Stevenson already dreaming of Lomachenko, Conlan showdowns
Shakur Stevenson has no clue who he’ll be fighting in his highly anticipated professional debut on April 22, but the amateur star knows exactly who he’d like to face in the future.
“MGM in Vegas. Me versus Vasyl Lomachenko,” Stevenson described as his “dream fight” to RingTV.com on Tuesday in the lobby of the Manhattan Beach Marriott, where Top Rank held a press conference announcing the April 22 pay-per-view card ($44.95) the company will distribute live from the Stub Hub Center in Carson, California.
Stevenson, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist who recently signed a promotional deal with Top Rank, will be in the opening bout of the PPV card that features WBO titleholders Oscar Valdez, Jesse Magdaleno and Gilberto Ramirez.
Of course, the Lomachenko matchup he craves will take patience – something Shakur admitted to not having outside the ring – but that shouldn’t be all that surprising coming from a 19-year old, fresh-faced, always-smiling, star-gazer out of Newark, New Jersey.
“It was hard, I mean, I got by,” said Stevenson about growing up in his hometown. “I just stayed focused on boxing when I was there.” For Stevenson, it isn’t the classic case of having a rough upbringing in a rugged town that forced him into a gym and out of the streets.
“When I was five years old, my grandfather took me to one of his baseball games because he used to play. He was a boxing coach also, and he took some of his fighters, and he introduced me to them. After I met them, I felt like it was cool that they boxed. He took me to the gym the next day and I just fell in love with the sport.”
Stevenson describes himself as a performer, and that’s the reason he chose to fight for a living.
“I love the fact of getting in the ring and a whole bunch of eyes are on me, and I gotta be that person to perform. Like, I love entertaining people.”
Perhaps that’s why he’s always seen smiling, and if you look long enough, he’ll subtly shadowbox in any situation.
“I’m just happy,” Stevenson said about his grin. “Yesterday I was doing a photo shoot, and they was trying to get me to make a mean face and I could barely make a mean face cause I’m not like a mean person. I guess that’s just my personality.”
There’s plenty of mean people in boxing – both in and outside the ropes – and when proposed with the idea of having to gain some meanness within himself, Stevenson replied, “Honestly, I don’t trip about a mean guy being in my face, or just ’cause they look like they’re angry. I go in the ring to have fun. I love boxing, so I’m having fun in the ring. So most of the time when I’m in the ring I’m being competitive, smiling at people, and having fun basically.”
Taking part in a six-round featherweight contest in his debut, Stevenson will bypass the four-round level that most young prospects fight in. It goes to show the confidence Top Rank has in him, and Stevenson believes his recent experience in this past Olympics has him ahead of the pack – particularly being able to compete without headgear – something the Olympic committee just rolled out in 2016.
“I think that was a big advantage,” said Stevenson. “I feel like it was perfect. People complained about it, but I’m glad I got the experience to fight with no headgear. Most amateurs that came out of the Olympics that went to the professional ranks fought with headgear and had to adjust to it, but I’m already adjusted. I’m glad I got that experience.”
Stevenson wasn’t the only prospect signed by Top Rank in the past few months from the Rio Games. Michael Conlan is another fighter who made a name for himself last summer, and after this writer spoke to him last week, the Irishman mentioned Stevenson has a potential big money fight down the road.
“I agree with that because Conlan has the whole Irish fans behind him and I have a lot of American fans behind me,” said Stevenson. “We was supposed to meet up in Rio, and all the drama happened. He got robbed, I guess he had a controversial decision, so we didn’t get to meet. I can’t wait to fight him too.”
There was also airy bond between the two back in Rio even though they haven’t even got a chance to spar yet.
“We were in training camp in Rio. We was looking at each other and checking each other out like whenever I sparred he came over to watch me, and whenever he sparred I came over to watch him. Whenever we fight, I plan on beating him.”
It was just another big fight for Stevenson down the road, later describing it, “Like a baby Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight. A tiny one.”
With his eyes fixated on the stars he set high above, Stevenson is ready to get on with the process.