NEWARK, N.J. — As Shakur Stevenson made his way towards the ring at the Prudential Center, fans rose to their feet and held out their phones to capture the moment. Newark hasn’t had many special fighters to call their own, who understood that an upbringing in “Brick City” was different from one anywhere else.
The announced crowd of 5,150 let Stevenson know he was their guy.
Fighting for what may have been the last time before his first world title opportunity, Stevenson did not disappoint, knocking out the late replacement at 2:37 of round 3.
“That was a great performance I put on for the city of Newark,” said Stevenson, 22. “Top Rank, y’all have to give me better competition.”
Stevenson (12-0, 7 knockouts) stalked his opponent, landing straight lefts to the body that clearly impacted Guevara’s midsection in round one. Guevara repeatedly complained that the punches were low though they were clearly in legal areas.
That tell gave way to Guevara’s next reaction, which was to fall to a knee for the first knockdown in round two. He rose up but was back down from yet another series of body blows twenty seconds, but was saved by the bell.
Confusion set in the following round when Stevenson landed a straight left on Guevara’s cup, and then a follow-up straight left to the chin that dropped him before referee David Fields could intervene. Guevara was given a few moments to recover, but the fight was essentially over.
The knockout came as the result of a flurry of punches that sent Guevara collapsing to the ring, as much overwhelmed and bewildered as he was hurt.
Guevara (27-5, 12 KOs) was the third opponent announced for the ESPN-televised main event after the previous two withdrew, accepting the fight a little over a week ago. Guevara had even less notice for his last fight, stepping in to face Hugo Ruiz on 24 hours notice after Jhack Tepora blew the contracted weight for their fight on the Manny Pacquiao-Adrien Broner card in January.
Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said about seven or eight other opponents weren’t even interested in the fight, with Miguel Marriaga saying he’d prefer to fight Stevenson in a title fight down the line.
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) July 14, 2019
Stevenson, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist, is now rated no. 1 by the WBA and WBO, whose titles are held by Leo Santa Cruz and his Top Rank stablemate Oscar Valdez, respectively, and no. 3 by the IBF, which is represented by titleholder Josh Warrington.
Stevenson voiced his interest in heading to the United Kingdom to face Warrington, but also said he wanted a shot at the WBO title. Moretti told The Ring that the WBO mandatory is due next, but Valdez, who has made six defenses of the belt, is finding it harder to make 126 pounds and may move up instead, leaving a vacant belt behind.
“It’s not because Shakur is up his ass. He was thinking of going to 130 two fights ago,” said Moretti, who expects Stevenson to get his title opportunity “before the end of the year.”
Moretti was confident that Top Rank would be hosting more shows at the Prudential Center in the future, particularly if Stevenson is in the main event. With big undercard fighters like Julian Rodriguez and Vito Mielnicki Jr. demonstrating their ticket-selling ability earlier in the night, Moretti thinks it could even work with a popular Irish or Italian fighter in the main event, or even an entertaining fighter like WBC light heavyweight titleholder Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-0, 14 KOs) on top.
“It’s all just about arena availability at this point. We wouldn’t have to hesitate to do a show here, we’d do it here before Atlantic City,” said Moretti.
“We’ve got basketball and hockey coming up so it’s not gonna be easy.”
For the moment, Stevenson was just happy to have a place to call home.
“I see me bringing big fights to Newark, I see me bringing boxing back to Newark. Brick City, I appreciate you all. Without you, I wouldn’t be who I am.”
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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