Shakur Stevenson is trying to win the fight before the fight against Oscar Valdez ahead of their anticipated junior lightweight unification match by first engaging in the all-important mental bout.
The WBO champion Stevenson (17-0, 9 KOs) and WBC titleholder Valdez (30-0, 23 KOs) will square off Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on ESPN, but before they meet and greet each other with punches, they went toe to toe in “Talk That Talk” on Top Rank’s digital channels.
“You’re going in there with somebody you can’t hit. So as the fight goes on, you’re going to be like, ‘I can’t do nothing,’ and that’s how I think the fight is going to go,” said Stevenson. “When I say ‘mentally drained,’ it’s not like you’re going in there with somebody that you can hit … It’s a technical type of fight.”
Valdez said: “Well, I feel different. The guy that makes the first mistake is going to pay for it. So this is that type of fight … I work hard. A lot of people think I just go in there and go toe-to-toe. I love that style, I love that because one thing that’s what the fans like … I don’t have to fight like that. I can box as well. I can use the ring. I can do a lot of things, but it all depends on what my rival brings to the table.”
Both fighters are two-division champions who each attained their 130-pound crowns in 2021 – Stevenson in a dominant stoppage win against Jamel Herring, and Valdez with a knockout of the year contender against Miguel Berchelt. Valdez’s year was more uneven, however, as he tested positive for the banned substance phentermine mere days before beating Robson Conceicao.
“The only time I saw him be technical was against a punching bag,” said Stevenson. “I’m not taking anything away from Berchelt. I thought that was a great victory, but I felt like he was walking forward, not really any defense, and Oscar timed him and caught him with a good shot.”
Valdez was an underdog when he beat Berchelt, who has since looked faded in a stoppage loss to Jeremia Nakathila – a fighter Stevenson easily outclassed last year with a decision victory.
Stevenson is not underestimating Valdez, however.
“I’m not trying to sleep on nobody like I got it won without putting the work in,” said Stevenson. “When I hear people say, [this is the second coming of Floyd Mayweather Jr’s win against Diego Corrales] that’s like counting [Valdez] out. I’m not looking at it like that. I’ve still got a task in front of me.
“I think it’s a fight that is going to take me to the next level. Right now, this is the Shakur Stevenson era, and I’m Shakur Stevenson. I’m not Floyd Mayweather. Two different fighters, two different people, but I’m going to go in there and perform and beat him up.”
Stevenson is betting on himself and taking the smaller purse than Valdez despite being the betting favorite.
“My mindset is whatever it takes to win. They’re going to love you if you win, or they’re going to hate you if you lose. I’m not going in there to lose,” said Stevenson. “I’m an offense and defensive fighter, so I’m naturally going to put on a show, but I’m not going to stand there and receive none in return.”