From the day I became a professional, This kind of performance from Shakur Stevenson It was inevitable. He’s the kind who can dominate boxing for a decade or more. He understands the game on a level few people do. He is extremely fast, incredibly conditioned and unnaturally calm.
Oscar Valdez never stood a chance against Stevenson in their Saturday match for the WBC and WBO titles at super featherweight before a vibrant, and often boisterous, crowd of 10102 at the MGM Grand Garden. Stephenson won by unanimous scores 118-109 twice and 117-110 was easier for him than the broad cards suggest.
He got rid of Valdez in sixth place and was able to neutralize Valdez’s vaunted power. Valdes went into the match 30-0 with 23 knockouts, but Stephenson rarely shot clean with anything.
“He’s a great fighter,” Valdes said of Stevenson. “His speed is there. The strength is there. He was just a better fighter tonight. Overall, a great fighter.”
Stevenson kept a punch in the face for Valdes from the very first moments. He did not “run”, as many in the Valdez camp sarcastically expected. Instead, he shot beautifully, controlled the range, hit Valdez with just about everything he threw and put together the sort of little masterpiece in the sport he’s capable of composing.
Stevenson hit 53 percent of his amazing powerful shots and caught Valdes by 29 percent.
His manager, James Prince, previously managed Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward, two fighters who finished undefeated and will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in June. There is a lot of Mayweather and Ward in Stevenson.
He’s not quite up to their level yet, but he’s only 24 years old and neither Mayweather nor Ward were nearly finished productive at that age. But Prince has seen a lot of great fighters in his 20-plus years in boxing and knows Stevenson is on the cusp of joining this list.
“The sky is the limit,” Prince said of Stephenson. “Whoever stands in front of him will have a problem.”
Stephenson’s biggest issue on Saturday was the post-fight press conference. He started without belts, and had to ask someone from his team to hand it to him. Then he shouted at the crowd on the side to calm down so he could hear the questions.
Then, in a strange sight, there was a disturbance to the left of the platform. Stephenson’s mother tried to get into the press conference and security wouldn’t let her into the room.
Stevenson was answering a question as he turned to his left, stared intently at the door and listened for several seconds, then darted off the platform and out the door to the hall where the press conference was being held. A brawl ensued in the casino lobby outside the ballroom, in the middle of which Stevenson was trying to get his family members out of it.
Prince told Yahoo Sports via text message that Stevenson and his mother were fine. A spokesperson for MGM Grand said he was trying to gather more information and conservative comment until he did.
In his biggest moment, the night he became a unified champion, he only answered a few questions before suddenly leaving.
He lost his moment in the sun because of it, even though he was brilliant enough in the ring in front of a national audience on ESPN not to miss his words at a press conference.
Stevenson was elated when he arrived at the press conference because he knew he would give the performance of his life at his biggest moment. It largely silenced the pro-Valdez crowd who had been quite prolific before and during the early stages of the fight.
“This was an amazing crowd and they saw a fantastic performance by an excellent fighter,” said Todd Duboff, president of Top Rank, who said he wasn’t sure what was next for Stephenson.
On the bottom card, Olympic silver medalist Keyshawn Davis was impressive stopping Esteban Sanchez in sixth. He looked in awe of what Stevenson had done.
Shakur has come a long way, man,” said Davis, who could be the next big boxing superstar. Shakur won almost every round and Oscar never touched him.
It would take a full fighter, someone with speed and the ability to cut the ring, to give Stevenson plenty of struggle. He’s already one of the best fighters in the world and he’s getting better all the time.
It’s very impressive,” promoter Bob Arum said of Stephenson. “Really unbelievable.”
The same can be said of the scene that forced Stevenson to flee the press conference.
But even that couldn’t detract from what was a great night for the now unified champion from Newark, NJ.