Nearly four years after dazzling everyone who saw him win a silver medal at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with his speed, footwork and instinctive feel for boxing, Shakur Stevenson stands as arguably the top male from the Class of 2016.
He’s the first male boxer from Rio to win a world title as a professional, beating Teofimo Lopez to that honor by two months. On Saturday at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Stevenson will make his first defense when he faces Miguel Marriaga.
He’s quickly shown why many regarded him as the Games’ top professional prospect and why all the major promoters were throwing money at him in an attempt to get his name onto a contract.
Stevenson, though, is just getting started and he’s got rather heady goals.
“Becoming the best boxer in the sport, beating all the dudes in this weight class, then going up and beating all the best dudes in the next one and becoming No. 1 on the pound-for-pound list and becoming a pay-per-view star while I do it, that’s my main goal,” said Stevenson, who is 13-0 with seven KOs heading into the defense of his WBO featherweight title on Saturday.
“I want to be the king in boxing. I plan on being Numero Uno. The way you do that is to fight the best guys and clean out the division and go to the next one and do it again. That’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Stevenson’s rolled to his 13-0 mark so far without so much as being pushed. He’s won nearly all of his fights in a rout and, while he’s reminded those who have seen him why such a fuss was made about him, he’s yet to fully display all of his abilities.
The last thing he wants to be known as is a defensive wizard who fights off the back foot and beats all of his opponents because he’s so much quicker and faster. He gave a hint of the kind of fighter he’ll develop into in his title winning effort against Joet Gonzalez when he won 11 of 12 rounds without being hit.
Against Marriaga, a hard puncher who has 25 knockouts among his 29 wins in 32 fights, Stevenson is going to take it to the next level.
“This time, I’m going to be a lot more offensive,” Stevenson said. “My last fight, I was offensive, but I was forced to box a lot. Against this guy, I’m going to go forward a lot more. No one is going to say, ‘Oh, Shakur, he all right but he runs.’ Nah, man, that ain’t happening. I’m going to step to him.
“I want to be a superstar in this sport. To be a superstar, you have to put on superstar performances against the best guys. This fight is an opportunity for me to do that. I want to show the whole thing and put on that superstar performance.”
He’ll be fighting in the shadow of his hometown, and there will be many of his friends and family in the crowd to cheer him on at the Garden. That’s often a lot for even the cagiest of veterans to deal with, but Stevenson is the rare breed who doesn’t seem to feel pressure.
He laughed at the notion it would be difficult for him.
He’s been so gifted and in the spotlight for so long that even at the tender age of 22, it’s old hat to him. He’s the kind of guy who plays to the crowd and puts on his best performances when the moment is biggest and the spotlight is the brightest.
“I’m a professional and you have to know how to be able to block out all the outside influences and concentrate on what’s in front of you when you’re a professional,” Stevenson said. “I get it. I’m there to do a job and I’ll approach this like every other fight I’ve had. There will be plenty of time to see everybody and talk and celebrate after the fight.
“I’m going there to do my job and that’s all I’m going to be focusing on. Once that job is over, then great, I’ll enjoy it, but you can’t lose sight of what you’re there to do.”
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