Shakur Stevenson “has the skills” of Floyd Mayweather, according to promoter Bob Arum, and is just hours away from throwing the first punches of boxing’s comeback.
The undefeated WBO featherweight champion debuts in the division above against Felix Caraballo on Tuesday night at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Conference Center Grand Ballroom, a behind-closed-doors venue, in promotional outfit Top Rank’s return to the ring since lockdown began.
Aged just 22 and with a second world title already in his sights, plus the brilliant Andre Ward in his corner, Stevenson has been backed to become one of the sport’s top boxers and he wants to fight in the UK soon.
Fans said I gotta give y’all more okay I got y’all this from 2017, Scary thing I get better and better throughout the years ? #ChasingGreatness
A post shared by Shakur Stevenson (@shakurstevenson) on
“I referred to him as my southpaw Floyd Mayweather because he has the skills, particularly defensively, that Floyd had,” promoter Arum told Sky Sports.
“Shakur will be one of the major, major stars in boxing in the years ahead. He relates to people, people want to watch him perform, he is a great personality.
“We are very high on Shakur. He’s a star and a lovely young man.”
Stevenson told Sky Sports: “It feels good to be the one to bring boxing back, to show the world what I’m capable of doing.
“I don’t want this fight to go past four rounds.”
His Puerto Rican opponent Caraballo will be boxing outside of his home country for the first time and is a yardstick as Stevenson enters the super-featherweight division.
More dangerous and more exciting fights lurk for Stevenson at featherweight, where he holds the WBO belt, and where Leeds’ Josh Warrington is the IBF champion. Talks have already been held to pit them against each other.
“He says he wants to fight me,” Stevenson said about Warrington. “Then he says he won’t wait – but what’s the wait? I never told him to wait. One minute he wants to fight, the next minute he doesn’t.
“I call his name, call his name, call his name. What happened? They didn’t [make me the offer] that I deserve to unify belts and go to his territory.”
You know how the game goes Eddie. Just because you believe an offer is “very solid” doesn’t mean the fighter or his management have to agree. We are not after “solid” Shakur deserves better than solid if he is going across any pond. Hope you and your family are well. https://t.co/UdX9QRiQBp
Stevenson’s career is partly guided by co-manager Andre Ward, who retired with a sublime 32-0 record and world titles in two divisions after notably dishing out defeats to Carl Froch and Sergey Kovalev.
Ward told Sky Sports about Stevenson fighting in the UK: “Shakur was giving up a lot by coming to the UK. His style? He won’t just beat you, he can embarrass you. No fighter wants to be embarrassed. They see that in Shakur. I respect his desire to go [to the UK], I support his desire.”
Promoter Arum told Sky Sports: “For a Stevenson vs Warrington fight we need an audience, we need spectators. How many could we get in? Where, which country? I can’t answer.
“Warrington has an ability to draw crowds. Obviously if all things were equal you’d say: ‘Shakur, go over to the UK’.
“But things aren’t as they used to be. I’ll have to work out the situation with Eddie Hearn to find the best place to do this fight.
“We may be up and running in the US with spectators before the UK. We could take the fight to a location outside of the UK or US – Macau or the Middle East? I’ve been talking to Eddie on a regular basis and we’re trying to figure things out.”
"MAKE YOUR MIND UP JOSH?"?♂@ShakurStevenson says he wants to face @J_Warrington but could not get the fight agreed ??❌ pic.twitter.com/RnReg27BJx
Undefeated Warrington previously told Sky Sports: “Everyone he’s boxed has been tailor-made for him. He hasn’t boxed someone who will close him down with educated pressure. People approach him in straight lines.
“I’m not saying he wouldn’t be a tough fight. But he hasn’t been in deep water situations.
“He talks confidently about coming over to the UK and fighting me in my back yard. But he hasn’t been in those kind of scenarios.”
Stevenson wants to unify belts with Warrington en route to becoming a four-weight world champion: “I’ll win the title at 130 then go up to 135 and win that title, then 140 and win that title, then 147 and win that title.”
It is testament to Stevenson’s flawless three-year pro career so far that Robeisy Ramirez, who beat him in the gold medal fight at Rio 2016, shockingly lost his professional debut.
“The Cuban that beat me in the Olympics has proven the amateurs and the pros are two different games,” Stevenson said. “He looked real bad.”
Continuing tonight with no fans in attendance, Stevenson’s future looks bright especially with the sage guidance of Ward.
“Shakur asks a lot of questions,” Ward said. “I was the same way. He reaches out and asks questions about business and fighting. That’s the relationship we have.
“Mentor? I look at him as my little brother. I am available as much as I can be.”
?"HE'S DUCKING ME!"[email protected] says protégé @ShakurStevenson is not 'King of the Gamers' until he faces him?? pic.twitter.com/ZTZISohMyO
They have both watched on as protests have engulfed the US since George Floyd, an African-American man, was killed while in police custody on May 25.
Ward reflected: “We’ve got to have real conversations. My foundation is in prayer. I do what I can to make a difference and a change.
“In Oakland, California, in the neighbourhood I grew up in there we thousands protesting. The solidarity they showed – black people and white people – was a beautiful thing.”
Stevenson added: “The sport can be used in a positive way. We have a lot of big names and we can use our platforms in the right way.
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