On the biggest night of his career, Shakur Stevenson sprinted across the ring with his hands up.
His fight with Oscar Valdez, the ESPN main event on Saturday night in front of 10,102 spectators at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, lasted 12 rounds and was a complete mismatch throughout. Stevenson’s talent is undeniable.
He kept Valdez at range with an outstanding southpaw jab, one of the strongest weapons in boxing, and then unleashed a devastating left hand to the body. The 118-109, 117-110, and 118-109 final scores gave Stevenson his second championship at 130 pounds.
“I’m a superstar in this sport,” said Stevenson, a 24-year-old professional. “I’d want to be unchallenged by collecting all of the belts at 130. To be a superstar, I must prove that I am deserving of the title.”
He knocked Valdez down twice with a right hook and a follow-up right hand in the sixth round of the fight, leaving him on the canvas for the first time in his career (18-0, 9 KOs).
Despite Stevenson’s best efforts, Valdez was able to recover from his previous three knockdowns and win the fight, just like he had done before.
It was Stevenson who stated, “I’m going to shut out [Valdez’s supporters],” but he only heard crickets as the battle progressed.
Stevenson’s jab was too much for Valdez, who went down 30-1 with 23 KOs. Valdez’s hand speed and stature were also a hindrance, as he often fired a single strike whereas Stevenson launched a series of punches.
|— Courtesy of CompuBox|
Unlike the knockout of Miguel Berchelt in February 2021, when Valdez won the WBC junior lightweight championship by scoring a haymaker to finish the fight, Valdez never came close to landing another punch of such calibre in his subsequent fights.
This night, “he was simply a superior boxer,” Valdez, 31, said. “So he went in there and did what he had to in order to win. He’s a formidable opponent. He has the speed and the strength.”
In spite of Valdez’s best efforts, Stevenson was able to keep him at a distance by unleashing a series of jabs whenever Valdez got too near. It was Stevenson’s trademark left to the body, which he used often.
In Round 10, Stevenson startled Valdez with another left to the abdomen, but this time he was considerably more patient, willing to build up rounds in order to win by decision.
In October, Stevenson defeated Jamel Herring, his first fight against a defending champion, and this performance was his finest since. Stevenson dominated Herring in the 10th round via technical knockout thanks to an aggressive effort that included much of pressure.
As with Valdez, Stevenson now has the distinction of being a two-division champion, having won a championship at 126 pounds as well. He was also named ESPN’s No. 1 fighter at 130 pounds after the victory. After testing positive for the illegal stimulant phentermine, Valdez was demoted from the top spot in the rankings.
Valdez was permitted to defend his championship against Robson Conceicao in September, which he won by unanimous decision, despite an unfavourable verdict in August.
“I don’t cheat. There never was. I never used it “In September, Valdez informed Mark Kriegel of ESPN that he had a message for him. “Many people are accusing you of cheating. Steroids are in your system. Your results were encouraging.’ My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones.”
Valdez now faces his first professional defeat, but he may be on the verge of another championship opportunity in the not-too-distant future. It is Stevenson’s goal to become the undisputed junior lightweight champion after already holding two of the division’s four titles. For his next bout, Stevenson indicated, he may go up to light-heavyweight.
He might face Devin Haney in the future if he weighs 135 pounds. The undisputed lightweight title will be decided on June 4 in Australia when Haney takes against George Kambosos. After signing a multi-fight agreement with Top Rank, which promotes both Valdez and Stevenson, Haney was ringside in Las Vegas.
“Devin’s battle with me is a big one because Devin is a great fighter. When the time comes, we can arrange it “says Newark, New Jersey-based Olympic silver medalist Stevenson
I’m ready for whomever you want to put in front of me, “he said.