Sunday, November 19, 2023

Stevenson Wins Third World Championship, Fails To Make A Statement

The fight between undefeated former two-division world champion Shakur Stevenson and WBC number six rated Lightweight contender Edwin De Los Santos was not only for the vacant WBC Lightweight championship of the world, but some felt it could signal the beginning of what might be a new era in the 135lb. Lightweight division. A new era that seemingly has started with the former Undisputed Lightweight world champion Devin Haney choosing to roll the dice and move up in weight to challenge WBC Jr. Welterweight world champion Regis Prograis in a fight that will take place on December 9th in San Francisco, CA. 

While Haney still holds three portions of the World Lightweight championship as of this writing, it is expected by many whether or not he wins that fight against Prograis that he will remain as a 140lb. Jr. Welterweight going forward, due largely to struggles he has had in making the 135lb. Lightweight limit in recent fights. Although there was little to say prior to Stevenson’s bout with De Los Santos beyond it being for a vacant world championship and thus an opportunity for Stevenson to become a three-division world champion, Haney by all accounts choosing to move on to a different chapter in his career also created an opportunity for Stevenson to make an argument for himself as being a fighter that could be viewed as the division’s new central figure.

A capacity crowd filled the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV on November 16th to see if Stevenson could make his claim for such a role. Whether it was because of a bad clash of styles between two southpaws or if Stevenson simply had an off night, what took place inside the ring was anything, but a fighter making a clear statement as emerging as the number one fighter in a division heading towards a period of transition. 

For twelve rounds, Stevenson and Dos Santos engaged in a tactical battle where neither fighter seemed to take the initiative as an aggressor. Despite being a tutorial in some ways on the benefits of defense in a fighter's arsenal as both fighters were able to make each other miss with punches frequently, it was not the most entertaining bout to watch. Some might go as far as to describe the action or lack thereof as dull. While this observer will not go as far, as I believe in the old adage of ”Styles Make Fights” and will also point out the rarity of two southpaws being pitted against each other, some fights will simply be more entertaining than others.

An illustration of the lack of action in this fight can be seen in the CompuBox statistics for the twelve round world championship bout in that for the first time in history in the over four decades in which fights have been tracked statistically by CompuBox, neither fighter was able to land ten punches in a single round of the fight. From my perspective, I have seen worse fights on every level of the sport in my almost three decades covering Boxing and other combat sports, but this was one instance where I truly could not form an opinion as to who I believed may have had the upper hand.

This was due not only to the lack of action, but also neither fighter being able to hurt the other with the punches that did land or being able to score knockdowns. In all honesty, this was an instance where at the conclusion of twelve rounds, I could not see how a winner could be determined or at least determined clearly. Despite the view of yours truly, a decision was reached and it was unanimous with Stevenson winning the fight by margins of seven rounds to five or 115-113 in points, and eight rounds to four on two official scorecards or 116-112 in points making him the new WBC Lightweight champion of the world.

While sometimes a win is still indeed a win and ultimately it was mission accomplished for Stevenson in becoming a three-division world champion, he has had better performances throughout his career. Although he may not have had the statement-making performance that he was probably looking for as the last kingpin of the Lightweight division appears to be moving on and up the weight scale, it should be noted that Stevenson did say in a post-fight interview with ESPN immediately following his victory over De Los Santos that he “Didn't Feel Good," which has fueled some speculation that he may have entered the fight either dealing with an illness or an injury and that may have played a role in his performance.

Whatever the case might be, it is important to remember that fighters like all of us are human and are going to have an underwhelming performance from time to time. Whether or not Stevenson was dealing with an illness, injury, or both is something that only he can answer. It will be what he does in his next fight however, whomever that bout might be against, that will probably determine if he will indeed be the new central figure of the Lightweight division. For now, the jury is still deliberating.

“And That's The Boxing Truth."

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