Andre Ward

Will Shakur Stevenson Dominate the Junior Lightweight Division?

Mikey Williams/Top Rank

One of boxing’s most heavily hyped and touted young world champions, Shakur Stevenson (14-0, 8 KOs), announced that he would be vacating his WBO Featherweight title and moving up in weight to the Junior Lightweight division.

The Newark, New Jersey native first became known for winning the silver medal in the Bantamweight division at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Stevenson lost to two-time Olympic gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez in the finals.

In February 2017, Stevenson signed with Top Rank to be his primary promoter. He also has future Hall-of-Famer Andre Ward as his manager to help guide his career.

Since turning professional, Stevenson is considered one of the top fighters in the world, gaining comparisons to all-time great Floyd Mayweather Jr.

As a professional, Stevenson’s first great performance came in April 2019 against Puerto Rico’s Christopher Diaz.

The fight took place at Madison Square Garden as the co-headlining bout to Terence Crawford’s Welterweight title defense against Amir Khan. The New Jersey fighter dismantled Diaz winning a wide unanimous decision in a 10-round bout.

The performance against Diaz changed how fans and pundits viewed Stevenson. He went from a fighter with potential to possibly becoming the best fighter in the Featherweight division.

Later in October 2019, Stevenson got his first world title opportunity against Joet Gonzalez for the vacant WBO Featherweight title.

Stevenson and Gonzalez had personal issues outside the ring; however, this didn’t impact the young Olympian’s performance.

Stevenson would win a wide unanimous decision over Gonzalez to win his first world title. Another stellar performance from Stevenson propelled many to label him as potentially boxing’s next superstar.

Now that he has decided to vacate his Featherweight title, the fighters at Junior Lightweight await his arrival.

Junior Lightweight is a division filled with solid world champions and plenty of contenders to test Stevenson. The number one fighter in the division is Mexico’s Miguel Berchelt.

Berchelt holds the WBC Junior Lightweight title and has defended his title six times, scoring five stoppages.

At this time Berchelt seems to be on a collision course to face former Featherweight champion, Oscar Valdez, however, there are numerous options for Stevenson in the interim.

WBO Junior Lightweight champion Jamel Herring would be a significant test for Stevenson in facing a fighter who will box using lateral movement.

Herring and Berchelt are both promoted by Top Rank, making those fights easier to prepare for Stevenson. The other champions at Junior Lightweight include IBF champion Joseph Diaz Jr. and WBA champion Rene Alvarado who are both promoted by rival promoters.

The contenders in the division include Masayuki Ito, Tevin Farmer, and Andrew Cancio, amongst others. Any of these fights would be solid matches for Stevenson to begin his journey at Junior Lightweight.

At 23 years of age and standing at 5’8″, it’s likely that Junior Lightweight will be a stepping-stone for Stevenson to gain more experience and eventually move up in weight again.

The Lightweight and Junior Welterweight divisions feature even tougher fights for Stevenson with fighters like Vasiliy Lomachenko, Devin Haney, Gervonta Davis, Jose Ramirez, and Josh Taylor.

Even with just 14 bouts as a professional, Stevenson has the potential to become only the fourth fighter in boxing history to win titles at Featherweight, Junior Lightweight, Lightweight, and Junior Welterweight.

The other three fighters to accomplish this feat are Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez and Mikey Garcia.

Berchelt will be Stevenson’s toughest test at Junior Lightweight should they ever meet in the ring.

Stevenson, like all top fighters, is confident that he will be successful in any division he fights in.

“I’m going to be the man of the division,” Stevenson stated during an Instagram Live interview with ESPN. “I’m going to take over the division.”

While Stevenson will likely be the favorite against any fighter at Junior Lightweight, fights aren’t fought on paper; they are fought in the ring.

Fans and boxing media have been quick to label a fighter great before he has truly accomplished anything of significance.

Stevenson has the look of something special, but we won’t know until it happens inside the squared circle.

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