Feeling disrespected, the crafty New Jersey southpaw plans to dominate the junior lightweight division this year.
Boxer Shakur Stevenson Comes Out Swinging At 130 Pounds
It didn’t take long for Shakur Stevenson to show the world his talent in the boxing ring. As an amateur, he won a silver medal in the bantamweight division at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. As a pro, he established himself as one of boxing’s future stars, showcasing an abundance of skills along with superstar qualities.
Stevenson won the WBO featherweight (126 pounds) title in just his 13th professional fight, cruising to a dominant unanimous decision victory over Joet Gonzalez, who had been undefeated through 23 professional fights.
After securing the featherweight title, Stevenson moved up to junior lightweight (130 pounds), where the dominance he showed at featherweight has stood intact through two fights.
Stevenson has his sights set on Jamel Herring’s WBO junior lightweight title. And if WBC champion Miguel Berchelt prevails against undefeated Mexican star Oscar Valdez next month, Stevenson looks to secure a date with Berchelt later this year. Given the crop of young talent at both junior lightweight and lightweight, the smaller divisions are receiving considerable attention; the crafty southpaw from New Jersey plans to be the cream that rises to the top.
Zenger News caught up with Stevenson, 23, to hear his plans for 2021. He explains why he doesn’t feel it’s necessary to be mentioned among today’s Four Kings, and addresses boxing trainer Buddy McGirt’s recent comments about him.
Percy Crawford interviewed Shakur Stevenson for Zenger News.
Zenger News: Who was that kid giving you buckets the other day on your Instagram?
Shakur Stevenson: Oh, that was my little brother.
Zenger: That’s wassup, man. Good-looking kid. How have you been, brother?
Stevenson: Ain’t nothing. I’m good. I just been laying low and staying out the way.
Zenger: You were the first fighter — definitely the first prestige fighter — to return to the ring following COVID. Was it important to you to get back in and set the tone for things to come?
Stevenson: Yeah, I think it was important to me because I was one of the first ones that got my fight cancelled. When my fight got cancelled, I wanted to be one of the first people back, so it didn’t matter when they called or whatever they said, I was going to be ready.
Zenger: You’re also one of the only — if not the only — big-name guys to get in two fights in 2020. Given the circumstances, that was big-time as well.
Stevenson: Yeah! That was another one… All the fights I had this year, I only had like five to six weeks to prepare for them. They’ll just call me and tell me the situation. Like the last fight, [Oscar] Valdez or Berchelt, one of them [Berchelt] got corona[virus], and they ended up saying, forget their fight, we’re going to put Shakur in there. He can take over the date. I knew in five weeks’ time. I flew into training camp, and just got prepared.
Zenger: Did that make the transition from 126 to 130 perfect timing, given that you weren’t getting full training camps, or was that move up in weight the play anyways?
Stevenson: I think that was going to be the move anyways, but the timing was kind of perfect. My body got bigger. It was about time. This year was definitely the time to hit the 130-weight class.
Zenger: You could definitely see it in your shoulders that you were starting to fill out. Physically, in the ring, how do you feel at junior lightweight?
Stevenson: Shit, I feel a lot stronger. I feel physically stronger. If you watch my fights, when I’m getting into clinches and all that stuff, I feel a lot stronger. I feel like I can put my body on people and stay solid, even my punches. I feel a lot stronger, I’m not gonna lie. I like it there.
Zenger: In your last fight, against Toka Kahn Clary, when you hurt him and he wanted to tie up, you were able to get him off of you rather easily. Definitely a sign of the maturation of your frame.
Stevenson: Yeah, I agree with that.
Zenger: The lower divisions are back in the spotlight. This is the most attention these divisions have received in a long time. Social media brought up the “Four Kings” thing — Gervonta “Tank” Davis, Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia and Teofimo Lopez. Where does Shakur Stevenson fit into that round robin?
Stevenson: I mean … in my head, you don’t even have to put me in that. Let them do whatever they do. I think I’m going to be the best fighter out of this young generation, so I’m at a point now where I just let them sit back and talk. In five to 10 years, you are going to see later on down the line who was what and what was what. I will be able to show — and everybody will see — that I was the one that I said I was.
Zenger: So, when you look at those names, you don’t want the inclusion — you don’t feel like you need to be looped in with those guys. You just want things to play out.
Stevenson: At first it was like, how are y’all not going to mention me in that sentence? But I can understand some of it too, because all those fighters are at 135. But then it’s like, Tank really at 130, so I don’t know. Something not adding up. But I mean, shit… I don’t really care for it no more. I’m at the point now where it’s like, I’m just going to show people. Y’all just gotta see who I am. I feel like they disrespecting me at the end of the day. They keep trying to disrespect me. I’m cool with it. Do y’all thing. Years later, when all them fighters are not on my level, then it’s going to be like, shit, ya’ll should’ve listened.
