Shakur Stevenson is more than capable of amping up his aggression and producing more fireworks while maintaining his brand of hit-and-don’t-get-hit sweet science.
However, the 24-year-old WBO interim junior lightweight champion vows that he’s going to take what his opponents give him and react accordingly to ensure that he doesn’t completely step out of his wheelhouse of efficiency that has made him a pristine 16-0. We’ll see how that pans out Oct. 23 in Atlanta, where Stevenson will challenge for Jamel Herring’s WBO world title in his most significant bout to date.
Despite it seeming like a balancing act between showcasing boxing skills and upping the action, Stevenson says he’s not conflicted with his approach at all.
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“Sometimes we’re going to get those fights where I have to sit there, have a tough night and fight it out,” Stevenson tells DAZN. “If it’s going to be easy, I’m going to take it easy at the end of the day. The best of the best likes to win every round and not make fights hard.
“At the end of the day, you don’t know what judges are looking at,” he continues. “So, if I sit there and try to give someone fireworks or how ever you want to put it, you never know. They could rob me.
“I just try to be dominant,” he tacks on. “I don’t really care too much about (impressing) the fans because one day they love you, the next day they don’t. At the end of the day, I’m going to please myself.”
Stevenson was dominant against Jeremiah Nakathila on June 12, when he shut him out via unanimous decision. Despite the lopsided decision, which included a flash knockdown, Stevenson fielded boos from the Las Vegas crowd that night. A bulk of his post-fight interview had him criticizing his own performance.
“Usually I put on a performance that I feel good about it,” says Stevenson nearly three months removed from the win. “I didn’t feel as sharp as I usually felt. It was like an off night for me.
“Even though I dominated, it just ain’t feel like the type of night that I prepared for or wanted,” he continues. “Mainly, I didn’t like my own performance.”
That letdown paved the way for Stevenson to link up with former junior welterweight world champion Regis Prograis for sparring sessions.
“It’s been great sparring (Prograis),” says Stevenson in preparation to fight Herring. “He’s a bigger guy. He’s built bigger, fights at 140. He only has one loss and that’s to Josh Taylor, who holds all the belts right now. You gotta respect Regis. He’s a tough, rugged fighter.
“We both push each other to the limit,” he adds. “That experience is going to make both of us better. We helped each other out a lot. Hopefully we could keep doing it.”
While sharpening steel against an aggressive fighter like Prograis could up the chances of fans getting more fireworks from Stevenson against Herring, the Newark, New Jersey product isn’t going to allow himself to stray away from the sweet science that makes him great.
Watch any Stevenson fight and you’ll notice that right lead leg firmly planted into the canvas early. That stance allows the southpaw to assert his jab, which is one of the best in boxing — if not the best.
The young ring general considers it an artform.
“I think it has to do with distance and knowing my distance and knowing my range,” Stevenson says about setting up his crisp, clean jab. “I feel good when I get into a fight and after the first two rounds, I could figure out my range with the jab.
“It’s something that a lot of fighters don’t really know,” he offers. “If you really watch boxing today, a lot of fighters don’t know much about distance and range. They just go in there and do stuff. They don’t understand what they’re doing.
“I feel like that’s my most important punch.”
How soon that punch becomes a factor against a savvy Herring remains to be seen. With Herring and Stevenson both counting WBO welterweight world Terence Crawford as a friend, the junior lightweights have sparred before. But Stevenson says they’re more like associates than friends.
“I sparred him two different times,” Stevenson says about Herring. “He ain’t no close friend. He’s like an associate, somebody who was around the same people I’m around.
“I’m not really that cool with him,” he says, doubling down. “I ain’t got no real issue with him. It’s just business.”
Big business, considering that the bout will take place at the same State Farm Arena in Atlanta that Gervonta Davis has energized as a marquee boxing market. Whether that big stage site produces an uptick of action from Stevenson, while staying within the confines of his boxing skills, will reveal itself next month likely in grand fashion.