Shakur Stevenson shines as big-time boxing comes back

BIG-TIME boxing returned for the first time in three
months as Top Rank staged a behind-closed-doors event at the MGM Grand
Conference Center. Headlining the sport’s first show in Las Vegas since February
28 was the reigning WBO featherweight champion, Shakur Stevenson. Heavily
touted as a potential pound-for-pound king of the future, the unbeaten American
had been scheduled to make the initial defence of his world title back on March
14, but the coronavirus pandemic, and subsequent sporting shutdown, put paid to
those plans.

Boxing in a rust-shedding 10-rounder up at super-featherweight,
Stevenson’s opponent was Felix Caraballo – an unheralded Puerto Rican
who works full-time at a supermarket warehouse. Prior to this bout, the man
from Mayaguez had fought exclusively in his homeland.

The underdog attempted to press Stevenson in the
opener, yet he was unable to catch up with the elusive 22-year-old. Nimbly
bouncing around on his toes, the speedy Shakur pumped out sharp southpaw one-twos
mixed with fierce bursts of punches. With just under a minute left in the round,
the Newark native struck Caraballo with a left to the waistline, followed by a
right up top and a further right to the ribs. The final blow caused the visitor
to spin away and sink to one knee, leading referee Tony Weeks to issue a count.

In the second session, a rasping right hook wobbled Caraballo’s
legs. Despite being faced with an array of accurate, quick-fire combinations,
the game 33-year-old stubbornly maintained his forward march. Finding the
target with ease, Stevenson continued to sit down on his shots in the third.

After softening Caraballo up with stiff jabs and educated
body work in round four, Stevenson displayed fine footwork in the fifth to make
him miss. Repeatedly punishing Caraballo’s mistakes, Stevenson scored with a
jarring right uppercut on the inside, before unleashing a vicious four-punch salvo,
punctuated by a lashing left cross.

Following a right hand downstairs that strayed low in
the sixth, Caraballo was given time to recuperate by the official. Stevenson
soon found his range, however, as a perfectly placed left hook to the liver
dropped Caraballo down to all fours. The contest was immediately terminated at
1-31.

In his post-fight interview, Stevenson was asked what his
thoughts were on the comparisons that people have made between himself and the former
P4P supremo, Floyd Mayweather.

“We’re two different fighters,” Stevenson said. “I
feel like we’ve got two different styles. I’ve got my own style. I’ve stolen a
couple of things from his game. I’ve stolen stuff from Pernell Whitaker,
Terence Crawford, Andre Ward. I’ve stolen stuff from a lot of guys – it’s not
just Floyd that I try to put in my game. I appreciate the comparison because it’s
a huge compliment, but I’m still my own fighter. I’m the first Shakur Stevenson.”

In action on the undercard was the boxer who defeated
Stevenson in the final of the 2016 Olympic Games – classy Cuban Robeisy Ramirez.
The Gulfport, Florida-based portsider, who also grabbed a gold medal at the
2012 Olympics, made short work of 25-year-old Dominican Yeuri Andujar in
a scheduled six-round featherweight clash.

Ramirez floored the outgunned Andujar with a left
uppercut-left hook combo, then ended matters by sending the San Cristobal
resident to the canvas again with a booming left. The finish came after just 54
seconds. Mr Weeks officiated.

Since shockingly losing on his pro debut in August
last year, Ramirez has won three fights on the spin – all via the early route.
After his latest win, the 26-year-old revealed that he has  “been working on the fundamentals of becoming
a true professional fighter.”    

The Verdict It is good to see boxing back on our screens, albeit in unusual circumstances.

FULL RESULTS
Shakur Stevenson (130lbs), 14-0 (8), w rsf 6 Felix Caraballo (130lbs), 13-2-2 (9); Robeisy Ramirez (126lbs), 3-1 (3), w rsf 1 Yeuri Andujar (125 1/2lbs), 5-4 (3); Guido Vianello (239 1/4lbs), 7-0 (7), w rsf 1 Don Haynesworth (294 1/2lbs), 16-4-1 (14); Jared Anderson (236 1/2lbs), 4-0 (4), w rsf 3 Johnnie Langston (218 1/4lbs), 8-3 (3); Quatavious Cash (160 1/2lbs), 12-2 (7), w td 6 Calvin Metcalf (158 1/4lbs), 10-4-1 (3).

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