Robson Conceicao could’ve walked away from his fight against an overweight Shakur Stevenson on Thursday and still received his entire purse.
In accordance with New Jersey State Athletic Control Board guidelines, Conceicao would’ve been entitled to his full purse, $250,000, because he fulfilled his contractual obligation by making weight for their 12-round, 130-pound title fight Friday night at Prudential Center in Newark, Stevenson’s hometown. Most commissions in the United States don’t ensure that a boxer receives his or her complete purse if he or she withdraws from a fight because an opponent is overweight.
The Brazilian contender also would’ve remained in position to eventually fight for a world title because he is ranked number two by both the WBC and WBO in the 130-pound division. Like Stevenson, Conceicao is promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc.
BoxingScene.com has learned that Conceicao’s handlers instead negotiated a financial penalty from Stevenson’s $3 million purse that pushed Conceicao’s compensation well over $300,000. Stevenson paid a $20,000 fine to the NJSACB for coming in over the contracted maximum for his homecoming fight as well.
Stevenson, 25, officially weighed 131.6 pounds, nearly two pounds above the limit. He declined his right to return to the scales at or below his contracted weight within two hours of the original weigh-in because the undefeated fighter knew he wouldn’t be able to shed the extra pounds.
The WBC and WBO subsequently stripped Stevenson (18-0, 9 KOs) of the two 130-pound championships he had hoped to defend in a main event ESPN will televise from the home arena of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.
The 33-year-old Conceicao came in at 129.6 pounds on his first attempt Thursday. Conceicao can still win the WBC and WBO belts that surprisingly became vacant.
Though it was expected all along Thursday that the two sides would work out a deal, it took much longer than usual to finalize it once it became clear that Stevenson would not try to weigh in a second time. A second-day weigh-in was not part of the agreement that the teams of Stevenson and Conceicao reached late Thursday night.
Had an incensed Conceicao (17-1, 8 KOs) withdrawn from their fight, Arum’s staff would’ve had to scramble to find a less formidable, 11th-hour replacement for the 2016 Olympic gold medalist from the eight-bout undercard or scrapped Stevenson’s bout altogether. Had Stevenson fought Puerto Rico’s Henry Lebron (16-0, 11 KOs) or San Jose’s Andy Vences (23-3-1, 12 KOs) – who will meet in an eight-round, 130-pound match on the undercard – it could’ve been approved as a 10-round, non-title bout because Stevenson surrendered his titles.
Either of those options would’ve ruined the show because the entire event has been built around Stevenson, who was raised in Newark until the 2016 Olympic silver medalist moved to Alexandria, Virginia as a teenager. A crowd that could approach 8,000 is expected at Prudential Center for Stevenson’s first fight there in more than three years.
Stevenson, also a former WBO featherweight champ, conceded after failing to make weight for the first time in 19 professional fights that he must move up the lightweight limit of 135 pounds for his next bout.
“I gave it my all,” Stevenson stated in a Tweet. “I’ve been a professional my whole career and made weight, but my body just can’t make 130 anymore. My health has to come first. I’m moving up to 135 in my next fight.”
Despite his failure at the scale, Caesars Sportsbook listed Stevenson as a whopping 20-1 favorite Thursday night to beat Conceicao. ESPN will televise their fight as the main event of a doubleheader scheduled to start at 10 p.m. ET.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.