Stevenson: Nah, you can bring up whatever you want. You know I’m good.
Zenger: Do you feel like because of the silver medal and your amateur pedigree that you’re rushed more than other fighters? You’re only 15 fights into your career, yet you’re treated like a guy with 30-plus fights. Or do you welcome that treatment?
Stevenson: I think I’m in a weird situation. With my fights, if you’re really paying attention, I don’t have any trouble. No matter who gets in there, I don’t have any trouble. The fights look too, too easy. The fans… I’m so good, I’m at a level where I’m so good, it’s hard for the fans that don’t know too much about boxing to get in tune with me and understand what I’m doing because they question my level of opposition because every fight is so easy. You don’t see me in war type of fights like with Tank and Léo [Santa Cruz]. Even if you throw Léo in there.
I’ll give you an example. I ain’t dissin’ Tank. If I’m being real, I think Tank is a helluva fighter. Let me fight Léo. I get in there, and even if I don’t stop Léo but I go 12 rounds with Léo and I have no scratches, no nothing, and it’s an easy fight. The fans are going to look at it like it’s regular. Tank fight Léo and it’s like, “Oh, snap!” And he knocks him out, but it was a war the whole entire fight. These dudes are beating each other up. Now, the fans that don’t know too much about boxing gravitate towards that because Tank took some punishment, Léo took some punishment, but if I go in there and just wipe him out for 12 rounds, it’s like, “Shit, that was too easy. Who are you fighting? You ain’t fighting nobody.”
Zenger: I don’t remember your “prospect” phase. You were thrown into that world title talk so soon, it’s almost like you were never really a prospect.
Stevenson: I agree, but even that, when I fought for the world title, I feel like I ain’t get as much credit as I deserved. I felt like Joet [Gonzalez] was a young, hungry lion who didn’t have any losses. He had been waiting on a title shot, he got his opportunity, and he failed, but I just feel like I’m not going to get no credit for that, just for the fact that I made it look so easy.
Zenger: Your last three opponents have a combined record of 64-3-2, for a fighter who only has 15 professional fights. That’s insane. When you look at the current champions at 130 pounds, do you have a set plan to get these guys in the ring, or is it about who Top Rank puts in front of you?
Stevenson: Nah, I plan on getting the WBO first, and then getting the WBC by the end of the year. So, Jamel belt first, and then we’re going to get Berchelt belt by the end of the year.
Zenger: Berchelt took to Twitter to comment on your last fight, and you’re never shy about responding.
Stevenson: Nah, not at all. I don’t know. I don’t be caring about what these people be saying. They gonna talk, ya feel me? I had seen what he said, and I replied to him. You not gonna play me without me saying something back. I don’t care who it is. I think that we’re going to have a big fight at the end of the year, so it don’t even matter.
Zenger: When you see a guy like Dame Lillard from the Portland Trailblazers say you’re a problem, or you’re up next, obviously, you have to take it in stride, but it does have to be flattering.
Stevenson: It feels real good knowing people like Dame Lillard, even Kevin Durant, had hit my DM a couple of weeks ago. It feels good knowing athletes like that respect me and they understand I’m going to be on their level one day. It feels real good. When KD hit my DM, he didn’t even tell me anything about me; he was asking me a boxing question. He asked me about a certain fighter, like, “Is he good?” But he wanted my opinion, and I respected the fact that he would come to me and ask my opinion on another fighter. He respect my boxing knowledge.
Zenger: You have a tight bond with Terence “Bud” Crawford, Josh Greer Jr. and guys like that. The fact that you guys feed off of one another instead of it always being combative is impressive. Sometimes you can have that type of relationship with someone who is within the same sport as you and grow from each other.
Stevenson: Yeah, the main thing is, when you’re around other good fighters, you get better. Me being around Bud for these years, I have been picking up on certain stuff he does inside and outside the ring. I just feel like you get better being around other fighters like that. You pick up on things that help. Even with Josh Greer being around us, it’s going to help him and he’s going to help me too, because Josh Greer got a great mindset. He’s always positive. I need to take part of that too. It definitely helps a lot.
Zenger: When I spoke with [manager] J Prince, I told him that you can see a certain glimmer in his eye when your name is mentioned. So, I will ask you, what impact has J had not only in your career, but in life in general?
