Shakur Stevenson: ‘I want all the champions, but first, I have to beat Christopher Diaz’
Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson wants to fight better opposition, but is he biting off more than he can chew against Christopher Diaz Saturday night?
Some boxing insiders may think that’s the case, but Stevenson is convinced that he will defeat the former world title challenger.
This intriguing 10-round bout takes place at Madison Square Garden in New York. It will be televised on the undercard of an ESPN pay-per-view card (9:00p.m. ET/ 6:00p.m. PT) which is headlined by Terence Crawford defending his WBO welterweight title against Amir Khan.
The 21-year-old Stevenson (10-0, 6 knockouts), who grew up across the Hudson River in Newark, New Jersey, stopped Jessie Cris Rosales of the Philippines in the fourth round of his last bout on Jan. 18.
The quick-fisted southpaw has displayed more aggression in recent fights; sitting down on his punches and landing with accuracy. But he will require his A-game against Diaz, who lost a close decision to Masayuki Ito for the vacant WBO junior lightweight title on July 28.
Stevenson’s accomplishments, including knockout victories over Viorel Simion and Aelio Mesquita, have propelled him into the top-10 rankings of all major sanctioning bodies, including a No. 3 spot with the WBA, and the former amateur star puts his fast-track success down to quality sparring. Last year, the fighter known as “Fearless” traveled to Oxnard, California to work with three-weight world champion and pound-for-pound No. 1 Vasiliy Lomachenko. Stevenson has also worked with Crawford and junior lightweight contender Jamel Herring.
“I was ready to take the next step in my career,” said Stevenson at an open workout earlier this week. “This is a fight I wanted. I want to show everyone I am a top fighter. The time was now to step up.”
Diaz (24-1, 16 KOs), who moved back down to featherweight after challenging for the 130-pound belt against Ito, is no slouch. The native of Barranquitas, Puerto Rico, impressively knocked out David Berna in the opening round of his last bout on Nov. 24.
And many have questioned whether Stevenson will be focused on this fight. Just over two weeks ago video footage surfaced of a violent altercation involving women in Miami last year. Stevenson was later arrested for assault and the case is pending.
Stevenson doesn’t appear distracted but that cloud looms over a fight that could conceivably move him into world title contention. The WBO belt is currently held by Oscar Valdez, who returns on June 8 with a potential bout against Carl Frampton mooted for later this year.
With possible world title fights and bigger purses on the line for 2019, Stevenson sees only victory.
“My team and I know we can beat Diaz, which is why we took this fight,” he said. “This is my time. This is what I’ve wanted since I turned pro following the Olympics.”
“I want all the champions, but first, I have to beat Christopher Diaz.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing
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