From the day he turned pro, this kind of performance from Shakur Stevenson was inevitable. He’s the kind of guy who can dominate boxing for a decade or more. He understands the game at a level few do. He’s blazingly quick, incredibly conditioned and unnaturally calm.
Oscar Valdez never had a chance against Stevenson in their bout Saturday for the WBC and WBO super featherweight titles before a lively, often raucous, crowd of 10,102 at the MGM Grand Garden. Stevenson won a unanimous decision by scores of 118-109 twice and 117-110 that was even easier for him than the wide cards would indicate.
He dumped Valdez in the sixth and managed to neutralize Valdez’s vaunted power. Valdez came into the bout 30-0 with 23 knockouts, but he rarely hit Stevenson clean with anything.
“He’s a great fighter,” Valdez said of Stevenson. “His speed is there. Power is there. He was just the better fighter tonight. Overall, a great fighter.”
Stevenson kept a jab in Valdez’s face from the opening moments. He didn’t “run,” as many in the Valdez camp had derisively predicted he would. Instead, he boxed beautifully, controlling the range, hitting Valdez with nearly everything he threw and putting together the kind of masterpiece few in this sport are capable of authoring.
Stevenson connected on an astounding 53 percent of his power shots and held Valdez to 29 percent.
His manager, James Prince, previously managed Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward, two fighters who finished undefeated and who will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in June. There is a lot of Mayweather and Ward in Stevenson.
He’s not at their level yet, but he’s only 24 and neither Mayweather nor Ward were nearly a finished product at that age. But Prince has seen plenty of great fighters in his 20-plus years in boxing and he knows Stevenson is about to join that list.
“The sky is the limit,” Prince said of Stevenson. “Everybody who gets in front of him is going to have a problem.”
Stevenson’s biggest issue on Saturday was at the post-fight news conference. He began without his belts, and had to ask someone from his team to deliver them to him. Then, he shouted at the crowd on the side to quiet down so he could hear the questions.
Then, in a bizarre scene, there was a commotion to the left of the dais. Stevenson’s mother attempted to get into the news conference and security would not allow her into the room.
Stevenson was answering a question when he turned to his left, stared intently toward the door and listened for several seconds, and then sprinted off the stage and out the door of the ballroom where the news conference was being held. A fight ensued in the casino hallway outside the ballroom, and Stevenson was in the middle of it trying to get his family members out of it.
Prince told Yahoo Sports via text that Stevenson and his mother were fine. An MGM Grand spokesman said he was attempting to gather more information and reserved comment until he did so.
At his biggest moment, on the night he became a unified champion, he only answered a handful of questions before abruptly leaving.
He lost his moment in the sun because of it, though he was brilliant enough in the ring before a national audience on ESPN that his words at a news conference won’t be missed.
Stevenson was beaming when he got to the news conference because he knew that he’d put on the performance of his life in his biggest moment. He largely shut up the heavily pro-Valdez crowd that was so exuberant before and during the early stages of the fight.
“That was an incredible crowd and they saw an incredible performance by an excellent fighter,” said Top Rank president Todd duBoef, who said he wasn’t sure what was next for Stevenson.
On the undercard, Olympic silver medalist Keyshawn Davis was impressive in stopping Esteban Sanchez in the sixth. He seemed in awe of what Stevenson had done.
“Shakur’s come a long way, man,” said Davis, who might be boxing’s next big superstar. “Shakur won just about every round and Oscar basically never touched him.”
It’s going to take a complete fighter, one who has speed and the ability to cut off the ring, to give Stevenson much of a tussle. He’s already one of the best fighters in the world and he’s just getting better all the time.
“Just so, so impressive,” promoter Bob Arum said of Stevenson. “Incredible, really.”
The same could be said of the scene that forced Stevenson to flee the news conference.
But even that couldn’t detract from what was a brilliant night for the now unified champion from Newark, New Jersey.