LAS VEGAS – Joet Gonzalez made some demands during negotiations for his upcoming featherweight title fight against Shakur Stevenson.
Among the things Gonzalez wasn’t willing to do was fight Stevenson in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey. Stevenson’s last fight took place July 13 at Prudential Center in Newark, but Gonzalez saw no reason to afford Stevenson a home-ring advantage.
“It was very important,” Gonzalez told BoxingScene.com following a recent press conference at MGM Grand to announce their fight. “Obviously, [Stevenson] is an idiot. How’s he gonna fight in his hometown when the belt’s vacant? If he was the champion, I would definitely go out there. If he’s the champ, I’ve gotta go out there, to his hometown, and do what I’ve gotta do. But the belt’s vacated, we’re doing it in a neutral spot, 50-50, and let the best man win.”
The neutral spot is Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nevada. The 22-year-old Stevenson (12-0, 7 KOs), the WBO’s No. 1 featherweight contender, and the 25-year-old Gonzalez (23-0, 14 KOs), who’s ranked No. 2, will square off in an ESPN+ main even there October 26 for the 126-pound championship Mexico’s Oscar Valdez vacated to move up to 130 pounds.
Stevenson isn’t exactly pleased with the site for their fight.
“They said they wanted to keep it on neutral ground, and we’re fighting in Reno,” Stevenson said. “I don’t think that’s neutral at all. I feel like California is a drive away [for Gonzalez and his fans]. You can drive there. … I just feel like Reno wasn’t [neutral]. But I fight better going into somebody else’s territory.”
Gonzalez is from Glendora, California, more than an eight-hour drive from Reno. He hasn’t fought in Reno since he was an amateur and Gonzalez doesn’t feel he has any advantage over Stevenson by boxing there.
Stevenson, an Olympic silver medalist in 2016, still will treat this fight as if he’s heading into his opponent’s hometown.
“As an amateur, as a kid, I grew up kinda going overseas,” Stevenson said. “I usually fight the people that was from there in the finals, and I always – that’d be my best performances. I would perform better when I’m in somebody else’s hometown. They boo me and it kind of fire me up.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.