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Shakur Stevenson stops Shuichiro Yoshino in six rounds to win lightweight eliminator

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - APRIL 08: Shakur Stevenson (L) and Shuichiro Yoshino (R) exchange punches during their lightweight fight at Prudential Center on April 08, 2023 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)
Fighters Network

NEWARK, N.J. — For Shakur Stevenson, there is no place like home.

The 25-year-old returned to the ring at Prudential Center in his hometown of Newark, making his grand entrance to the lightweight division with a sixth round stoppage win over Shuichiro Yoshino. Referee Allen Huggins stopped the fight at the 1:35 mark, a fitting time for Stevenson’s lightweight debut.

The fight, which headlined an ESPN broadcast, was a WBC lightweight elimination bout, making the former featherweight and junior lightweight titleholder Stevenson (20-0, 10 knockouts) the next in line to challenge for one of the belts held by RING/undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney.

The bout was Stevenson’s most impressive offensive performance since his ten-round stoppage of Jamel Herring in 2021. Stevenson, a natural counterpuncher, had the perfect foil in front of him in the form of Yoshino (16-1, 12 KOs), a straight-ahead brawler from Japan who doesn’t even move his head to roll with a shot that connects on it.

Stevenson said that Yoshino’s pre-fight criticism, saying that he had no punching power, motivated him to sit down on his punches more.

That’s what they all say, that I don’t got no power. Let’s see if they’ll get in the ring with me,” said Stevenson.

Stevenson’s ring walk music choice of “Back End” by Finesse2Tymes was a hint at events to come, as Stevenson cashed in on the back end in round two, slipping a pair of Yoshino’s punches to drop him with a straight left to the chin.

Stevenson showed he could create offense on the front end too, dropping Yoshino with a straight left-right hook combination. Yoshino beat the count, but the gap between the two was widening by the second. Yoshino, who holds wins over former WBO junior lightweight titltheolder Masayuki Ito and lightweight contender Masayoshi Nakatani, never stopped throwing but also never began landing anything meaningful, creating endless counterpunching opportunities for the 2016 Olympic silver medalist.

Stevenson couldn’t miss with his right hooks and left uppercuts, a fact not lost on the referee, who stepped in due to Yoshino’s inability to make the fight more competitive.

“I thought he should have let it keep going. If he had let it keep going, I would have been able to sit him down for real,” said Stevenson. “I wanted to finish him.”

The fight was Stevenson’s first since he lost his WBO and WBC junior lightweight titles on the scales prior to his September fight against Robson Conceicao. That misstep did little to dull the enthusiasm for Stevenson in his hometown, as the fight drew a reported crowd of 10,408, which Top Rank says is the highest grossing boxing event in the venue’s history.

Stevenson now sets his sights on Haney (29-0, 15 KOs), who won the title in June of 2022 with a decision win over George Kambosos Jr., and will make his second defense of the belt on May 20 against former champion Vasiliy Lomachenko at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Haney says he will remain at lightweight to meet Stevenson’s challenge, which Stevenson says will play into his hands as the 24-year-old Haney struggles to continue making the 135-pound limit.

“I think it’s gonna be easy work. I think I’m gonna smoke him. I think I’m gonna shock everybody by smoking him and making it a real easy fight,” said Stevenson.

“Everybody is gonna be like, ‘Damn, you is who you say you is.'”