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Shakur Stevenson is paving his way to stardom — at 135 pounds

Shakur Stevenson returns to his hometown of Newark, New Jersey, right on the precipice of pound-for-pound greatness, if not fame. At 25, Stevenson owns an Olympic silver medal along with two weight division titles.

By Thursday, when he wasn’t gaining weight, Stevenson was a unified champion at 130 pounds. He was stripped of those titles after weighing 131.6 pounds. The fight continues – Conceicao is eligible to win the WBC and WBO belts – after Stevenson and Conceiao reached an agreement on a financial penalty, sources said.

Stevenson and Conceicao, an Olympic gold medalist, meet in Friday’s main event (10 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN+), which Shakur insists it will be his last fight before fighting at 135 pounds, a weight class that should finally be , proving just how great Stevenson can become.

“I gave it my all,” tweeted Stevenson, ESPN’s No. 9 pound-for-pound boxer. “I’ve been a pro my whole career and I’ve gained weight, but my body just can’t do 130 anymore. My health must come first. I will go up to 135 in my next fight.”

Really, losing Stevenson’s titles won’t affect him negatively, but if it happens again at 135 pounds that’s a different story. For now, Stevenson’s inability to tip the scales at 130 pounds will hasten his entry into the truly meaningful fights that will test him like never before.

At 126 and 130 pounds, Stevenson has feasted on opponents well below his level. Both weight classes lacked depth and elite boxers while Stevenson competed in divisions. At 135 pounds, he not only has to compete with larger opponents, but also with much more experienced boxers.

According to Caesars Sportsbook, Stevenson is a 30-1 favorite to defeat Conceicao and remain undefeated. Stevenson’s fascination lies in lightweight, where Devin Haney is the undisputed champion and star boxers Vasiliy Lomachenko, Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia (sometimes) fight.

Stevenson has a shot at becoming the world’s most talented boxer – with his elite defense, shot placement and ability to judge distance – but he won’t really be able to prove it until he climbs five pounds to lightweight and takes on the best fighters in this department.

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Mark Kriegel describes how Shakur Stevenson will perform in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey.

“I think three years later, as I continue to dominate and do what I set out to do, I’ll end up on that list,” Stevenson told ESPN on Wednesday. “I know Terence [Crawford] and Canello [Alvarez] is at the end of her career. So I just see myself as the one who comes right behind them and takes that No. 1 spot.

How about Shakur testing his defensive skills against the powerful southpaw “Tank” Davis? Or a fight with Garcia, an ultra-fast fighter with a massive social media following that could make him a superstar? And while those fights could prove difficult due to the increasingly fragmented nature of the sport, Stevenson should be pushing for them to happen.

Fights with Haney and Lomachenko should prove much easier. Stevenson, like her, is promoted from Top Rank.

“I think they’re all great fights,” Stevenson said. “I like them all [fighters], but credit has to be given to Devin Haney. …Must respect the real belts. … I am a fighter. When I go into any weight class, I’m not trying to be the intercontinental champion or [reign in] each of them organizations [where] They have the smaller belts and everyone claims they are champions.

“I’m trying to be the undisputed champion like Devin is. I try to be a real champion. So you have to give Devin Haney some credit when it comes to that. So I say it’s him the guy.

Haney will defend the undisputed championship against George Kambosos Jr. in a rematch on Oct. 15 on ESPN. Assuming he wins a second time, as expected, Haney could enter a high-stakes match with Lomachenko in the spring. And while that could keep Stevenson raring to go, it could also be a good opportunity for him to get comfortable with a lighter fight at 135 pounds in his lightweight debut in the first half of the year.

For now, Stevenson will try to build his profile in his homecoming fight as champion. After a truncated title run at 126 pounds, Stevenson TKOed Jamel Herring in the 10th round in October 2021 to capture a 130-pound title and added a second belt in April with a win over Oscar Valdez in an impressive performance added.

Stevenson was unable to finish off Valdez from afar, but he dropped the Mexican in round 6, losing just two rounds on two scorecards.

“Valdez has given me many opportunities to show my skills,” said Stevenson. “I think with this guy [Conceicao], he will try to sit back and box. … But I will show the world my dog.”

Conceicao, whose only loss was a controversial decision against Valdez, prefers to counterattack while Valdez prefers to press and fight inwards. That just means Stevenson himself has to come forward and fight if he’s to keep his momentum at the top of the pound-for-pound list.

Conceicao, of course, has plans of his own and will be at a competitive disadvantage for the second time in as many title fights. His fight title challenge from Valdez in September 2021 was allowed to proceed despite the presence of a banned substance in the titleholder’s system.

“I’m very motivated. I’ve been training my whole life for this moment,” Conceicao said at a press conference on Wednesday. “The world could see that I was better than Oscar Valdez. I should have won. … I’m a champion without a crown and I’m ready for Friday night.”

Sure, Stevenson, with his precise jab, excellent footwork and ring smarts, has the skills to easily outsmart Conceicao, a 33-year-old Brazilian. But if Stevenson is to make the kind of statement that will have fans gushing in front of the numbers for a pivotal 2023, he also needs to entertain.

https://www.espn.com/boxing/story/_/id/34642574/shakur-stevenson-paving-way-stardom-135-pounds Shakur Stevenson is paving his way to stardom — at 135 pounds

Emma Bowman

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