I'm the smartest boxer in boxing
I'm the next Floyd
I'm the next Sugar Ray
It is what it is
Eh, that would be “Mr. Robinson,” folks. But he didn't say that — I did. He's more arrogant than self assured. A little more obnoxious than merely misunderstood. And we'll get rid of “probably”… he does come off as more cocky than confident; abusing grace with an ego the size of “Joker” when he opened the door and entered the room of that black girl in his dreams and got B-side himself. He'll never consider himself #2, to anyone, and if you think he's some sort of assorted Benetton variety Clown Prince of delusional ring aspersion and aspiration, then you'll just have to come and do something about it Jack. He would be the black Carlo Rizzi, hitting the sadist sister of a chained and duct taped Sonny Corleone directly in front of him, before ordering he's unleashed at apex angry over a love that never was.
Can you imagine this embodiment of a brash and young 48 Hours styled Eddie Murphy as Abel, just blacking out on a simmering Cain played with all the rage of a young James Caan? That's what's going on between Shakur Stevenson (12-0, 7 KOs) and Joet Gonzalez (23-0, 14 KOs), with the latter's sister as the referee, as they roll the dice and go all in for the WBO featherweight championship this Saturday night at the Reno Sparks Convention Center in Reno, NV for Bob Arum and Top Rank. Nah. They ain't buddies, they ain't partners and they ain't fucking friends.
It's been three years since you last cheered
but now I reappear ya heart pumps fear
To ya gut
Did ya girls butt
I scraped it
Now she won't strut
–Craig Mack, Flava in ya ear, Bad Boy 1994,
It's been more than three years since I got an e-mail from Julie Goldsticker with an invitation to visit Gleason's Gym to assess the 2016 US Men's Olympic Boxing Team before heading off to Rio de Janeiro. Absolutely no disrespect to the other members of what was a decent team, but she and I both know what that meant: Analyze Shakur. I'm well aware of the “hype” (something Joet is determined to reveal this weekend) surrounding the Newark, NJ superfighter as a Jersey product myself. I know about the bidding wars taking place between major promoters to secure his services before The Games even begin.
The first thing I wrote down on the bus leaving Boston to New York that I'm looking for, is his character. Not the kind of shit you're looking for when interviewing a bank teller. I know about the silky southpaw traits and the preternatural physical gifts bestowed. I see that right away. I get to Gleason's, and I'm more or less interested in if he has the character of a bank robber in the ring. He does — without a mask or a gun. There's an urban Serengeti quality to him that tells me he's ready for the jungle, and find ways to not talk to him about boxing while watching him when he doesn't know. What I saw is someone who survived the jungle, somehow, and was embarking on an Olympic safari that would bite him in the ass. Now, 3 years later, I don't see how the lions can catch him; he's a cheetah with bite under the tutelage of a legendary lion in Andre Ward. I told anyone of my peers who wouldn't listen to me in April at Madison Square Garden, that he'd make easy work out of an ultra solid Christopher Diaz.
And he's going to stop a very talented Joet Gonazalez, who'll probably receive Instagram pics of Shakur and his sister in compromising situations immediately thereafter. It is what it is.
A few months after those Rio Games and a silver medal later, I ran into Shakur at Ward/Kovalev I in Las Vegas. He had an athlete's surety that comes with no fear of financial security while still carrying the baby fat of innocence. A short time later and not far from there in Los Angeles, close friend and veteran US Marine Abraham Gonzalez is working the club scene for NY Fights at The Forum and looking beyond Bernard Hopkins getting Joe Smith'd .
The buzz meter for a fighter coming out of Glendora, CA, Joet Gonzalez, who fights under the Golden Boy Promotions banner, was on that card that night and reminded him of a throwback fighter who carries himself way beyond his years. After that fight he followed him closely, watching him rack up a few knockouts before really challenging himself with the rough and rugged Rafael Rivera, who he beat by split decision.
Here's Abe's surprising scouting report on Gonzalez and what he sees on Saturday night in Reno.
A new Marco Antonio Barrera?
Joet Gonzalez does a lot of things right both in and out of the ring. In the ring, he reminds me of the “Baby Face Assassin” Marco Antonio Barrera. The way he sets up his punches, the torque he gets when going to the body and his discipline of not getting overly excited on different opportunities when they arise. Outside of the ring, you will always find Joet making every effort to clean up quickly after his fights so that he can get into the crowd and spend time with the fans that spent their hard earned dollars to see him fight that night. It’s hard not to like him and on Saturday night, he has the toughest challenge of them all by the name of Shakur Stevenson out of Newark, New Jersey. Joet does a lot of things right but with the south paw Stevenson, he has to execute a game plan similar to how Barrera fought Prince Naseem Ahmed back in 2001. Joet has to remember to stick to the body and slow down the faster Stevenson and that will only happen if he successfully cuts off the ring early in the fight. This will be easier said then done because Stevenson is fast and uses every bit of that ring to get himself in the right position to throw those lighting combinations. This has all of the makings of an epic fight and with all of the personal issues involved between the two, neither man will give in and this will lead to an exciting fight. I think we see a close decision and Joet Gonzalez coming away with the victory leading to this one getting the “run it back” treatment and eventually turn into a trilogy for the ages. If Stevenson brings the fight to Joet and they go “blow for blow”, we may very well get a Hagler/Hearns type of battle leading to a short fight which can go either way. Is it Saturday night yet?
That's a very ambitious assessment, indeed. And Joet may very well go on to have a Hall of Fame worthy career; I like his exceptional ring IQ and who he is as a human being. Joet is class personified. The problem is, he's tantamount to the biggest page thus far in what will be the all-time great diary of Shakur Stevenson. I've never graded anyone as high as Shakur coming out of the amateurs, in a very projective way. The length and frame is there. The lightness in his feet. The uncanny reflexes. The subtlety. “The Kill Zone”, as it were, that he enters into upon being challenged. It's so rare. I saw it in 2016 and knew where he'd be by now. Since Abe went the throwback route, this is a 1940's southpaw remake of Sugar Ray Robinson with the acidic arrogance of Pernell Whitaker facing a longer and equally determined Carmen Basilio. And he stops him in 9 spectacular rounds. But ask Michelle Joy Phelps — or virtually anyone in media what it's like to interview Shakur, and a bittersweet version of Sugar Ray Leonard infused with an irascible Floyd Mayweather will be described. He doesn't mind wearing a hat from The Villain's Club, and if The House always wins, then The Bad Guy is about to reside there. He's assessed all that is good about the truly great Vasiliy Lomachenko and has spent a considerable amount of time understanding why Terence Crawford is a bad man indeed. Hate it or love it, this guy is about to be the face of the fighting Zoomer. If Robinson, Leonard and Mayweather were all about “Money,” Shakur's just after “More.”
Greatness is timeless, yes. But it's greedy. With the gauntlet of incredible fighters within reach at every turn of the compass, he can do the seemingly impossible and eclipse them. Floyd knows that no one bestows “The Best Ever” on themselves and part of the Ali aura was “The Greatest” ever charisma. Somewhere in the middle of that is probably this guy. Maybe it's a Jersey thing.