Once again, Shakur Stevenson was dominant.
In a hastily scheduled fight against Toka Kahn Clary, the rising junior lightweight had no problems on Saturday night in Las Vegas. Stevenson remained undefeated and won by unanimous decision, 100-90 on all three scorecards, never even coming close to dropping a minute against the outmatched Kahn Clary.
Stevenson is one of many talented young contenders around the 130-pound division, and he has big plans in 2021 to take some titles from them. It could set for a fun next couple of years with all the interesting competitors at junior lightweight, and Stevenson has the potential to be the best of the bunch.
But did he show enough on Saturday’s Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card to show he’s on the verge of living up to that potential? Cameron Wolfe and Ben Baby have some differing opinions on the 23-year-old’s night.
Wolfe: Shakur Stevenson opened up the ESPN boxing bubble with a knockout win in June, and he closes the year with a shutout decision win over Kahn Clary. Stevenson is on his way to becoming one of boxing’s top stars in the near future, in my mind. I know the criticism will be that he didn’t knock him out, and I get it. So Ben, I know you’ve been skeptical of Stevenson — particularly his power and entertainment level. Did you see anything from him Saturday to change your mind?
Baby: Upon rewatch of his past couple of fights, Stevenson was a little more entertaining live than I remembered. And sure enough, against Kahn Clary, Stevenson was impressive from the beginning. He was accurate, active and landed some really heavy straight shots that kept Kahn Clary retreating.
Shakur Stevenson improves to 15-0 after shutting out Toka Kahn Clary in a unanimous decision victory.
However, Saturday night it was a bit of a letdown. Stevenson had the ability to get Kahn Clary out of there by the middle rounds. And yet in the 10th, Kahn Clary was still coming forward and didn’t seem to be too discouraged despite being dominated for all 30 minutes.
And that’s been one of my main problems with Stevenson. I understand he doesn’t have the power that other guys have, but at some point, a dominant performance should culminate with a special moment, and I didn’t see that from Stevenson against Kahn Clary.
Cam, I know you’ve been big on Stevenson for a while. Did Saturday’s performance show you that he can truly contend with some of the top names in the division?
Wolfe: Absolutely. It was complete dominance of a decent fighter. I’ll take Stevenson over anybody currently at junior lightweight, including WBC titlist Miguel Berchelt. What I enjoy most about Stevenson is that he’s not the strongest guy and not the fastest guy, but his technique and savvy separate him. He’s just 23, so he isn’t even in his prime yet and only getting stronger and better.
I get it, though. Stevenson isn’t an Edgar Berlanga or a Gervonta Davis who is going to make opponents fear his power. His fights are rarely going to land on SportsCenter’s top 10. So let me shift it back to you: Stevenson told me he sees a 2021 in which he faces the winner of Jamel Herring-Carl Frampton, then the winner of Berchelt-Oscar Valdez and possibly Joseph “JoJo” Diaz before the end of the year. How do you see him faring in those contests, if that’s how it goes, and where do you rank Stevenson in the junior lightweight division?
Baby: Like you said, the question for Stevenson at 130 will be his power and if he has enough of it to command respect against elite guys. But Stevenson does enough of the other things well that he does probably beat the rest of the Top Rank prospects in that division.
Of that group, Berchelt might be the only one who can really test Stevenson. Berchelt has won his past five fights by stoppage and has the technical skills to be able to match ring acumen with Stevenson, who does a great job of not wasting punches or effort in the ring.
Of course, since Stevenson is under the Top Rank umbrella, the big question is whether he’s ready for Vasiliy Lomachenko in 2021.
Wolfe: I’d like to see Stevenson wait for Lomachenko. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t believe Stevenson is in his prime yet, but his superior skill set should help him have success against some of the other champions in his division such as Herring and Diaz. Lomachenko is very similar to Stevenson in that both fighters rely on technique, IQ and defense, so it would be somewhat of a mirror, with the veteran having more experience. I believe Stevenson can hang with him, but I believe his most ideal chance to beat him comes in 2022 or 2023, after he gains a little more strength.
The biggest fight for Stevenson in 2021 should be Berchelt, who is also under the Top Rank umbrella and considered by many to be the best fighter in the junior lightweight division. It would be the quintessential boxer vs. big puncher battle, and though Stevenson won’t have the power to knock Berchelt out, I think he has enough to outbox him.
Ben: Regardless of whom Stevenson matches up with in his next fight, he needs to turn it up a notch the next time he’s in the ring. If he wants to be the next Floyd Mayweather or Sugar Ray Leonard, he needs to be more imposing. Kahn Clary was the perfect opponent for Stevenson to dial up the pressure, pick up a stoppage and show why he’s on the path to being one of boxing’s top draws.
Wolfe: I would have loved to see Stevenson get the stoppage, and he wanted it, too. My biggest criticism of Stevenson is he hasn’t shown the consistent power yet to make beaten opponents quit, and Saturday was an example of that. But winning is all that should matter, and nobody has come close to beating Stevenson yet. Ultimately, I believe Stevenson can have a Lomachenko-level ascension in his career. The biggest takeaway from this fight for me is Stevenson’s dominance — Kahn Clary landed only 9% of his total punches and didn’t come close to winning a round. Stevenson is ready for the smoke.