With Shakur Stevenson preparing himself for the first defense of his WBO Featherweight title, he took some time to stop by and give the crew at Boxing Insider Radio his thoughts on his upcoming contest against Miguel Marriaga and his future plans.
Aside from the normal cast, former undisputed Welterweight champion Zab Judah was also in the house to ask the young champ a few questions as well. To join the conversation simply subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify or on Boxinginsider.com.
An Olympic Silver medal, a Featherweight world title and several wins over high ranking contenders sounds like a pretty good career doesn’t it?
Some of the greatest boxers in the world have gone their entire careers without accomplishing half as much.
Ken Norton, who is universally known to have been one of the best Heavyweights in the world in the 1970s, challenged for the world title on three separate occasions and lost every single time. Through 50 fights, he never managed to attain championship status.
Benny Briscoe spent a 95 fight career without calling himself a champion as well, despite numerous cracks at it.
Briscoe and Norton may have come up short in their championship bids, but at least they were given an opportunity. Heavyweight Sam Langford stepped into the ring 313 times over the course of 24 years. Not once did he even challenge for a world title.
Yes, you read that correctly. Through 313 career ring appearances, Langford was never given the opportunity to call himself a champion. Yet in comparison, Shakur Stevenson did so in just 13 fights.
On Saturday night March 14th, at Madison Square Garden, in New York City, Stevenson places his title on the line against Miguel Marriaga. If the name sounds familiar, there’s a reason. Marriaga has fought just about everyone in the Featherweight and Super Featherweight division including Vasiliy Lomachenko and Oscar Valdez.
Not many are expecting it to be competitive. But even fewer are anticipating a Stevenson loss. Fighters have a tendency to drum up soft up touches as difficult matchups. Wanting the media and the fans to believe that a no hoper has a legitimate shot, but Stevenson isn’t trying to pull wool over anyone’s eyes here. He knows exactly what he’s dealing with.
“It’s a measuring stick sort of fight,” said Stevenson on Boxing Insider Radio. “I’m a beat dude up. I know that he’s tough since he fought Lomachenko, Oscar Valdez and Nicholas Walters so I know he’s tough but shit, tough ain’t enough.”
Stevenson isn’t exactly concerned with whatever Marriaga brings to the table. In fact, the Featherweight champ is already looking right through his opponent and on to his next fight and soon to be future.
“I’m trying to fight Josh Warrington to unify the division in England then I want to move up to 130, cause there isn’t really anybody here at 126. But when I get to 130 I’m hoping Lomachenko comes down so that I can beat up on him.”
Beating up on Lomachenko isn’t something that other fighters usually say so casually. He’s only a two time Olympic gold medalist, three division world champion, current unified Lightweight champ and oh yeah, he also managed to put together an amateur record of 396-1.
Regardless of the accolades that Lomachenko possesses that stretch around the block, there’s a reason why Stevenson wants a matchup with him sooner rather than later. The two may compete in different weight classes at the moment, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t shared the ring before. And by all accounts, Stevenson gained a ton of respect.
“I got the chance to spar with Lomachenko a few years and ago and it was good and competitive sparring. I try not to speak too much on sparring but Lomachenko respected me a lot because I was begging to go down there and spar him. They said I could go, but I wasn’t going to get paid but I just said okay no problem. By the first week they gave me a check and wanted to keep me for the whole camp. I sparred him for about 3 weeks straight and I was ready to leave but his team was saying that they wanted to pay me extra to stay so his team respects me and Lomachenko is a helluva fighter, but I think I am going to be the one to expose him.”
If current IBF Lightweight world titlist and former fellow US Olympic teammate Teofimo Lopez has anything to say about it, Stevenson will never receive his chance. That’s because both Lopez and Lomachenko are slated to face one another this coming Spring.
Stevenson has never been one to follow the crowd, but in terms of this matchup, his thinking falls right in line with mostly everyone else.
“I’m going with Lomachenko. I like Teofimo, don’t get me wrong but he has never been in the ring with that caliber of a fighter before.”
The same could be said about Stevenson. Sure he can officially call himself a world champion, but his resume leaves much to be desired. The lack of names on his ledger isn’t his own doing however. The 22 year old has asked for the biggest names in the division, but they aren’t exactly jumping for joy with the opportunity to face him.
