While certainly not the fight of the night -- that honor belongs to Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano, who put on a rousing show at the Madison Square Garden -- Shakur Stevenson served notice that he is an elite boxer by taming Oscar Valdez over 12 one-sided rounds at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, to become a unified champion at 130.
After the fight he took a knee a proposed to his girlfriend. But really this night that was about his coronation as one of the sports best.
Valdez, who suffered his first professional loss, tried his best and had some sporadic moments. But no matter his effort, it was no match for the skills of Stevenson who boxed brilliantly for much of this bout. Stevenson is a master of distance and spacing. When he boxes it becomes a game of tag where he is almost never 'it'.
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“He’s a great fighter. His speed is there. Power is there. He was just the better fighter tonight. Overall, a great fighter," admitted Valdez, who's record fell to 30-1(23 KOs).
While he can put himself in position to consistently hit his foes, and has the speed and reflexes to exploit the smallest of openings, his opponents are perpetually frozen and mesmerized by Stevenson. Most times, they are left in a position to react to Stevenson, who by the time his foes try and react, is out of range.
Valdez would land the occasional right hand over the top on Stevenson, but he could never truly sustain a consistent attack and put punches together. The best way to describe him would be 'stealth', because Stevenson has a way of seemingly disappearing in front of his foes while being right in front of them. Don't let anyone call him a 'runner' because in reality he actually stands relatively still in front of whoever he faces.
Yeah, perhaps you could label Valdez-Stevenson boring, and granted there will be times his bouts wont be overly entertaining. Chances are he'll never be involved in a 'fight of the year' but there is a true art to what Stevenson does. There is a reason why Valdez, or anyone else that faces him, becomes hesitant to let their hands go against him. Stevenson is not a sledgehammer but a scalpel who just conducts surgery on whoever he faces. He slices you into a thousand pieces.
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In just 18 fights, Stevenson (18-0, 9 KOs) has won titles at featherweight and junior lightweight, and is now a unified champion having added the WBC belt to go along with his WBO strap. “I want to collect all the belts at 130 and become undisputed. I deserve to be a superstar, so that’s what I gotta do,'' he said in the aftermath of his victory.
This young man from Newark believes he's headed for all-time greatness.
That remains to be seen. But so far it's becoming increasingly difficult to disagree with him,
At this juncture, you wonder just who could get him out of his comfort zone and make life difficult for him. Could be Top Rank stablemate, Vasiliy Lomachenko? Perhaps Devin Haney in the future? Or how bout the hard-hitting Gervonta 'Tank' Davis?
The scary thing for anyone that gets in his way is that he's still just 24 years old -- and getting better. Stevenson is just getting started.
Bob Arum, who promoted this event, marveled, “What a masterful performance from Shakur Stevenson against a great champion like Oscar Valdez. He is one of the very special talents in the sport.”
There is much debate over who should've gotten the nod between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano on Saturday night at the famed Madison Square Garden. The early rounds seemed to be controlled by Taylor (who retained her undisputed lightweight title via split decision), with Serrano making a hard charge in the middle rounds, with Taylor getting a bit of a second wind in the later stages.
At the end, Taylor got the nod by the scores of 96-93, 97-93 and 94-96.
This was one of the better fights of 2022, regardless of gender. Hats off to both ladies, who were not only under pressure to win a fight, but to actually put up a good fight. They more than delivered. Given the fact that there is a real clamoring for a second go-around, you could state with sincerity that nobody really lost, here.
Moving forward, given how this particular bout played out, it will be interesting to see if women's boxing will start to have three minute rounds like their male counterparts. How would that have impacted Taylor-Serrano?
Or, if that particular change isn't made, how bout making championship bouts 12 rounds?
- The highly touted Keyshawn Davis improved to 5-0 (4 KOs) by stopping the rugged Esteban Sanchez in six rounds. The Olympic silver medalist just steadily broke done Sanchez with his wide array of skills and over time his class kept showing. This is a young man who just seems to the complete package, combining ability with marketability.
Word is that the native of Norfolk, Virginia (best known as the hometown of the great Pernell Whitaker) will be back in July. Expect Top Rank to put him on the fast track.
- A young lightweight to keep an eye on is Raymond Muratalla, who surgically and brutally dispatched Jeremy Hill in three rounds on the un-televised portion of the Valdez-Stevenson card at the MGM Grand. Muratalla, who is trained by Robert Garcia, is a fighter who has a great command inside that ring, and has legitimate power in both hands.
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Against Hill, he scored a first round knockdown of Hill with a short right hand, and then in the next two frames proceeded to walk him down and break him down with a two-fisted body attack. With this emphatic victory, the 25 year old native of Fontana, California, improved to 14-0(12 KOs).
-- A (very) young prospect I'm high on is lightweight Abdullah Mason, who made quick work of Luciano Ramos. Last year he turned pro at age 17, but now that this youngster has turned 18 look for him to be kept busy by Top Rank. He's a quick silver southpaw with all the tools.
Mason also seems to have a good head on his shoulders.
FINAL FLURRIESThere was an announced crowd of 10,102 for Valdez-Stevenson at the MGM Grand Garden Arena....Meanwhile the Garden had over 19,000 for Taylor-Serrano...Liam Smith just simply wore down Jessie Vargas in 10 rounds in their junior middleweight contest....Emanuel Navarrete will be making his return in the late summer I was told in Las Vegas....Joet Gonzalez and Isaac Dogboe are set to clash in mid-July on a Top Rank/ESPN card at the Pechanga Casino....The Barstow Del Taco is still very much elite....I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org