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A few days out from his super-featherweight battle with Jeremiah Nakathila, Shakur Stevenson is dealing a pack of cards when the conversation shifts to criticism of his defensive style, a stick the masterful southpaw from Newark has been beaten with frequently throughout the early stages of his career.
"I don't take offence to it. I think being a defensive fighter is the best thing you can be," he asserts.
"All the greats were special defensive fighters. When you think about the Pernell Whitakers, the Floyd Mayweathers, the Sugar Ray Leonards, they all had a great defence.
"I've got parts of my game that are just like them. I looked up to them. I think looking up to those fighters, watching them and studying them kind of elevated my game. I got better just from that.
"So I don't really take offence to it. I enjoy being one of the best defensive fighters in boxing."
When faced with this same accusation, fighters of a similar ilk to Stevenson, those who abide by the hit-and-don't-get-hit mantra, tend to deflect away from it by forcing clichés about their underrated punch power or misunderstood skill set. It is refreshing to hear the 23-year-old instead view it as a compliment and take pride in his own abilities.
At such a young age he has already tasted success at world level, capturing the WBO featherweight crown in just his 13th professional outing – a unanimous points win over Joet Gonzalez in October 2019. Now, having recently moved up to 130lbs, he is on the cusp of challenging for honours in a second weight class.
Despite his rapid ascent through the divisions there remains a coolness and maturity to Stevenson which implies he isn't fazed by the challenges and pressures that come with it. Part chatting and part calculating his next move in what appears an intense game of spades, he explains how relaxing on fight week comes as a walk in the park.
"This week is kind of like cooling down, I'm getting my rest back from all the hard work I've put in already. So we're just cooling down now and staying focused," he says.
"I used to play my [computer] game but it hasn't been working lately, so I've been playing spades. I've been watching the NBA playoffs as well. I've been doing a lot.
"I haven't been keeping my mind fully on the fight, I've been drifting away and getting some down time and relaxing mentally.
"It gets a lot easier to focus when it comes to that time, but right now we're putting in our work and keeping mentally strong."
Stevenson is heavily expected to brush aside Nakathila (21-1) and claim his 16th straight victory at the Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas on Saturday night. Having been forced to compete behind closed doors in his last two bouts due to the coronavirus pandemic, this weekend marks his first fight in front of a live crowd since that coronation against Gonzalez 19 months ago.
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He heads into it an overwhelming favourite, but his 31-year-old opponent, while seemingly out of his depth here, has earned 80 per cent of his victories by knockout and therefore still represents a potential banana skin in waiting.
"I've seen a lot of big upsets last year, this year – there's been a lot of upsets. That kind of motivates me," Stevenson says.
"There's fights like Anthony Joshua when he lost to Andy Ruiz, there's a lot of upsets that are happening.
"You go in there thinking a guy's not that good and then they're really a lot better than you think they are.
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"Like I said, I think it's gonna be a great fight. Fighting in front of a crowd will be good again. It's gonna be a little different because I kind of got used to the sparring fights [in empty arenas], so I'll probably be a little bit nervous.
"But it's gonna be a great performance and a great show."
After a slight pause, it's unclear whether he is referencing his ongoing card game or waxing lyrical about his talent in the ring when he states: "I'm a bad motherf***** man!"
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Victory over Nakathila will hand Stevenson the WBO interim super-featherweight strap and move him in line to face current champion Jamel Herring, who successfully defended his title in a stoppage win over Britain's Carl Frampton earlier this year.
A potential meeting between them provides an interesting narrative, as Herring's stablemate Terence Crawford, WBO welterweight champion and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet right now, is also close friends with Stevenson, whom he regards as a little brother in the sport.
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However, Stevenson doesn't have any time for pleasantries with Herring despite their mutual friend, and the youngster would rather secure a shot at WBC champion Oscar Valdez instead anyway.
"Nah, me and Herring ain't friends," he says.
"We can be friends after we fight, but at the end of the day he's an opponent in my weight class and we ain't close. He's not my friend right now, I don't really care about him.
"I'm not really looking to fight him. He's not really no big fight. He's 35, he's past his prime. Everybody knows that I'm gonna win. The only thing he's got is that belt.
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"I think me and Valdez would be a way better fight. He's 30 years old, he's in his prime, undefeated. Valdez is who I'm gunning for, I'd rather get in the ring with him because I think that would be a much bigger fight for the fans and everybody else.
"I'm gonna sit down with Top Rank to see what I can do to get Valdez in the ring. If we've gotta get Valdez on the phone, we'll do whatever it takes to get him in the ring.
"If not, Jamel is the second option. I don't really care. I'll beat up on him and retire him, I don't care."
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Unlike most, Stevenson was not impressed by Herring's recent win over Frampton, in which he sent the 34-year-old into retirement by dropping him twice and forcing the stoppage in round six.
He added: "They started giving Jamel credit for the Frampton fight, but let's be real about it – Frampton is a 118 pounder coming up from there. He's a little guy. He was supposed to do that to that little dude.
"Jamel was in the Olympics at 141 coming down, he's a big 130. He was supposed to do that to that little dude.
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"I wasn't so impressed with that performance. But Valdez came up in weight to fight the bigger fighter in Miguel Berchelt, a lot of people thought he was gonna lose, I thought he was gonna lose, and he smartened up that fight.
"He doesn't know what it feels like to lose, so you've got to respect Oscar Valdez."
Whichever champion he targets next, just over two weeks out from his 24th birthday Stevenson already has a second world title on his radar, though he must dispatch of Nakathila to remain on that path to glory.
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Getting the job done on Saturday night will leave him in clear sight of two-weight greatness, an accomplishment which would etch his name into the history books.
But the former Olympic silver medallist's ambitions stretch way beyond 130lbs.
"I expect to get to 147lbs (welterweight)," Stevenson insists.
"My skills are so good that I can get in the ring with these bigger guys already and give them a run for their money.
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"I've sparred with Terence Crawford, I've sparred with Jaron Ennis, I've sparred with Troy Isley this camp. I know how good I am and I know that my skills are gonna carry up through the weight divisions.
"Even if I don't get as big for the weight class, I can really hold my own with those bigger guys because I'm skilfully so good.
"I expect to get up to 147. That's definitely the weight I know I'll get to."
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