Boxing Doesn’t Need A New Mayweather, It Needs Shakur Stevenson

After his win at the weekend, it is clear that Stevenson is a face boxing can build itself around
16:02, 25 Oct 2021

Shakur Stevenson became a two-weight world champion on Saturday night when he dominated and then stopped WBO super-featherweight king Jamel Herring at the State Farm Arena in Georgia. The 24-year-old showed wisdom beyond his years to pick apart a man 11 years his senior. After the fight, he showed his relentless ambition when he called out reigning WBC boss Oscar Valdez. Young, entertaining and determined to land big fights, Stevenson is exactly what boxing needs in 2021.

To address the elephant in the room and get it out of the way swiftly, Stevenson is attracting ‘next Floyd Mayweather’ buzz already. It is easy to see why, for reasons both good and bad. The New Jersey native employs a similar shoulder-roll defence to that which ‘Money’ used to dominate the last two decades. The Herring fight also evoked the action style Mayweather employed at the lower weights, before he began facing fighters who significantly outweighed him later in his career. On the flipside, he does also share Floyd’s tendency to do just enough to win certain fights. Against lesser opposition, such as in his much-criticised decision win over Jeremiah Nakathila in June, Stevenson is often content to put rounds in the bank without stretching himself. He can also be compared with Mayweather for his legal troubles out of the ring, as Shakur was charged with a misdemeanour assault in 2018.

For his part, Stevenson has said he wants to surpass Mayweather and does not lean on the comparison in the same way the talented but complicated Adrien Broner seemed to. And his achievements so far should be applauded on their own merits. The fact he just took apart an established and talented world champion in Herring, a man who ended the career of Carl Frampton in April, deserves immense credit. The fact he did it in his fifth fight since the coronavirus pandemic began is a testament to the sort of boxer Stevenson is. He was back in the ring as soon as possible once boxing began to tentatively open its doors again. While ‘Sugar’ was accused of being a little cautious in a couple of those performances, the desire to get in the ring as often as possible is rare in modern boxing. The only other world-level operator with similar activity is Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, which should tell you Stevenson is going about things in the right way.

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Saturday also demonstrated the reasoning behind some of Stevenson’s more moderate performances. Herring represented the greatest challenge of his career, a chance at a second world title against a big-name opponent. The fact this situation inspired a punch-perfect display and a stoppage win indicates that the new champion fights up to the level of his opponent. If he can beat you easily, he will. But present Shakur Stevenson with a real challenge and he will put on a show. This bodes well for the future, if he makes a habit out of chasing the big fights.

If Valdez is next, this will represent another step-up in a career that only began in 2017. Fresh off a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Stevenson took to the professional ranks like a duck to water. Picking up a pair of fringe belts in his ninth fight, he became WBO featherweight champion in just his thirteenth outing. The Olympian outpointed Joet Gonzalez in a grudge match predicated on the fact Stevenson was dating his opponent’s sister at the time. Now, Shakur has 17 fights on the board and two world title belts on his mantle. Bidding for a third against Valdez will not be easy, but Stevenson is not looking to do things the easy way.

This is the crux of why the gifted boxer-puncher is so refreshing in 2021. Stevenson is young, active, world class and ambitious. In an era in which boxing is being eroded by freak-show fights, opportunistic influencers and the popular but eroded ghosts of days gone by, fighters like this are crucial. If Stevenson can build on his career-best win over Herring, and continue climbing into the ring every few months in meaningful fights, he can be the superstar boxing will need when the likes of 33-year-old Tyson Fury and 31-year-old Canelo finally hang up their gloves. Boxing doesn’t need a new Mayweather, just another half-dozen Shakur Stevensons will do.

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