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Shakur Stars in Lightweight Debut, Eyes Undisputed Crown

Shakur Stevenson (20-0, 10 KOs) had been labeled “boring” at times on his way up the ranks. Being someone who enjoys watching high level boxing as much as I do an all out war, I never agreed with those opinions. Regardless of what was said in the past, ever since his breakout TKO victory over Jamel Herring (23-4, 11 KOs) he has fought much more offensively to the delight of boxing fans.

This was on display again last night, as he combined his impeccable ability to dictate range and avoid punches with his sharp offensive work. Shuichiro Yoshino (16-1, 12 KOs) is a world class fighter with quality wins who is somewhere around the 12-15th best lightweight in the world, however, he was totally outmatched against a high level operator like Shakur. Every time Yoshino would try to close the distance, he would miss the target and pay by eating a sharp counter punch from Stevenson.

Stevenson scored two knockdowns, one on a straight left hand in the second round and one on a combination in the fourth round, on the way to being awarded the sixth round TKO victory. After the fight Shakur turned his attention to the top of the lightweight division, specifically undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney (29-0, 15 KOs). Haney texted ESPN’s Mark Kriegel to inform him that he plans to stay at the 135lb division even after his May 20th showdown with Vasyl Lomachenko (17-2, 11 KOs).

“Just tell all them other lightweights: get ready. I’m waiting for them. I can’t wait for them to finish the fights they got going on and then it’s my turn.”

“Hey, tell him (Haney) come on. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. I swear to God, I’ve been waiting for that for a long time. Me and Devin been in the ring with each other for years. I always got the best of Devin. Tell him to come on.”

The main card also spotlighted two of Top Rank’s highest rated up-and-comers. Jared Anderson (14-0, 14 KOs) and Keyshawn Davis (8-0, 6 KOs) are both closer to being contenders than they are prospects since they both passed yet another test with flying colors. Davis opened up the ESPN telecast with a ninth round stoppage victory over former Olympian and 140lb title challenger Anthony Yigit (26-3-1, 10 KOs). He systematically broke down Yigit, and dropped him with a brutal right hand to the body at the end of round eight.

Anderson squared off against George Arias (18-1, 7 KOs), who had beaten three undefeated fighters in his last four fights and was brought in to give Jared quality rounds against a tricky opponent. It only took Jared two rounds to get used to the awkward movements and counterpunches Arias possessed. In round three he had Arias out on his feet at the end of the round. The fight was stopped in the corner before round four, and Anderson was awarded his 14th consecutive stoppage victory.

The ESPN+ undercard featured some prospects who you should certainly keep an eye on. Bruce “Shu Shu” Carrington was the top performer, scoring an impressive second round stoppage over a previously undefeated opponent in Brandon Chambers (9-1-1, 5 KOs). 2020 US Olympian Troy Isley picked his shots really well and won a wide unanimous decision over Roy Barringer (9-4). Newly signed Polish heavyweight Damian Knyba (11-0, 7 KOs) stopped Curtis Harper (14-9, 9 KOs) in the eighth round of a fight that was relatively underwhelming. Keyshawn Davis’s older brother, Kelvin (8-0, 5 KOs), picked up a unanimous decision win over a game Nelson Morales (3-5). The night opened up with a trilogy fight between Antoine Cobb (1-0-3, 1 KO) and Jaylan Phillips (1-2-3, 1 KOs). For the third straight time, they fought to a majority decision draw. I was fine with either guy winning 39-37 or a draw, but felt the 40-36 scorecard for Cobb was too wide.

Overall, it was great to experience this card in person. The atmosphere was great, and Shakur has really built an authentic fanbase in Newark and all along the east coast. The total attendance was 10,408, which was higher than his last fight at the Prudential Center against Conceicao. The live gate was also $847,000, which was the highest grossing boxing event the arena has ever had and is a testament to Stevenson’s ability as a local draw.

In the post fight interview Stevenson also spoke about what fighting in Newark is all about, and he thanked everyone in his team for the role they’ve played so far in his journey to the top of the sport.

“Newark’s main name is ‘The Bricks’, and tonight I had bricks in my hand, so we did what we were supposed to do. We stood on our business, and now we’re about to enjoy the family. Thank you to all of my team. I appreciate my team for staying down with me. I know that I disappeared for a long time, but I gotta handle business first.”

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