Shakur Stevenson returns to his native Newark, New Jersey, squarely on the precipice of pound-for-pound greatness, if not stardom. At 25, Stevenson owns an Olympic silver medal together with titles in two weight lessons.
Till Thursday, when he failed to make weight, Stevenson was a unified champion at 130 kilos. He was stripped of these titles after he weighed 131.6 kilos. The struggle will proceed — Conceicao is eligible to win the WBC and WBO belts — after Stevenson and Conceiao reached an settlement on a monetary penalty, sources stated.
Stevenson and Conceicao, an Olympic gold medalist, will meet Friday in the primary occasion (10 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN+) in what Shakur insists can be his last struggle earlier than he campaigns at 135 kilos, a weight division that ought to, in the end, show simply how nice Stevenson can turn out to be.
“I gave it my all,” tweeted Stevenson, ESPN’s No. 9 pound-for-pound boxer. “I have been skilled my complete profession and made weight, however my physique simply cannot make 130 anymore. My well being has to return first. I am transferring as much as 135 in my subsequent struggle.”
Actually, the lack of Stevenson’s titles will not affect him negatively, although if it occurs once more at 135 kilos, that is one other story. For now, Stevenson’s incapability to tip the scales on the 130-pound restrict will merely hasten his entry into the actually significant fights that can take a look at him like by no means earlier than.
At each 126 and 130 kilos, Stevenson has feasted on opponents far beneath his degree. Each weight lessons have lacked depth and elite boxers whereas Stevenson competed within the divisions. At 135 kilos, he’ll should take care of not simply larger opponents, however way more expert boxers, too.
Stevenson is a 30-1 favourite to defeat Conceicao and stay undefeated, in accordance with Caesars Sportsbook. The intrigue for Stevenson lies at light-weight, the place Devin Haney is the undisputed champion, and star boxers Vasiliy Lomachenko, Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia (generally) marketing campaign.
Stevenson has an opportunity to turn out to be essentially the most proficient boxer on this planet – between his elite protection, shot placement and skill to guage distance – however he will not be capable to actually show it till he climbs 5 kilos to light-weight and faces the very best fighters in that division.
“I believe three years down the road, as I hold dominating and hold doing what I am planning on doing, that I find yourself stepping up on that record,” Stevenson advised ESPN on Wednesday. “I do know Terence [Crawford] and Canelo [Alvarez] is on the finish of their profession. So, I simply see myself as being that one which comes proper behind them and taking on that No. 1 spot.”
How about Shakur testing his defensive prowess in opposition to power-punching southpaw “Tank” Davis? Or a battle with Garcia, an ultra-quick-handed fighter with an enormous social media following, that would launch him to superstardom? And whereas these bouts might show tough to finalize because of the more and more fractured nature of the game, Stevenson ought to push for them to occur.
Fights with Haney and Lomachenko ought to show far simpler to make. Stevenson, like them, is promoted by Prime Rank.
“I believe all of them large fights,” Stevenson stated. “I believe they’re all good [fighters], however you gotta give credit score to Devin Haney. … Gotta respect the true belts. … I am a fighter. If I will any weight class, I am not attempting to be the intercontinental champion or [reign in] any of them organizations [where] they obtained the smaller belts and all people declare that they’re champions.
“I am attempting to be the undisputed champ, how Devin is. I am attempting to be an actual champion. So that you gotta give respect to Devin Haney with regards to that. So I say he’s the man.“
Haney defends the undisputed championship in opposition to George Kambosos Jr. in an Oct. 15 rematch on ESPN. Assuming he wins a second time, as anticipated, Haney might head right into a high-stakes struggle with Lomachenko within the spring. And whereas that would depart Stevenson ready within the wings, it may be alternative for him to get comfy at 135 kilos with a neater struggle in his light-weight debut within the first half of the yr.
For now, Stevenson will look to construct his profile in what was slated to be his homecoming struggle as a champion. After an abbreviated title run at 126 kilos, Stevenson scored a Tenth-round TKO of Jamel Herring in October 2021 to seize a 130-pound title and added a second belt in April with a rout of Oscar Valdez in a formidable efficiency.
Stevenson wasn’t capable of end Valdez off inside the gap, however he did drop the Mexican in Spherical 6 and misplaced simply two rounds on two scorecards.
“Valdez gave me a variety of alternative to showcase my expertise,” Stevenson stated. “I believe with this dude [Conceicao], he is gonna be attempting to take a seat again and field. … However I am gonna present the world my canine.”
Certainly, Conceicao, whose solely defeat was a controversial choice in opposition to Valdez, prefers to counter-punch whereas Valdez likes to use stress and struggle on the within. That simply means Stevenson should come ahead himself and make the struggle if he needs to maintain his momentum towards the highest of the pound-for-pound record.
Conceicao has plans of his personal, after all, and for the second time in as many title fights, can be at a aggressive drawback. His September 2021 bout title problem of Valdez was allowed to proceed regardless of the presence of a banned substance within the titleholder’s system.
“I am very motivated. I’ve educated all my life for this second,” Conceicao stated throughout a information convention on Wednesday. “The world was capable of see that I used to be higher than Oscar Valdez. I ought to have gained. … I am a champion with out a crown, and I am prepared for Friday evening.”
Certain, Stevenson has the talents, along with his exact jab, glorious footwork and ring smarts, to easily outbox Conceicao, a 33-year-old Brazilian. But when Stevenson needs to make the form of assertion that can have followers buzzing forward of what figures to be a pivotal 2023, he should entertain, too.