The Lightweight debut of undefeated former two-division world champion Shakur Stevenson on April 8th was one that in some ways felt more like a formality than what one would consider a legitimate test for a fighter who has proven to be a difficult puzzle for opponents to solve. Perhaps adding to that feeling of formality was that Stevenson per his being a former unified world champion in the 130lb. Jr. Lightweight division, was moved immediately into an elimination bout to determine the next mandatory challenger in the World Boxing Council's (WBC) Lightweight ratings, which theoretically would put him in line to challenge the winner of the upcoming world championship bout between undefeated Undisputed Lightweight champion of the world Devin Haney and former three-division world champion Vasyl Lomachenko, which will take place on May 20th in Las Vegas, NV.
Formalities and what seemed designed to be a clear prelude to Stevenson challenging for a world championship in now a third weight class, was also not without its share of criticism. This was due to Stevenson's opponent, the unbeaten, but largely unknown former Japanese and Oriental Professional Boxing Federation (OPBF) Lightweight champion Shuichiro Yoshino being rated number four in the world by the WBC, despite not having faced a world rated contender prior to the bout. The OPBF's affiliation with the WBC did nevertheless, provide Yoshino an opportunity to show what he could do on a significant stage against one of the top stars in the sport.
Stevenson's hometown of Newark, NJ and the Prudential Center would be the site for the bout. In previewing this bout, this observer stated that Yoshino was a fighter that liked to come forward and throw punches in bursts. Yoshino proved to be true to form because that would be the approach he would attempt against Stevenson from the outset by coming forward and trying to apply pressure on him, while also trying to back the former world champion up and go to his body.
While Yoshino succeeded in showing that he came to fight, it would not be long before Stevenson would turn the outcome of this fight into, you guessed it dear reader, "A Formality." After taking a round to study his opponent, Stevenson began to open up with offense. As I also stated prior to this fight, Yoshino did tend to throw looping punches, and as it would turn out, the technical flaw that Yoshino had shown in previous bouts, was something that a slick boxer like Shakur Stevenson was able to recognize and exploit.
In the second round, Stevenson would score the first of what became two knockdowns when he connected with a flush counter left hook to the head. This would be followed in round four when Stevenson dropped Yoshino for a second time with a left hook to the body. Although Stevenson is not known for his punching power, the only thought that I had as I watched this fight as it became clear that Stevenson on this night was against a fighter that though very "Game," was overmatched, and likely too brave for his own good, was simply how long the fight would be allowed to go on.
To be honest with the reader, I felt that if Stevenson wanted to press the issue a bit more than he did, the fight probably could have been stopped in the fourth round. After taking a consistent beating for five rounds, Yoshino would be protected from himself as the fight was mercifully stopped in round six.
Although it did not take long for this fight to become a competitive mismatch, no one can take anything away from the bravery that Shuichiro Yoshino showed in what was his first fight in the United States. Unfortunately for Yoshino, he was simply against a superior fighter and he should hold his hand high for the valiant effort he put forth in defeat. Yoshino gave it everything he had and at the end of the day, win or lose that is really all you can ask of a fighter.
As for Shakur Stevenson, it is logical to assume with this fight now in his rearview, what was the twentieth win of his career, likely secured him a ringside seat to witness the highly anticipated Haney-Lomachenko world championship bout in Las Vegas on May 20th and there is no doubt in my mind that if indeed Stevenson does attend the bout between Haney and Lomachenko, that he will likely call out the winner shortly after the fight concludes. The question coming out of his victory over Yoshino however, should be whether or not this was a glimpse of a Shakur Stevenson that now as a 135lb. Lightweight will try to sit on his punches more and attempt to score more knockouts as he was able to do here, which has not always been the case in either the 126lb. Featherweight or 130lb. Jr. Lightweight divisions. For a fighter that has been labeled as one to avoid by some, if Stevenson has decided to try to score more knockouts into an already immaculate skillset, he may have just become even more dangerous.
"And That's The Boxing Truth."
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