.”
Newark came to a standstill each time Stevenson stepped into the ring in his quest to win Olympic gold. On the day he fought Ramirez, “Stevenson Fever” was at its peak. Barry Carter, columnist for the Star-Ledger, reported the following: “At Broad and Market streets, the city put its '24 Hour of Peace' rally on hold and set up a big screen for residents to watch the fight.” At the CityPlex 12 Theater in Newark, hundreds of fans and family members wearing t-shirts emblazoned with “In Shakur's Corner,” crammed in to see the fight, all sitting on the edge of their seats, to watch the live-streamed fight and cheer for their man.
The oldest of nine children, Stevenson, who is named for the late rap star Tupac Shakur, was introduced to boxing by his grandfather, Willie “Wali” Moses, at age 5. Now based in northern Virginia, Stevenson is trained by Kay Koroma.