By: Hans Themistode
Shakur Stevenson was everything Oscar Valdez was expecting and more.
The Mexican native and now, former WBO super featherweight titlist, did his best to offset the supreme boxing skills of the former Olympic silver medalist. The two engaged in a tactical chess match in the main event at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, late last night.
Pegged as a heavy favorite, Stevenson kept Valdez at range in the opening few rounds. At the halfway point, following a concentrated attack to Stevenson’s midsection, Valdez began picking up the pace. In the eighth, in particular, Valdez rendered Stevenson’s normally defensive brilliance useless. During the round, the Mexican product landed 17 total punches, more than any other opponent in any particular round in Stevenson’s relatively short career.
Although Valdez began his furious comeback, Stevenson tamed his man in the following round, landing 16 shots of his own, while only allowing Valdez to connect on four.
As Valdez sauntered back to his corner at the end of the final round, he hung his head low, knowing good and well that Stevenson had just handed him the first defeat of his career. Moments later, Valdez’s fears came to fruition as Stevenson was awarded the unanimous decision victory.
While visibly upset with his performance, Valdez refrained from blaming himself. Instead, he tipped his cap to Stevenson as a sign of respect.
“He has great boxing skills,” said Valdez following his defeat. “He was just the better man tonight.”
Stevenson, known for his defensive acumen, placed his power on display throughout the night, particularly in the sixth. The loquacious and supremely confident star evaded a looping left hand that was hurled in his direction. Valdez, as a result, stumbled into the ropes. Though he was aware of his surroundings, Stevenson quickly landed a sneaky right hand, sending Valdez to the canvas.
Shortly after, Valdez immediately rose to his feet and protested referee Tim Cheatham’s decision to rule it as a knockdown. Ultimately, Valdez is unwilling to fulminate over the decision of the referee. However, outside of what he believes was an unjustly called knockdown, Valdez admits that Stevenson was simply a cut above him.
“The referee called a knockdown, I personally think it wasn’t, it was ,ore of a slip but he’s a great fighter. His speed is there, his power is there, his footwork, takes little risks. Overall, just a great fighter.”
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