Going up against Miguel Marriaga won’t send his profile through the roof. But just a few days after his contest, another Featherweight contender will step into the ring in Michael Conlan.
Conlan of course, is best known for sticking out his middle finger to the judges during the 2016 Olympic Games. As it stands, both Conlan and Stevenson share a few eerily things in common. For one, Conlan’s record of, 13 wins with zero defeats, with seven of those wins coming via knockout, is exactly the same as Stevenson. Conlan picked up the bronze medal in the 2012 Olympic Games, while Stevenson grabbed the silver in 2016. At 5 feet 8 inches, they even share the same height.
Still, even with so many things in common, Stevenson believes there is no comparison. But don’t expect him to be given the chance to show it inside of the ring anytime soon though.
“Bob Arum already said that we can’t fight cause he’s a small 126 pounder and I’m a big 126 pounder so he doesn’t want to see that fight happen. For this fight I actually asked to fight Michael Conlan because he’s about to be my mandatory for the WBO but Arum just doesn’t want to make it happen.”
Whether it’s a showdown with Conlan, Vasiliy Lomachenko or any of the other top names in or around his division, Stevenson wants them all. With the sort of talent that he possesses, it comes as no surprise that he is already being compared to some of the greatest fighters to ever lace em up.
This is common practice in the sport of boxing, but at this point, it could be considered malpractice as the pressure that is placed on the shoulders of these fighters often times are too much for them to bear.
So who is the historically great fighter that Stevenson has been compared to?
That isn’t too much of a lofty goal for Stevenson. After all, to live up those expectations all he has to do is become a five division world champion, beat some of the best fighters of all-time and go on to have an undefeated career over a 20 year span. Sounds easy enough.
The comparison to Mayweather might seem a bit far fetched, but in actuality, it may not be.
In 1998, a 21 year old Floyd Mayweather cruised to an easy victory over Genaro Hernandez for his first world title. In his most recent ring appearance, Stevenson, 22, made it look easy against Joet Gonzalez to take home his first world title as well. In 1996, Mayweather was forced to take home a bronze medal in the Olympic Games when many believed he was robbed of the gold. Stevenson shares a similar story.
In 2016, Stevenson managed to fight his way to the final contest of the Rio De Janeiro games. Many believed that he did more than enough to take home gold, but came up short against Robeisy Ramirez.
When Mayweather was given the short end of the stick, he vowed to never lose again. Nearly 25 years later and a perfect record of 50-0, Mayweather proved himself right. Now, Stevenson uses the same motivation for himself.
“That motivates me. That was just like one of the worst days of my life, like it felt like somebody important to me died. I had put my all into wanting to win an Olympic gold medal. I was just right there so to lose right there it kind of broke me. But when I decided to turn pro I told myself that I was never going to lose again.”
Through 13 pro fights, Stevenson has kept his promise intact. Gold medal winning Robeisy Ramirez however, hasn’t been so lucky as he lost the first fight of his career.
“It’s not for everybody,” said Zab Judah as he chimed in on why some boxers have more success in the amateurs than the pros. ‘I know a lot of great fighters that had great amateur careers and they were untouchable but when they got to the pros and that headgear came off ohhh man it was like a button that every time they got touched they just kept going down.”
“Yeah it’s not the same level as amateurs,” said Stevenson as he picked up where Zab left off. “You’re fighting with smaller gloves, no headgear. Being in shape and skill plays a major part as well but it’s just a major difference between the pros and the amateurs.”
For now, Stevenson is showing that there is hardly a difference at all. He was dominant in the amateurs and even more so in the pros. It looks as though there isn’t much of a difference at all. At least for him.
But truth be told, there are a number of young fighters who have come onto the scene and have made it look easy. Ryan Garcia, Gervonta Davis, Devin Haney, Teofimo Lopez and Chris Colbert are already making major noise as professionals.
Stevenson also notices and see’s them all as future matchups. But there is one name that stands out amongst the rest.
“I want to go up eventually and see all of those guys. Like with Ryan Garcia I beat him in the amateurs so we have a little bit of history. But if I’m being honest I think me and Devin are going to be the last two fighters standing. I just think Devin is a helluva fighter.”
There are those who would advise Stevenson to not overlook Marriaga. 25 knockout wins over 29 overall wins would tell you that he’s dangerous. But the young WBO belt holder simply rolls his eyes.
“Man, he’s got no chance. I’m a beat him up.”