Once again, Shakur Stevenson was dominant.
In a hastily planned fight against Toka Kahn Clary, the aspiring junior lightweight had no problems on Saturday night in Las Vegas. Stevenson remained undefeated and won by unanimous decision, 100-90 on all three scorecards, without losing a minute to the over-performed Kahn Clary.
Stevenson is one of many talented young competitors in the 130 pound division and he has big plans to take some titles from them in 2021. It could be fun with all of the interesting competitors at Junior Lightweight for the next few years, and Stevenson has the potential to be the best of the group.
But did he show enough on the ESPN map at Top Rank Boxing on Saturday to show that he is on the verge of realizing that potential? Cameron Wolfe and Ben Baby have different opinions about the 23-year-old’s night.
Wolfe: Shakur Stevenson opened the ESPN boxing bubble with a knockout win in June and closes the year with a win over Kahn Clary. In my opinion, Stevenson is on his way to becoming one of the top boxing stars in the near future. I know the criticism will be that he didn’t blow him away and I understand. So Ben, I know you were skeptical of Stevenson – especially about his performance and entertainment. Did you see anything of him on Saturday to change your mind?
Infant: Stevenson was a little more entertaining than I remembered after repeating his last few fights. And against Kahn Clary, Stevenson was impressive from the start. It was accurate, active, and landed some really heavy, straight shots that kept Kahn Clary on the retreat.
Shakur Stevenson improves to 15-0 after Toka Kahn Clary takes a unanimous decision win.
However, it was a bit of a let down on Saturday night. Stevenson had the ability to get Kahn Clary out of there in the middle rounds. And yet Kahn Clary still came forward on the 10th and didn’t seem too discouraged, despite being dominated every 30 minutes.
And that was one of my main problems with Stevenson. I understand he doesn’t have the power that other guys have, but at some point a dominant performance should culminate with a special moment, and I didn’t see that from Stevenson against Kahn Clary.
Cam, I know you’ve done a lot to Stevenson for a while. Did Saturday’s performance show you that he can really compete with some of the top names in the division?
Wolfe: Absolutely. It was the utter dominance of a decent fighter. I’m going to take on Stevenson over anyone currently in the junior lightweight, including the WBC tracklist Miguel Berchelt. What I like most about Stevenson is that he is neither the strongest nor the fastest man, but his technique and skill set him apart. He’s only 23, so he’s not even in his prime and just getting stronger and better.
I understand it though. Stevenson is not an Edgar Berlanga or Gervonta Davis who will make opponents fear his power. His fights will rarely end up in SportsCenter’s top 10. Let me bring that back to you: Stevenson told me he saw a 2021 where he will face the winner of Jamel Herring-Carl Frampton, the winner of Berchelt-Oscar Valdez and possibly Joseph “JoJo” Diaz before the end of the year. If so, how do you see him in these competitions and where do you rank Stevenson in the Junior Lightweight Division?
Infant: As you said, the question for Stevenson at 130 is going to be his power and whether he’s got enough of it to demand respect for elite guys. But Stevenson does enough of the other things well that he probably beats the rest of the top-rank prospects in that division.
Of this group, Berchelt might be the only one who can really test Stevenson. Berchelt has won his last five fights on hold and has the technical skills to balance the ring’s acumen with Stevenson, who does a great job without wasting punches or efforts in the ring.
With Stevenson under the Top Rank umbrella, the big question, of course, is whether he’s ready for Vasiliy Lomachenko in 2021.
Wolfe: I would like to see Stevenson waiting for Lomachenko. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t think Stevenson is still in his prime, but his superior skills should help him compete against some of the other champions in his division like Herring and Diaz. Lomachenko is very similar to Stevenson in that both fighters rely on technique, IQ, and defense. So it would be a mirror as the veteran has more experience. I think Stevenson can hang out with him, but I think his most ideal chance of beating him comes in 2022 or 2023 after he gains a little more strength.
The biggest fight for Stevenson in 2021 should be Berchelt, who is also under the umbrella of the Top Rank and is considered by many to be the best fighter in the Junior Lightweight Division. It would be the epitome of the fight between boxer and big puncher, and while Stevenson doesn’t have the power to take out Berchelt, I think he has enough to pull him off the shelf.
Ben: Regardless of who Stevenson matches in his next fight, he’ll have to turn it up again next time in the ring. If he wants to be the next Floyd Mayweather or Sugar Ray Leonard, he has to be more imposing. Kahn Clary was the perfect opponent for Stevenson to put on the pressure to take a break and show why he is on his way to becoming one of the top draws in boxing.
Wolfe: I would have loved to see Stevenson get the interruption, and so did he. My biggest criticism of Stevenson is that he has not yet shown the consistent strength to knock out beaten opponents and Saturday was an example of that. But winning is all that should be important, and no one has nearly beaten Stevenson yet. Ultimately, I believe that Stevenson can have a move up to Lomachenko level in his career. The biggest impact this fight had on me is Stevenson’s dominance – Kahn Clary only landed 9% of his total punches and couldn’t win nearly a round. Stevenson is ready for the smoke.