Last October, 2016 Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson got his first shot at a world title, though maybe it wasn’t the way he’d always envisioned it.
Stevenson had been made mandatory challenger for the WBO featherweight title, which was held by Oscar Valdez. A purse bid was held and everything, which was won by Top Rank, no surprise as they promote both fighters — and also no surprise because nobody actually thought the fight was going to happen, as Valdez had stated his intention to go up to 130 pounds.
Valdez did so, and instead, Stevenson got his chance in a strange story, as his opponent in the vacant title fight, Joet Gonzalez, the estranged brother of Stevenson’s girlfriend Jajaira.
There was legitimate bad blood between Stevenson and Gonzalez, but the fight was pretty forgettable, a 12-round rout by Stevenson to easily win his first world title.
Up top, you can go behind the scenes of the fight, which was a big night for Stevenson and a crushing loss for Gonzalez. Asked by a member of his team if he would say something to Gonzalez after the fight, Stevenson replied, “I can’t. He’s not gonna talk to me.”
But he did get to the corner, and say to Joet, “Nothing but love, bro. I promise you, I ain’t got no disrespect for you.” (Gonzalez, for what it’s worth, wasn’t buying it in a backstage interview with Mark Kriegel later. You can see Jousce Gonzalez, Joet’s younger brother, congratulating Stevenson backstage.)
“For his first world title fight, I’m happy and I’m pleased,” said former champion Andre Ward, Stevenson’s manager. “He’s a winner. Winners, when the lights come on and there’s more pressure, they don’t shy away from that. They step it up and they rise, and he rose tonight.”
“He looked tremendous. He boxed real well, he listened real well,” friend Terence Crawford said. “He did everything he had to do to get the job done, and now he’s world champion.”
“There’s always stuff to work on,” Ward added. “I’ve got a checklist, I’m sure Terence has a checklist. But that’s because we want him to be great, we don’t want him to be mediocre and just be a guy who won a title and then lost it. We want him to reign for as long as he wants to be in the sport.”
Stevenson (13-0, 7 KO) may never defend that title. There had been talk of a unification bout with Josh Warrington, but negotiations fell through and Warrington signed with Matchroom Boxing, leaving Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions, who work closely with Top Rank.
When that happened, and his scheduled Mar. 14 defense against Miguel Marriaga was canceled due to COVID-19, Stevenson said he was planning to move up to 130 himself to chase bigger fights.
On Tuesday, the 22-year-old will dip a toe in at 130 in a 10-round fight against Felix Caraballo (13-1-2, 9 KO), a Puerto Rican fighter who frankly isn’t expected to be much trouble for Stevenson. The fight will headline the first U.S.-televised live boxing event since Mar. 13, starting at 7 pm ET on ESPN, and Bad Left Hook will have full live coverage.