Thursday, October 28, 2021

Shakur Stevenson: A Star-Making Performance


It can sometimes be defined as common in a combat sport that has seventeen weight classes and for the moment, a sanctioning organization with intentions of establishing an eighteenth division, to see fighters outside of those born Heavyweights to compete in several weight classes throughout their careers. For many fighters at the top of the sport of Boxing, the goal is attempt to win world championships in multiple weight divisions over the course of a career. While such a feat is extremely difficult, the fact that some fighters are blessed with the ability to accomplish that goal in w relatively short period of time gives the impression that it is commonplace, despite the difficulty such a task entails.


When a fighter is able to accomplish such a goal however, such an achievement can be defined by calling it a “Star-Making” performance. For undefeated former WBO Featherweight world champion Shakur Stevenson, such an occasion occurred when he entered the ring on October 23rd at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, GA to challenge WBO Jr. Lightweight world champion Jamel Herring for his crown.  Under most circumstances, the question that is asked of a fighter that is moving up in weight is whether or not they will be able to deal with opponents that are theoretically bigger and stronger. While this question on the surface does not take into the equation a fighter's style and overall skillset, this fight was no exception as on the surface the champion had natural size and what seemed to be a strength advantage over Stevenson.


It did not take long for Stevenson to dispel the theoretical disadvantage that some may have felt he had going into the fight as from the opening bell, he proved to simply be too quick and too strong for the naturally bigger champion. Although Shakur Stevenson is not known necessarily for his punching power, his hand speed quickly became the story of this fight as he frequently beat Herring to the punch. If one were to ask me to describe Shakur Stevenson's  style, he is a slick boxer that can fight either orthodox or southpaw, but what makes him even more dangerous to combat is he approaches his offense with the mentality of a sniper. Such a systematic, yet pinpoint approach that is q very difficult puzzle to solve because in addition to his hand speed, he is also very elusive and can attack his opponents from various angles.


What made Stevenson's performance more impressive as the fight progressed was his ability to mix things up. Not strictly from the standpoint of mixing his attacks on Herring to the body and head, but also his knowing when to step up his aggression and knowing when not to be overly aggressive to where it may have created an opportunity for Herring to turn the ebb and flow of the fight in his favor.


Although no one can take anything away from Jamel Herring in showing a true heart of a champion, despite the increasing effects of punishment dished out by Stevenson, which was frankly a gradual beating, it simply was not his night as he would eventually be cut over the left eye before ultimately being stopped in the tenth round. While the simple term was to say that Herring had a bad night, stylistically he was outgunned by Stevenson. The former champion however, showed class in defeat by saying that Stevenson was the better man. A show of sportsmanship that frankly yours truly would like to see more of throughout combat sports.


While there was not much to say about this fight beyond it being the type of dominant performance that the turns heads by Stevenson, the obvious question is what will come next coming out of this fight. There are a few things that need to be kept in mind. First Shakur Stevenson has become a two-division  world champion in only seventeen professional fights. While it is certainly possible that Stevenson may look to unify the Jr. Lightweight division by seeking a bout with WBC world champion Oscar Valdez and such an encounter may be theoretically easy to come to fruition seeing as both are promoted by Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum, this observer believes it will be more likely in the long-term that Stevenson will look to venture into the 135lb. Lightweight division where there is certainly no shortage of potential lucrative opponents and obviously a lot of money to be made. The downside however for a fighter of Shakur Stevenson’s skillset is such a start making performance can unfortunately for a time have the opposite effect in making some of those lucrative opponents view a potential fight with someone like Stevenson as a high risk/low reward scenario for them.


Although not necessarily a good position to find yourself in if you’re in Stevenson's shoes, this unfortunately is something that comes with the territory in the sport of Boxing. While often it does not work to the sport's best interest, the flip side is that it allows anticipation to build for those marquee fights. It may be a question of whether or not Stevenson will be able to put enough pressure on Arum outside of the ring in order to get those lucrative opportunities while continuing to make as strong an argument for himself with the public whenever he is inside the ring to fuel demand amongst Boxing fans for those fights to take place.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


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