Shakur Stevenson outclasses Oscar Valdez to unify junior lightweight titles, win RING championship
LAS VEGAS – Shakur Stevenson came, saw and conquered Saturday night. Not only did he defeat Oscar Valdez to become a unified world titleholder, he made a claim to be included among the best fighters in the sport today.
Stevenson dropped Valdez once en route to a one-sided decision victory before a boisterous crowd of 10,102 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Scores were 118-109, 118-109, and 117-110 for Stevenson (18-0, 10 knockouts), who retained the WBO world title and won Valdez’s WBC title and the vacant Ring Magazine junior lightweight championship.
The fight created buzz amongst boxing fans from the day it was announced. Both are promoted by Top Rank and entered Saturday’s fight unbeaten, but Stevenson was the betting favorite. He closed as an 8-1 favorite at the MGM Grand Sportsbook.
From the opening bell, Stevenson worked behind a consistent jab, utilizing his quickness to throw and land a straight or left cross to the head of Valdez during the first couple of rounds.
Midway through the second round, Valdez began focusing his attack to the body, connecting with left hooks to the body of Stevenson. Valdez did find success throwing and landing a lead right hand to the head that Stevenson took well. Valdez continued to attempt to get on the inside of Stevenson’s guard. He would occasionally lunge forward in hopes of catching Stevenson flush, which he did at times.
Undeterred, Stevenson continued to outland Valdez, mixing his attack that kept Valdez at bay. After the fifth round, Valdez showed the effect of Stevenson’s accurate punches as there was bruising on his face.
Stevenson scored a knockdown in the sixth round. Stevenson landed a punch that was partially blocked, prompting Valdez to counter with a left hook that missed. Stevenson followed up by landing a right uppercut that was blocked, but Valdez wound up on the canvas. Referee Kenny Bayless administered a standing eight-count to Valdez, who looked confused and did not understand why a standing eight-count was administered by Bayless.
With stablemate and RingMagazine super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez at ringside, Valdez started to let go of his right hand in the eighth round. Once he closed the distance between the two, Valdez unleashed right crosses to the head. A series of right hands at the beginning of the ninth round caught Stevenson’s attention. Valdez continued to try to lay traps in order for him to close the distance. The tactic worked at times, but Stevenson would swing momentum his way by landing straight or counter left hands to the head.
As the fight progressed into the championship rounds, Stevenson teed off on Valdez in the 11th round, landing at will as Valdez looked tired. Undaunted, Valdez let his hands go in the final round, but it was too little, too late as Stevenson looked up at the big screen inside the arena to see how much time was left. As Valdez pressed, Stevenson took a victory lap around the ring, knowing he did more than enough to come victorious.
CompuBox numbers had Stevenson with a significant edge, landing 189 total punches. Valdez only landed 110.
As he had the belts draped over him, Stevenson got down on one knee to propose to his girlfriend Young Lyric, who said yes.
“I want to collect all the belts at 130 (pounds) and become undisputed,” said Stevenson after the fight. “I deserve to be a superstar, so that’s what I gotta do.
THE FIRST KNOCKDOWN BELONGS TO SHAKUR. pic.twitter.com/EubZKL12Ro
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) May 1, 2022
“This victory means everything. I told ya’ll what I was going to do. I said I’m gonna beat Valdez, Canelo, and Eddy Reynoso, so that was the game plan, beat the whole team and I feel good about it. Much respect to them, but that was my game plan.”
The win puts Stevenson in the mix amongst pound-for-pound fighters in boxing. Valdez conceded defeat, praising Stevenson.
“He has great boxing skills,” said Valdez. “He was just the better fighter this night. He did what he had to do to win the fight. He’s a great fighter. His speed is there. Power is there. He was just the better fighter tonight. Overall, (Stevenson is) a great fighter.”
Valdez, who resides in Nogales, Mexico, drops to 30-1 (23 KOs). He is managed by Frank Espinoza.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing