By Steve Kim Updated on July 03, 2024

A Tale of Two Lightweights

Picture for A Tale of Two Lightweights

Two contrasting lightweights headline cards on ESPN and DAZN this Saturday night. Shakur Stevenson faces Artem Harutyunyan in at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. While at the Toyota Arena in Ontario, California, William Zepeda takes on Giovanni Cabrera.

These two couldn't be more different in style inside the ring, and in terms of their current relationships with their promoters.

While this is being billed as a homecoming in Newark for Stevenson, the biggest story coming into this  weekend is that it looks as though this will be his swan song with Top Rank. This is the final bout on his current deal with the company that has promoted him throughout his professional career.

Picture for A Tale of Two LightweightsTop Rank

For the most part, while it's had some turbulence, this has been a successful union. From the time he made his debut in 2017, Stevenson was developed well by Top Rank, winning titles at 126, 130 and 135. He has been consistently featured on ESPN (where he had solid ratings), and has become a regional draw in his hometown. 

But what frustrated the precocious Stevenson is the inability to land certain fights (namely against a certain guy with the moniker 'Tank'), and what he thinks is Top Rank's preferential treatment towards other boxers in their company. Which is ironic given that many believe he has been the beneficiary of it. Stevenson, may not believe it, but he has been a priority with Top Rank. He has earned seven-figures for the past couple of years. There is a sense of entitlement that exists with him. 

The issue with Stevenson is not his ability. Make no doubt about it, his boxing acumen and talent is unquestioned. The problem is that it does not always translate into great entertainment for the fans. In many ways he is that jazz musician who is unappreciated by the masses, which would rather listen to the latest pop star. 

His gift is also his curse. 

Picture for A Tale of Two LightweightsMikey Williams/Top Rank

Stevenson did himself no favors in his last outing, where he was reluctant (to put it mildly) to engage with Edwin De Los Santos and instead scurried around the ring for 12 uneventful rounds. This performance was widely panned on the world wide web. And speaking of that, his social media posts don't do him many favors. He can come off as petulant and unlikable on Twitter. 

A few months ago it was reported that Stevenson and his reps rejected a multi-fight extension from Top Rank that guaranteed him a minimum of $3 million per fight.

Can he get a better deal out on the free market? It looks like he will find out soon.

Meanwhile, out on the West Coast, Zepeda, after years of performing in ballrooms and tents, gets to perform in a bigger room. It's clear that Golden Boy Promotions is now starting to make a move with 'el Camaron'. They believe that this whirlwind southpaw can become a legitimate draw in Southern California, which is flush with Mexican fans.

Picture for A Tale of Two LightweightsGolden Boy Promotions

In many ways Zepeda is the antithesis of Stevenson: not nearly as tactical, but much more fan-friendly and unassuming. No, he's probably not as good as Stevenson, but his bouts are generally more entertaining. Also, while Stevenson has already won three major world titles, Zepeda currently has none to his credit. 

Yet, ask yourself this, all things being equal, who would you rather watch: Stevenson or Zepeda?

Well, for most general fans I assume the answer would be Zepeda. While Shakur certainly has one of the highest boxing IQ's you'll ever see, Zepeda punches first and thinks later. This isn't to say that Zepeda is devoid of skills, but you couldn't find two southpaws who are more diametrically opposed in how they approach things inside the ring.  The reality is that for all this talk of 'the sweet science', and the old cliche of 'hit-and-not-be-hit', we come to see fights and action. That's what Zepeda gives us consistently. 

Picture for A Tale of Two LightweightsGolden Boy Promotions

Should Zepeda get past the awkward Cabrera (whose one loss was a razor thin split decision to Isaac 'Pitbull' Cruz), he and Golden Boy will have some interesting decisions to make moving forward. Zepeda has the rare distinction of being rated number one by all four major sanctioning bodies. Which means that in theory, at least, he has the opportunity to face Denys Berinchyk (WBO), Vasiliy Lomachenko (IBF), Gervonta Davis (WBA) or.... Stevenson (WBC).

In a perfect world, you'd see Stevenson-Zepeda. This match-up would be the classic one between boxer and puncher. The brain trust at Golden Boy may not agree, but to his credit, Zepeda has not been shy in expressing interest in this bout. The reality is that oftentimes these decisions aren't made with what is the best, or most intriguing fight, but really about risk-vs-reward, and creating the most favorable position for themselves and their clients.

Picture for A Tale of Two Lightweights

A lot more will be known about the future of Stevenson and Zepeda after this weekend. 



The ESPN card (8:30 pm, ET/ 5:30 pm, PT) will have O'Shaquie Foster defending his WBC 130-pound title versus Robson Conceicao. Keyshawn Davis-Miguel Madueno in a 10-round lightweight feature will also be a part of this broadcast. Then it was announced on Tuesday that the highly regarded Abdullah Mason will kick off this telecast....The Golden Boy/DAZN card has a co-feature that pits Ricardo Sandoval against Angel 'Tito' Acosta in a flyweight clash. Blue-chip prospect, Joel Iriarte, will also be on this card...Happy 4th of July to everyone... I can be reached at


About Author
A Tale of Two Lightweights
  • Hosted 'the Main Event' on KIEV 870, and then later XTRA AM1150 ( a three hour show devoted to boxing) from 1996 to 1999.
  • Joined one of the first boxing websites, 'House of Boxing' in 1999, and then later became one of the founders of Maxboxing, that started in 2001, till his departure in 2014.
  • From 2014 to 2018, he was the lead columnist for
  • Was a boxing reporter for from 2018 to 2020.
  • He has written for Ring Magazine, International Boxing Digest and Boxing News.
  • Is the co-host of 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' with Mario Lopez, which has become of the most popular boxing podcasts the past several years.
  • Steve has also served as an announcer and analyst for RingTV, Thompson Boxing, 360 Promotions and CBS Sports Network.