The next Floyd Mayweather? A chance for Shakur Stevenson to make his case

Boxing


Shakur Stevenson is unabashedly looking ahead. The 22-year-old has a wish list of marquee fighters lined up. He easily rattles off their weaknesses and how he’d pick each one of them apart.

Josh Warrington is first up. Stevenson says it’s the only fight keeping him at 126 pounds and he’s agreed to travel to England to face the 30-0 IBF featherweight titlist. They just have to get the money right.

“I don’t like comparing myself to Floyd [Mayweather] — I let everybody else do that — but I think that fight [against Warrington] would be like Floyd vs. Ricky Hatton,” Stevenson says. “Where [Hatton is] coming forward trying to get to Floyd, then boom it’s over. Floyd finessing him, beating him to the punch then boom — got him. I think that fight would be similar to me [fighting] Josh Warrington. I think I’d stop him.”

As WBO featherweight titleholder Stevenson (13-0, 7 KOs) welcomes back boxing on Tuesday (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET) after a three-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, he won’t face Warrington or any others on his list. Instead, he’s headlining against someone who was completely off his radar, Puerto Rico’s Felix Caraballo (13-1-2, 9 KOs).

“I don’t know nothing about [Caraballo], I don’t know not one thing,” Stevenson says. “I watched one, maybe two rounds of the guy. … [I’m going to] go in there and get him out of there.”

Stevenson hasn’t fought in nearly eight months — doubling the longest stretch of inactivity of his pro career — and he’s itching to get back. He watched only two rounds of Caraballo before predicting he’ll knock him out within the first four rounds. Stevenson hopes to prove he’s a “fighter at heart” and showcase the power that his doubters claim he lacks.

But again, Stevenson has much more in mind than an early-round KO of Caraballo. He has a short-term road map to defeat Warrington, then move up to 130 where Top Rank has a strong stable of challengers for him to face.

He also has a five-year plan to become the king of boxing, with super lofty career goals of surpassing Mayweather’s 50-0 record before he hangs up the gloves.

“I want to out-do Floyd. At 13-0 right now, I think I’m better than where Floyd was when he was 13-0,” Stevenson says. “Floyd is the greatest fighter of our era. I just want to be better.

“I’m going to be running the game when I’m 27, 28, where there’s nothing you can do when you get in the ring with me. I’ll be that superstar of the sport, that alpha dog.”

Stevenson doesn’t care if you don’t believe he can do it. He’s ready to show you. All of this makes Stevenson the perfect fighter to feature as major boxing returns Tuesday.

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2:14

Shakur Stevenson is humbled by the comparisons to Floyd Mayweather, but aspires to surpass Mayweather’s illustrious career.

“Shakur had his [March 14 title defense vs. Miguel Marriaga] bout canceled two days before. He always stays in shape. When we couldn’t give guys confirmed dates, we knew we could give him four or five weeks’ notice and he’d be ready to go. Why not start with one of your youngest, brightest stars? Shakur, up to this point, has proven to be that,” Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti says. “Why not start off with that type of young face that the fans, the media and the television world can get used to? Shakur fits that bill perfectly.”

Stevenson is moving up to 130 for the Caraballo bout, and he anticipates staying there unless the pieces fall into place for the Warrington fight.

“[Warrington’s team is] trying to lowball me. They gotta understand that I’m a world champion, too, and I’m willing to go to his territory and fight that man in his backyard. With that being said, I deserve to get paid that way,” Stevenson explains. “If we can make it work, we’re going to make it work. I think he doesn’t mind fighting me either, to be honest.”

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2:05

Shakur Stevenson aims to fight Josh Warrington in the near future if a deal can be struck. For more Top Rank Boxing, sign up here for ESPN+ https://plus.espn.com/.

But another factor is in play that could prevent Warrington-Stevenson: the lack of a live audience. Both Moretti and Stevenson want it to be in front of a crowd. And for big fights like that one, the revenue and atmosphere have to be right to make it happen. But if fans are possible, that fight could happen as early as this fall.

Stevenson feels he will max out his career at welterweight, but he already has mapped out his plan to conquer the 130-pound division. He has three boxers there on his list: Leo Santa Cruz, Oscar Valdez and Miguel Berchelt — in that order. He’s already broken down how he’ll defeat them.

On Santa Cruz: “I really want to fight Santa Cruz. I’m hoping that him and Tank (Gervonta Davis) don’t fight so I can get that fight. I’m going to torch him. I’m going to punish him. His style [is] too perfect for me: slow, throws a lot of punches, don’t got no power. Leo got the biggest name at the 130 division. The name is really why I want him. He’s flat-footed. He’s not really a smart fighter. He’s basic. I’d torch him. My style and his style, I’d beat him badly. I think he knows that though.”

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1:19

Shakur Stevenson loves his chances in a potential fight vs. Leo Santa Cruz, and discusses the possibility of squaring off against Oscar Valdez or Miguel Berchelt in the future.

On Valdez: “If I can’t get Santa Cruz, Oscar Valdez is the right fight for me. Me and him got unfinished business. I fought for his belt at 126 [after] he moved up and vacated the belt. He was a world champion so it’s only right me and him square off. [It’s] a hell of a fight. That’s a fight that should be made and the winner should fight [WBC titleholder] Berchelt. Valdez is a good fighter, [but] he’s slow, he’s wild with his punches. He throws a lot of wide, wild shots. He got power. You can tell he got power. But he’s another one that’s tailor-made for me.”

On Berchelt: “Berchelt is better than both of them. Berchelt is real awkward. He’s real strong. He doesn’t have a normal, pressure come-forward style. He throws punches from weird angles. I respect Berchelt’s game, but I don’t think he can do anything with me either.”

Fans are eager to see boxing return, so Stevenson’s platform Tuesday will be one of the biggest of his career. ESPN analyst Timothy Bradley Jr. says Stevenson could be Mayweather’s successor, and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said Thursday that Stevenson “will exceed the performances by Floyd. He’s a rare, rare talent.” Moretti sees more of a Pernell Whitaker projection for Stevenson.

“I understand the comparisons. If you watch Floyd’s career as he got older and older, he became a real good defensive wizard. I’m real good at that stuff, too,” Stevenson says. “I understand it but I feel like I’m the first Shakur Stevenson.”

For a 22-year-old from Newark, New Jersey, with all that early hype, the time is ripe for Stevenson to maximize his brand and fan base starting with his return to boxing Tuesday night. If he really wants to be the next Floyd, he needs to make the most of this very unique opportunity.



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