Stevenson: I mean, J is like a big role model to me. He is one of them people you don’t always come across. He is really real. He a real person. He look out for me inside and outside the ring. He treats me like family. Me and J’s relationship is not just a business relationship. He’s more like family to me. I appreciate J for treating me the way that he treats me, because he don’t even have to treat me the way that he treats me. He can just be my manager and it can be all business. But J treats me like family. He a real dude. I respect J a lot. I’m glad he feels the way he feels about me. Even with you saying that, I hear interviews with him too, and I see J, and every time my name do come up, you can tell he’s excited about the future for me. And you know what? J is hands-on too. He’s in the gym with me a lot. He’s always coming to watch me spar, he’s always paying attention, and he’s always around me. He is somebody who get to see me often, so he understands what he’s seeing. A lot of people don’t understand what they’re seeing, so they’re not going to understand what’s coming. He’s around me, so he know. That’s why you probably get that reaction out of him, like, “Shit, nobody can beat Shakur,” and that’s the truth.
Zenger: I hate to even bring up the Buddy McGirt stuff, but it’s fresh and it is newsworthy.
Zenger: I remember asking [boxing trainer] Derrick James why does he feel some old-school fighters and trainers talk down the newer generation, and he explained that most of them can’t remove themselves from the equation. They hang on to the past. Do you feel that’s why Buddy kind of came for you?
Stevenson: The thing is, that’s not the first time Buddy did interviews talking about me. That’s the second or third interview I have seen of him talking about me. I ain’t really say too much about it. I was just like, “Yeah, I’ll beat your fighter up,” or whatever. I don’t care because I’m thinking he’s trying to sell a fight with his fighter. But now I’m looking at another interview and he’s not even mentioning his fighters anymore. He’s saying Teó [Teófimo López] would stop me. Now it’s like, OK, you’re not even thinking about your fighter. You just really got something against me. It’s like, damn, why you keep bringing my name up in every interview you do? I don’t see nobody else name brought up from Buddy McGirt besides Shakur Stevenson. Somebody asks him about Shakur Stevenson and he got some negative shit to say. It’s Buddy McGirt. He keeps claiming he knew me since I was a kid. He didn’t know me like that. I was a teenager before he knew me. That man don’t even know me, so why are you in interviews talking like you know me?
And then … yo, they act like this dude is just so good of a trainer. Now, I’m going to keep it real. I’m going to keep it 100 with you because he been trying to play me, so I’m going to tell the truth on him. This man said in an interview, “Shakur better stay away from Berchelt. That’s how fighters like him get hurt,” or something like that. And then two interviews later, I swear to God, this man gonna say, “I never even seen Berchelt fight, he just look real big.” I’m like, damn, I thought you were supposed to be this master trainer. How the fuck you gonna say in an interview that I should stay away from someone who you never seen fight before? You never seen this man fight. That don’t even make sense to me. He’s supposed to be this real good trainer, and you’re going to say that I should stay away from someone who you’ve never seen fight before. I put two and two together.
Zenger: It’s frustrating to you because it sounds personal now.
Stevenson: Yeah, it sounds personal to me now. He got something against me. Now you’re saying I’m protected and Teó will knock me out in six or seven rounds. Bro, you just hating on me, bro. At the end of the day, Buddy McGirt … sits in the gym all day. Let’s be real: What fighter did Buddy McGirt start from scratch that he has right now? I don’t see no fighter that Buddy McGirt started at the beginning of their career and they became a world champion. He’s the coach that when fighters lose, you send them to Buddy McGirt, and I guess he tightens some things up and fix some errors. You don’t see him with no fighters that he started from scratch. Those are the coaches that I respect. Like you mentioned, Derrick James — Derrick James been with Errol Spence his whole career. It’s not like he just got [Jermell] Charlo now … no. He’s been with Errol Spence his whole career, and Errol Spence is one of the best fighters in the sport of boxing.
What we talking about? Buddy McGirt don’t start no fighters from scratch, so how you a good coach? How is he so good? Everybody want to respect these coaches. Buddy McGirt was a real good fighter. I give him that. But I feel what I feel, and I feel like he ain’t start no fighter from scratch. He don’t have a world champion right now that he started from scratch. He’s trying to leach off of everybody else’ fighters and get their paycheck. That’s what Buddy McGirt is.
Zenger: That being said, Shakur, I’m expecting a huge 2021 from you. Best of luck in trying to capturing those titles. Always a pleasure speaking to you. Is there anything else you want to say before I let you go?
Stevenson: I appreciate you. Tell everybody to follow me on Twitter and Instagram @ShakurStevenson. This year I’m going to have two belts at 130, and I’m taking over the whole 130-pound weight class.
(Edited by Jameson O’Neal and Alex Patrick)