Shakur Stevenson apologetic following dreadful title bout with Edwin De Los Santos
Before he made his way to the ring at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Shakur Stevenson was pictured, in his pre-fight dressing room, with Floyd Mayweather Jr., Terence Crawford, and Andre Ward.
One, in Crawford, is the world’s finest active fighter. The other two are among the finest of all time.
Stevenson, 26, has long been recognized as Crawford’s successor – and there were also times when Mayweather and Ward were considered the very best.
At the conclusion of the 12 tedious rounds, he shared with Edwin de los Santos – after the most disappointing fight of his career he was awarded scores of 115-113, 116-112 and 116-112 – Stevenson apologized to all three fighters, as well as to his fans.
“[Mayweather] came here to support me,” he said. “I appreciate Floyd. I apologize to him. I apologize to Andre Ward. I apologize to Terence Crawford. All my idols; I put on a bad performance; they came to see a great performance and I put on a bad one.
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) November 17, 2023
“I apologize to my fans; I apologize to everybody that felt I could have did more. I did too, so, sorry.”
As Stevenson has matured as a fighter he – much like Crawford, and in contrast to Mayweather – has shown little desire to pretend to be anyone other than exactly who he is. He appreciates honesty as much as he is honest; he speaks his mind; he has even less interest in playing games.
“I don’t care,” he responded when he asked about the booing that started, prematurely, in the second round and continued into the 12th. “I seen the greats get booed.
“I seen Andre Ward get booed; I seen Floyd get booed. I seen, Terence Crawford – go and watch his early fights in his career when he was outboxing people and they wanted him to stand there and trade – I seen him get booed. So, I don’t care.”
All three fighters valued victory above entertainment – and doing so did little to harm their income, and even less harm to their health. All three fighters also struggled for recognition at different points in their careers, until such a time as their achievements meant that their greatness could no longer be overlooked.
Though excessive throughout his fight with De Los Santos, Stevenson’s discipline will no doubt continue to be a strength. He remained composed and unconcerned when the booing started from the estimated 6,000 in attendance at the 20,000 capacity venue – he has already recognized that his abilities aren’t truly appreciated – and was fighting for no one other than himself.
“I seen Floyd in situations where he had bad performances versus Carlos Baldomir, other fighters, and he just got the win, and that’s all I was thinking of,” he said. “If Floyd can go in there and get the win on a bad night I can too.”
A fighter more concerned with public opinion and less secure in his abilities might have taken risks Stevenson was unwilling to; he might also have tried considerably harder to make sure that the public-relations battle was won.
The 24-year-old De Los Santos demonstrated that he is one such fighter. In the fifth round, when Stevenson out-landed him by 25 to 16 punches, he mocked running from his opponent; his southpaw stance also did little to enhance the nature of what was unfolding but unlike Stevenson, who was aware that he was doing enough to secure victory, De Los Santos didn’t seem interested in attempting to win.
By the time he said, post-fight, “I came to fight; he came for a track meet,” CompuBox had recorded him landing a total of 40 punches, which in their 38-year existence was a record low.
De Los Santos – of the Dominican Republic – had ensured that he will be subjected to a fraction of the criticism Stevenson had already had to listen to, but Stevenson will also know that because of the expectations that surround him it will be demanded of him that he excels every time he climbs into the ring.
He will also have known that against De Los Santos he was little more than a pawn in the wider picture of the Formula One Grand Prix that is dominating Vegas, and to the extent that ESPN demanded Top Rank stage his opportunity to become a three-weight world champion on a Thursday evening to complement those plans. The presence of the Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc ringside was more celebrated than that of Teofimo Lopez; chequered flags adorned the graphics around the T-Mobile Arena when Stevenson – the fighter of the coming era – had experienced a build-up that taught him that his fight was in so many ways being overlooked.
There will come a time in Stevenson’s career when his discipline will embarrass a more aggressive and ambitious opponent, and also when, as with Mayweather-Baldomir, his fight with De Los Santos will come to be known as something he simply had to endure.
“These belts are like dust,” he also said, having forgotten that he was wearing a WBC-branded hat when he betrayed the same win-at-all-costs mentality that underpins what made his three dressing room visitors’ careers. “I care about being great. I come here to win. ‘I’m gonna win’.”
Emmanuel Navarrete was earlier perhaps fortunate to retain his WBO super featherweight title at the conclusion of 12 hard-fought rounds with Robson Conceicao. It might be that, with barely three months having passed since he produced a career-best performance in his victory over Oscar Valdez, he ultimately had made too early a return to the ring.
It might also be that he didn’t believe that Conceicao posed the same caliber of threat as his fellow Mexican, but against Conceicao’s sound technique his unorthodox style was too rarely as effective as it has previously been, even during a fight in which he recorded the two knockdowns that took place before being awarded one score of 114-112 against two of 113-113, and therefore a majority draw.
Most positive for Top Rank may have been Abdullah Mason’s second-round stoppage of Jose Cardenas. Mason is another to have caught Crawford’s – and increasingly others’ – educated eye.