Shakur Stevenson appreciates what Bob Arum’s promotional company has done for his career in the five years since he signed with Top Rank Inc.
The highly skilled 2016 Olympic silver medalist has been showcased on ESPN throughout his professional career, became a multimillionaire and has won world titles in two weight classes. Stevenson still wasn’t about to sit by quietly when it became clear that Arum wanted to match Oscar Valdez versus Emanuel Navarrete, not Stevenson, following the Newark, New Jersey, native’s impressive, 10th-round, technical-knockout victory over Jamel Herring on October 23 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
Stevenson respectfully spoke his mind during a post-fight press conference that night. He publicly pressured Arum to give him the fight Stevenson wanted for more than two years – his shot at the undefeated Valdez. It took Valdez himself to demand the Stevenson fight for Top Rank to alter its Valdez-Navarrete plan, but the 24-year-old Stevenson ultimately got the fight he wanted.
Top Rank and ESPN announced February 17 that Valdez (30-0, 23 KOs) and Stevenson (17-0, 9 KOs) will finally fight April 30 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“I have been chasing this fight for nearly three years, since we were both at featherweight,” Stevenson said. “On April 30, I’m going to show him and the world why he ducked me all this time. I’m the best young fighter in the world, and I will become unified champion.”
The 31-year-old Valdez vacated the WBO featherweight title in 2019 instead of making a mandated defense of that 126-pound crown against Stevenson. The number one-rated Stevenson instead thoroughly out-boxed then-unbeaten, second-ranked Joet Gonzalez (24-2, 14 KOs) to win that unclaimed championship in October 2019 at Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nevada.
Mexico’s Valdez became a champion in a second weight class a year ago, when he surprisingly picked apart countryman Miguel Berchelt to win the WBC super featherweight title. Valdez battered Berchelt (38-2, 34 KOs) and dropped him in the fourth and ninth rounds before he stepped back and viciously knocked him out with a left hook in the 10th round at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
Valdez, a 2012 Olympian, wasn’t as convincing in his first title defense. He beat Brazil’s Robson Conceicao by unanimous decision, yet Conceicao (17-1, 8 KOs) pushed Valdez during much of what was a very competitive 12-round, 130-pound championship match September 10 at Casino del Sol in Tucson, Arizona.
The undefeated Valdez drew criticism prior to his victory over Conceicao because he tested positive for a banned substance almost a month before their fight. Phentermine, a stimulant prohibited both in and out of competition by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, turned up in Valdez’s “A” and “B” samples provided to VADA last August 13.