By Jake Donovan
The career of James 'Keep 'Em Sleepin' Stevenson began with so much promise, before life got in the way. Now, the Baltimore-based welterweight has to settle for sneaking up on opponents, hoping to spoil his way to stardom.
A major opportunity to make a name for himself comes this Friday, though it requires a road trip to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Awaiting Stevenson will be local favorite Samuel Vasquez, as the pair of unbeaten welterweights collide in their Fox Sports 1 headliner.
"This is a good opponent for me, a big step up," acknowledges Stevenson (21-0, 14KOs) who makes his network debut this weekend (Friday, Fox Sports 1, 10:00 p.m. ET). "I'm expecting a tough fight. I hope he is too, because that's what he's getting."
Stevenson sprinted out to a 15-0 start to his promising career before suffering a series of setbacks in his personal life, all of which were beyond his control. A dog attack in 2011 left the unbeaten prospect hospitalized and requiring stitches, forcing the first layoff in his career. The untimely passing of his father and mother-in-law further extended his ring hiatus before returning in September '12.
Six wins have followed, but momentum has been tough to reclaim. While remaining a local favorite in the D/M/V area (Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia), Stevenson realizes the time is now to take his career to the next level.
Getting to that next step meant accepting a role as the B-side of a major promotion. Stevenson knows he's walking into hostile territory, but isn't entirely certain Vasquez or his team—including former heavyweight king Mike Tyson, whose Iron Mike Productions presents Friday's show—is prepared for what's coming their way.
"I'm going there to bring home the (USBA welterweight) title," Stevenson promises. "This boy just don't know... he stepped into a pile of s*** when he agreed to fight me."
Tags: Mike Tyson , Sammy Vasquez Jr. , James Stevenson