By: Sean Crose
Shakur Stevenson may not have had his title belts when he stepped into the ring at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Friday night, but there was no doubt the 18-0 fighter had the hometown crowd behind him. Stevenson, who originally hailed from Newark, lost his WBO and WBC junior lightweight titles on the scales Thursday. That, however, didn’t mean his opponent, the 17-1, former gold medalist Robson Conceicao, still wasn’t eligible to win those belts. Should Conceicao defeat the favorite Stevenson, he wouldn’t only become a world titlist, he’d perhaps have pulled off the year’s biggest upset. The scheduled 12 round match was the main event of a card broadcast live on ESPN.
First, however, there was an 8 round lightweight fight between the 25-5 Omar Tienda and the popular former silver medalist, 5-0 Keyshawn Davis. The first round was rather competitive, but Davis started putting his punches together early on in the second. By the third there was no doubt Davis was in complete control, giving looks and maintaining distance with ease. Tienda, perhaps frustrated, actually tossed Davis to the mat in the fourth. The act did nothing to stem the tide of the fight.
A single sharp right put Tienda down in the fifth. Tienda gamely got up but the fight was all but over. A flurry of blows from Davis led the referee to stop the fight moments later.
It was time for the main event. The opening two rounds of Stevenson – Conceicao were fast paced but not exactly meaningful. Conceicao flicked out his jab while Stevenson attempted to maintain range and land effectively. The two men zipped punches at one another in the third. Stevenson was clearly the stronger of the two, but it was Conceicao who landed the better shots. Both men traded leather in the fourth. Conceicao ended up being dropped by a body shot at round’s end. He beat the count, however, and was able to return to his corner.
Although Conceicao was still very much in the fight, it was Stevenson who was tossing off crunching body shots in the fifth. Still, Conceicao kept swinging. By the midpoint of the fight it was frankly difficult not to admire the guy. He was by now clearly getting beaten up, yet he was prepared to go out on his sword. Still, Conceicao walked back to his corner at the end of the seventh looking bruised, battered and completely defeated. It was worth asking how much longer should the fight be allowed to continue.
Although the beating proceeded on through the next several rounds, it began to seem as if, brutal as his performance was, Stevenson actually might not be able to stop his man within the distance. This gave a frustrating air to the fight. Conceicao essentially couldn’t win, but he couldn’t be knocked out, either. Rough as it was to witness, the violence unleashed by Stevenson began to almost seem mundane. Almost.
The ironic thing was that, with a bit more power, Conceicao would very much be in the fight. Conceicao clearly had no such power, however, so he was left to simply try his best while Stevenson controlled the match. The championship rounds offered more of the same. Stevenson punched his man, while Conceicao continued to ineffectively throw punches. His face a mess, but his determination in tact, Conceicao desperately fought through to the final bell.
The judges did their job – rewarding Stevenson with a unanimous decision victory.
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