Shakur Stevenson is that dude.
As expected, the 130-pound world title unification last weekend was a one-sided affair. Stevenson used an excellent southpaw jab and superb ring intellect to render Oscar Valdez futile in a unanimous decision at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
While some say Stevenson (18-0, 9 KOs) hasn’t answered questions about his chin, I’m here to tell you they were answered a few fights ago.
The 24-year-old southpaw won a vacant 126-pound title via lopsided unanimous decision against Joet Gonzalez in October 2019 in Las Vegas. Following a pair of non-title bouts at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stevenson immediately challenged hard-hitting Jeremiah Nakathila for an interim junior lightweight title.
Stevenson dominated every second of the fight, cruising to a shutout unanimous decision victory. All three judges scored the bout 120-107 in favor of Stevenson, who scored a knockdown of Namibia’s Nakathila (23-2, 17 KOs) in the fourth round from a counter right hook.
Stevenson, who outlanded Nakathila 114 to 28 in total punches in a defensive masterpiece, admitted his opponent was “real scary” with his power. The critics tore into the young man, describing him as “boring” and unwilling to take risks.
It’s easy to point fingers when you’re watching a name, like Stevenson, a 2016 Olympic Silver medalist, against a relatively unknown fighter from Namibia on a 10-bout knockout streak.
“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,” Stevenson said of his June 2021 performance.
But look at what Nakathila just did to Miguel Berchelt just a few months ago (March 26). He beat the living pulp out of a former world champion, who had been on an impressive run before getting knocked out in the 11th round by Valdez a year ago.
Stevenson was certainly on to something when he complimented Nakathila’s power, but that doesn’t mean you have to stand there and take his punches, albeit that’s generally the advice from Twittersphere. It’s like your typical drunken hockey fan who only wants to see someone get hit but has no clue about the other aspects of the game, like defense, puck handling, poke checking, the breakout, etc. Like hockey, the little things like angles, feet placement, speed, timing, and adjustments can change a boxing match.
One of the most common sayings on social media after a big win is, “Imagine if that were [insert name] landing that shot, he wouldn’t have a chance.” But what isn’t asked is, “What if [insert name] can’t touch his opponent?”
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Shakur Stevenson show. If he were a stock, you should have purchased your shares back in 2016. But there’s still time to get the bang for your buck while doubters remain.
Oscar Valdez is a world-class fighter, having won titles in two weight classes. Looking at the 130-pound rankings, there’s probably not a single fighter that would have beaten him last Saturday, other than Stevenson, and that’s exactly what transpired. The 110 landed punches by Valdez on Stevenson were the most by any opponent, and the fight still wasn’t close.
Stevenson was in control from the onset, exemplifying his immaculate jab and boxing acumen. In Round 6, a counter right hook sent Valdez stumbling into the ropes. A right uppercut was waiting for him when he whipped around, and Stevenson sent him to the canvas.
I personally do not make pound-for-pound lists because it’s a subjective matter and that generally results in unnecessary arguments that I don’t want to participate in. With that said, I believe Stevenson is a solid sixth, and I wouldn’t argue with anyone who has him as high as fifth. However, he stands alone at 130-pounds.
While WBC lightweight champion Devin Haney meets unified beltholder George Kambosos Jr. for the undisputed world championship on June 4 in Melbourne, Australia, on ESPN, Stevenson could explore some fights at 135-pounds.
“Devin is definitely a huge fight for me; Devin is a hell of a fighter,” said Stevenson after defeating Valdez. “We can line it up in the future. I’m a superstar in this sport. You line ’em up, name ’em, I’m ready for whoever. I might go collect all the belts at 130, become undisputed. I deserve to be a superstar, so this is what I got to do.”
Theoretically, Stevenson could wait for a shot at his first undisputed championship, but that will likely be accompanied by a lengthy waiting period. IBF titlist Kenichi Ogawa is defending his belt against Joe Cordina next month. And WBA “regular” titleholder Roger Gutierrez hasn’t fought in nearly a year. It seems unlikely that Stevenson would get his deserved shot by the end of the year.
Stevenson has wasted no time proving his worth as a bona fide elite boxer. In five years and 18 professional fights, he has already won three world titles in two weight classes, and the stage is now set for Stevenson to etch his mark as the best boxer of his era. But let’s not jump too far ahead of ourselves, because it’s a process. But like the stock analogy, those who invest early will reap the benefits down the line.
Now, who should Stevenson face in his lightweight debut? This proposal could be likened to the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Sharmba Mitchell fight in November 2005. If we recall, this was Mayweather’s welterweight debut leading up to his bouts with Zab Judah, Carlos Baldomir, and Oscar De La Hoya, whom Mayweather defeated 15 years ago today en route to being enshrined as boxing’s most lucrative superstar.
This isn’t a mind-blowing idea, but how about Yvan Mendy? Some of you are probably saying, ‘Who!?’ But let’s be objective. Unlike Mitchell, he has never won a world title, but the 36-year-old, a Frenchman, of Senegalese descent, has been in 53 professional fights, some of which have come against solid opposition in the likes of Viktor Postol and Luke Campbell.
A more popular idea would be former world champion Richard Commey. Although he has lost two out of his last three fights, the bout would still serve as a solid experiment to see where Stevenson fits in the division. Furthermore, Kambosos-Haney also contains a rematch clause. If they end up fighting a second time, this could allow Stevenson to get an additional fight in at 135, perhaps against a Sandor Martin (40-2, 13 KOs) or a Subriel Matias (18-1, 18 KOs). Stevenson should have a good feel for the weight class by that point.
After that, Stevenson should be ready to face the undisputed lightweight champion of the world.
“I just feel like I’m that dude,” Stevenson said after his first world title victory in October 2020.
Stevenson has demonstrated that he is that dude. By next year, we will be talking about him as one of the top pound-for-pound talents, along with other marquee names like Canelo Alvarez, Naoya Inoue, and Terence Crawford.
Buy your shares. Don’t waste time. Stevenson is here to shine.