A DEBUT WORTH WATCHING
Recently, I sat down with a sensational boxing prospect named Shakur Stevenson. The 19-year-old from Newark, New Jersey was poised, and wise beyond his years. Despite the tug-of-war between promotional companies, managers, and advisers in the fight game attempting to land the multi-talented Olympian, Stevenson appeared at ease with his decision to sign with Top Rank. (He is managed by James Prince and advised by Andre Ward.) “Top Rank, they’ve developed a lot of great fighters like Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather. I’m looking to outdo all of them, so that’s my main goal.”
On this particular day, he sparred with WBO junior featherweight champion Jessie Magdaleno. After witnessing this intense, high-quality session, I was inclined to ask Shakur for his birth certificate to prove his age. His ring generalship is impressive to say the least. He moves with grace, and patiently lands crisp punches right on the button. Stevenson varies speeds, controls distance, and counters brilliantly. “The kid is special. I look forward to watching his career,” said Magdaleno. Shakur took it all in stride: “I feel good sparring with Jessie Magdaleno. It was good work. It was real good work. We went six straight (rounds), and we were working.”
Stevenson and Magdaleno may wind up sparring from time to time, but Jessie is at 122 pounds, so it’s doubtful that they’ll ever face each other in an official bout. “I’m fighting at 126, and once I get too heavy for that, I’m gonna keep moving up,” Shakur said. He touched on a few differences from amateurs to pros. “I feel like pro is more my style. I get more time to pick my punches and set certain stuff up. I feel like the professionals is perfect for me. I get to weigh in the day before. I kinda like that, instead of weighing in every day.”
Ever since Mayweather/Pacquiao two years ago, the boxing pay-per-view market has declined. Partly because of the sour taste that fight left in peoples’ mouths, but also due to the emergence of PBC (Premier Boxing Champions) providing fans with an abundance of fights on network (free) television. I asked Shakur how he felt about fighting on pay-per-view. “I feel good fighting on pay-per-view for my pro debut. I’m excited; a lot of great people fight on pay-per-view, and I feel like I’m gonna give the fans what they want to see.”
So exactly what should the fans expect to see when Stevenson enters the ring for the first time as a professional? “I’m not going to go in there actually looking for a knockout, but I know I’m so accurate that I can land clean punches and catch a knockout.”
Shakur Stevenson makes his pro debut Saturday, April 22 at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. Tickets can be purchased via AXS or at the box office. The card, featuring champions Oscar Valdez, Gilberto Ramirez, and Jessie Magdaleno, will be televised on pay-per-view. His second fight is scheduled for Saturday, May 20 at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY.