Shakur Stevenson Fighting For More Than Just a World Title
By: Hans Themistode
Time sure does move fast doesn’t it?
It feels like just the other day, every one associated with the red, white and blue were pulling for Shakur Stevenson to bring home the gold medal in the 2016 Olympics.
Well, 2016 wasn’t that far away now was it?
Just three short years ago, Stevenson was dazzling the crowds in Rio De Janeiro. He made everyone back home in America proud as he brung home the silver medal. There was no need for Stevenson to stay in the unpaid ranks. He proved that he could hang with many of the top boxers in the world.
His decision to turn pro was an excellent one. 12 fights with no defeats provides credence to that statement.
Like other pro fighters, the road to the top was supposed to be a slow one. There was no need to rush him, he was after all, just 18 years of age. Unlike many young fighters who enjoy working there way from prospect, to contender to world champion, Stevenson was impatient.
After two years of fighting easy opposition, Stevenson made a huge statement earlier this year when he outclassed former title challenger Christopher Diaz. It was an eye opening performance. Stevenson gave a glimpse of what the future would be like, but who knew that the future would be coming so soon.
After knocking out Alberto Guevara in just three rounds in his most recent ring appearance. Stevenson had effectively worked his way to the mandatory position in the WBO sanctioning body. He will now fight for the vacant world title when he takes on Joet Gonzalez at the Reno Sparks Convention Center, in Reno, Nevada.
What should be your typical championship level fight, is anything but normal at this point.
Stevenson and Gonzalez have a history together. One that is a bit messy once you dive into it. Stevenson is currently dating Gonzalez’s sister. Jajaira, who is a terrific boxer in her own right, met Stevenson several years ago and developed a bond with him. That bond however, is one that her older brother and Stevenson’s opponent would like to see change.
“I never liked him since the amateurs,” he says, enumerating the ways of his dislike: “Fake-ass handshake… Loud, obnoxious, disrespectful… The way he dresses, half his ass showing. That ain’t no style. I mean, you think that looks cute? Come on, man, pick up your pants.”
Stevenson has since fired back with taunts of his own.
“He’s a bitch,” said Stevenson.
Although the main storyline of this rivalry has been the relationship between Stevenson and Gonzalez sister, there is something else that hasn’t garnered nearly as much attention.
While preparing for the biggest fight of his life, Stevenson suffered a major loss in his life. The death of his father Alfredo Rivera. Their relationship has been a rocky one over the years but Stevenson does hold a broken heart when he enters the ring.
“If I’m being honest with you, I’m bipolar,” Stevenson said of his relationship with his father. “I’m a bipolar type of person. Sometimes me and him would talk, and sometimes he’d reach out to me and I’d kind of shy away from him because I still had some anger inside of me. I’m dealing with it well. I’m hurting because that’s my blood. That’s my Dad and I can’t go and look him in the face, knowing he’s not here no more. At the end of the day, he did love me and with my boxing, he loved what I became.”
What was supposed to be nothing more than a title shot has morphed into a love story and much more. Hopefully the winner of this contest can put everything else behind them. For Stevenson however, that might be much easier said than done.
Fight Preview: Greer vs. Nieves, Stevenson vs. Gonzalez
By: William Holmes
On Saturday Night the Reno/Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nevada will be the host site for a Top Rank Promotions Card that will be televised live on ESPN+.
Former Olympian Shakur Stevenson will be fight for the vacant WBO Featherweight Title as he takes on veteran Joet Gonzalez. The co-main event of the night is a bantamweight fight between Josh Greer and Antonio Nieves.
Other bouts on the card include a female junior lightweight bout between Mikaela Mayer and Alejandra Soledad Zamora.
Photo Credit: Top Rank Promotions Website
Boxers such as Albert Bell, Frank De Alba, Jason Sanchez, Andy Vences, and Mark Bernaldez will be fighting on the undercard.
The following is a preview of the co-main event and main event of the night.
Josh Greer Jr. (21-1-1) vs. Antonio Nieves (19-2-2); Bantamweights
Josh Greer is a young prospect that has been extremely active since 2017. He fought twice in 2019, four times in 2018, and four times in 2017. His opponent, Antonio Nieves, is seven years older than him and has not been as active. He fought once in 2019, once in 2018, and twice in 2017…in which he lost both fights in 2017.
They are the same height and Nieves will have about a two and a half inch reach advantage over him. Neither boxer is known for their power, Greer has twelve stoppage wins while Nieves has eleven. However, Greer has won four of his past five fights by stoppage.
Nieves does appear to have an edge in amateur experience, as he was a National Golden Gloves Silver Medalist while Greer does not have any notable amateur titles or medals.
Greer has defeated the likes of Nikolai Potapov, Giovanni Escaner, Daniel Lozano, Glenn Dezurn, and James Smith. His lone loss was to the undefeated Stephen Fulton and he has a draw with Mario Ayala. Both his loss and draw were early on in his career.
Nieves has defeated the likes of Jose Alfredo Rodriguez, Christian Esquivel, and Alejandro Santiago Barrios. His losses were to Naoya Inoue and Nikolai Potapov.
This should be an intriguing and possibly close fight. Nieves has been in the ring with some very tough opponents and Greer is a young up and coming contender. Greer has to be considered a slight favorite in this fight, and it should help determine if he’s a legitimate challenger or not.
Shakur Stevenson (12-0) vs. Joet Gonzalez (23-0); WBO Featherweight Title
On paper, this looks to be the toughest fight of Shakur Stevenson’s career.
Stevenson will have a two inch height advantage over Gonzalez, but that will be negated by the two inch reach advantage that Gonzalez has. Both boxers are young, with Stevenson being twenty two years old and Gonzalez being twenty six years old. Both boxers are undefeated as a professional and have been fairly active.
Stevenson fought three times in 2019 and five times in 2018. Gonzalez fought twice in 2019 and three times in 2018. It appears that Gonzalez might have a slight edge in power as he has stopped fourteen of his opponents while Stevenson has only stopped seven. But three of the past four fights by Stevenson have resulted in a stoppage victory.
Stevenson does have a significant edge in amateur experience and accolades. Stevenson was a former US National Champion as an amateur and a Silver Medalist in the 2016 Summer Olympics. Gonzalez has no notable amateur championships.
Stevenson is a southpaw and Gonzalez fights out of an orthodox stance. This can often be a problem for less experienced fighters, but for a boxer with the amateur pedigree of Stevenson, it shouldn’t be an issue.
Stevenson has defeated the likes of Alberto Guevara, Christopher Diaz, Jessie Cris Rosales, Viorel Simion, and Aelio Mesquita. Every boxer Stevenson has defeated had a winning record at the time.
Gonzalez has defeated the likes of Manuel Avila, Rodrigo Guerrero, Rafael Rivera, and Derrick Murray.
This fight will be a good test for Stevenson as he chases his first legitimate world title. Gonzalez should challenge him, but Stevenson is one of the sport’s brightest prospects and it’s likely he will show the world why on Saturday night.
Joet Gonzalez Wins Split Decision over Rafael “Big Bang” Rivera
By: Ken Hissner
Golden Boy Promotions over ESPN Friday night put on a boxing event at the Nova Theater in downtown L.A. showing two female matches prior to the main event with hometown favorite Joet Gonzalez and Mexico’s Rafael Rivera being quite unusual.
Featherweight Joet Gonzalez, 20-0 (11), of Glendora, CA, won a split decision over Rafael “Big Bang” Rivera, 25-2-2 (16), of Tijuana, Baja, CA, Mexico, for the vacant WBO NABO Featherweight Title.
In the first round both fighters were taking turns being the aggressor. Halfway through the round Rivera landed half a dozen punches before getting knocked back by a Gonzalez left hook to the chin. In the second round Rivera used a good left hook doubling it up on Gonzalez. Gonzalez, the taller of the two can’t hold off Rivera who came forth with combinations to body and head.
In the third round it was the first clinch caused by Gonzalez. Gonzalez tried to hold off Rivera with a jab but it wasn’t enough. Gonzalez seemed to have to take punches in bunches before fighting back. In the fourth round Gonzalez finally put more than a single punch at a time also using an occasional elbow. Rivera continued to throw more in return after Gonzalez lands several punches and moves back.
In the fifth round Gonzalez opened up with a 3-punch combination before Rivera came back with a combination. Whenever Rivera got hit to the head he immediately came back with a flurry. Gonzalez landed a combination and again moved away allowing Rivera to come back at him with a flurry. Gonzalez kept his hands up using a good defense but his face was showing the marks of the battle.
In the sixth round Rivera drove Gonzalez against the ropes with a flurry of punches. Halfway through the round it became a real fight. Gonzalez near the end of the round had Rivera holding on. In the seventh round the fans start chanting “Joet, Joet” urging Gonzalez to be more offensive. Rivera rarely threw a jab living up to his nick name “Bang Bang” throwing punches. Gonzalez was using his strength inside landing a good right uppercut to the chin until a Rivera left hook stopped him from using his strength.
In the eighth round Rivera landed a double left hook to the liver. Rivera came forward low but not throwing punches until he got hit by Gonzalez. In the ninth round Gonzalez continued to come forward with hands held high allowing Rivera to get to his body. Gonzalez comes forward but not throwing the jab much looking for the big punch. Rivera countered a jab from Gonzalez with a right to the chin. Halfway through the round with Rivera inside he would hold Gonzalez’s glove with his arm until seperated.
In the tenth and final round Gonzalez used his jab as Rivera tried using his but falling short. Halfway through the round both fighters opened up knowing the fight may be on the line. Both opened up the last thirty seconds right to the bell.
Judges scores were 96-94 Gonzalez, 96-94 Rivera and 97-93 for Gonzalez. This writer had it 96-94 Rivera.
Gonzalez said “I’m calling out all featherweights including Gary Russell. I thought I won the fight easily.” He better watch what he is asking for. “He never hurt me. I knew coming from Tijuana it would be hard getting the win. I thought I won,” said Rivera. In the amateurs the jab scores points but in the pro’s Rivera throwing twice as many punches should have meant a victory.
In the co-main event flyweight Siessa “Super Bad” Estrada, 14-0 (4), of East L.A. easily stopped Jhosep “La Chica de Oro” Vizcaino, 7-7- (3) of Quito, ECU, at 0:20 of round 3.
In the first round it was all Estrada who was taking a flurry of punches and countered with a left hook dropping Vizdaino. In the second round Estrada turned southpaw up until near the end of the round switching back to orthodox. The referee Zachary Young gave Vizcaino a warning to start fighting back.
In the third round Estrada landed many punches to the head before landing a left hook to the liver of Vizdaino who after a slight delay went to the canvas causing referee Young to stop the lopsided fight. To her credit Vizdaino came without a trainer as a substitute replacing the scheduled Christian Gonzalez-German Meraz co-feature.
Super middleweight Maricela “La Diva” Cornejo, 12-2 (5), of Los Angelos, CA, stopped Samantha Pill, 3-1 (0), of Fairmont, WV, at 0:41 of the third round in a scheduled 6.
In the first round Cornejo pressed Pill who used a counter jab for the most part. It wasn’t until near the end of the round that a solid punch was landed by Cornejo a right to the chin of Pill.
In the second round Pill drove Cornejo back several steps with a right to the chin. The action picked up when Pill decided to mix it up but took a beating before she started moving as she did in the first round. You can tell Pill was an MMA boxer with little boxing experience.
In the third round Cornejo continued dishing out a beating on Pill. Referee Jack Reis wisely stopped the onslaught early in the round seeing that Pill didn’t know how to cover up taking too much punishment.
Joet Gonzalez & Rafael “Big Bang” Rivera on ESPN Friday
By: Ken Hissner
Featherweight sensation Joet Gonzalez, 19-0 (11), of L.A. looks to keep his unbeaten streak going Friday night in an Oscar de La Hoya Golden Boy Promotion at the Nova at L.A. live, in Los Angeles, CA. He meets Rafael “Big Bang” Rivera, 25-1-2 (16), of Tijuana, Baja, CA, Mexico, for the vacant WBO NABO Featherweight Title.
Rivera is coming off a loss last September to Joseph “Jo Jo” Diaz by decision. Diaz in May lost a lopsided world title challenge to Gary Russell Jr. after giving up the WBO NABO title.
Gonzalez has stopped his last five opponents. In his last and only fight in 2018 he knocked out Rolando “Smooth Operator” Magbanua, 29-7 (21), in 5 rounds. He has yet to get into the world ratings but possibly with a win he can enter the WBO ratings.
In the co-feature lightweight Christian “Chimpo” Gonzalez, 18-2 (15), of Buena Park, CA, takes on Arturo “Reyes” Santos Reyes, 19-10 (5), of Sonora, MEX, in an 8. Gonzalez has lost two of his last four fights including his last fight in February to Filipino Rey “Flash” Perez, 21-9, by an 8 round decision after suffering a pair of cuts on the left eye from an accidental head butt causing a 60 day suspension.
Reyes on the other hand has lost his last four fights to high quality boxers with a 70-4-1 combined record. A month ago he lost a split decision to Matt “Sweet Child” Conway, 12-0, for IBA Intercontinental title over 10 rounds in Pittsburgh, PA.
Super Middleweight Maricela “La Diva” Cornejo, 11-2 (4), of L.A. takes on Samantha Pill, 3-0 (0), of Fairmont, W.V., in a 6. Cornejo has won seven straight with her last win in May. She last lost in May in 2016 in Auckland, NZ, by split decision for the vacant WBC World Female Middleweight title to Kali Reis. In her prior fight she won the vacant WBC International Female Super Middleweight Title in August of 2015.
Joet Gonzalez – Ready For The Spotlight
By: Sean Crose
“Every other day, we run six to eight miles,” Joet Gonzalez tells me. “The location varies.” There are nineteen year olds who go to college. There are nineteen year olds who hold down forty hour full time jobs. There are nineteen year olds in the military. There are nineteen year olds who are slackers. There are few nineteen year olds, however, quite like the well spoken young Californian on the phone, who currently holds a record of 19-0, with eleven of those nineteen wins coming by knockout. “I start with jumping rope,” he says of his gym routine while in training, “shadow boxing, spar…go over the game plan.”
It’s a routine and a strategy which has served the rising featherweight well. He’s about to highlight his own ESPN card, after all, when he faces the 25-1-2 Rafael Rivera in Las Angeles on the 13th of this month for the vacant NABO featherweight title. “I take Rafael very seriously,” Gonzalez says, pointing out that Rivera fought the very notable Joseph Diaz last September on about “two to three day’s notice.” Rivera may have lost that fight, but Gonzalez knows that this time out, things will be different in the lead up for his determined Mexican opponent. “With me,” he says of Rivera, “he had time to prepare.”
Growing up, Gonzalez probably wasn’t the sort of kid most people figured would become a headline fighter showing off his skills on national television. “I was a little overweight,” he says, “and I was picked on.” Like many fighters who got their starts as bullied kids, Gonzalez’ father introduced him to boxing. Needless to say, the young man soon became hooked. Aside from his own experiences, Gonzlaez was inspired by Oscar De La Hoya, the man who would someday become his promoter. He speaks fondly of watching the thrilling throwdown De La Hoya had with Fernando Vargas back in 2002. “That really pushed me,” he says. It clearly helped push Gonzalez far, for the young fighter now willfully forgoes a life of ease.
“Obviously,” Gonzalez claims in regards to his athlete’s lifestyle. “I’m not out late.” Although he has a girlfriend, the professional boxer won’t be seen running around out and about with people his own age during all hours of the night. His profession, after all requires a large amount of discipline. Even during the Fourth of July, while everyone else was celebrating, Gonzalez was in the gym training for Rivera. “I could smell the barbecue from outside,” he says. To Gonzalez, however, such temptations are all a part of the job. “When I’m in camp,” he states, “I’m really focused.”
Such dedication leads to good things – one of those things being the ability to sign with a top promoter. De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions has not only made good fights available for Gonzalez, the company also offers the kind of exposure that’s hard to come by. “Since I signed with Golden Boy in 2012,” Gonzalez says, they’ve treated me really good.” Gonzalez states the company has gone out of it’s way to make him feel at home. “Just the way they talk to me,” he says, “they treat me like family…not just me, but my (own) family, as well.”
Hard work brings about its own rewards.