LAS VEGAS – As much as Joet Gonzalez dislikes Shakur Stevenson, he respects Stevenson’s accomplishments.
Gonzalez still doesn’t think the 22-year-old Stevenson will be able to handle him when they fight Saturday night for the vacant WBO featherweight title. Stevenson, the WBO’s No. 1 contender, is listed as a 5-1 favorite to beat the second-ranked Gonzalez, but Gonzalez is confident he’ll upset the unbeaten southpaw from Newark, New Jersey.
“He’s an Olympic silver medalist,” Gonzalez told BoxingScene.com. “To get an Olympic medal itself, it’s hard to do. So, you’ve gotta respect that. He’s a good boxer. But at the end of the day, I just don’t think his mental capacity is gonna be enough to beat me. Like I said, he’s a kid. I’m just gonna beat him down and get the win.”
There’s bad blood between Gonzalez (23-0, 14 KOs), of Glendora, California, and Stevenson (12-0, 7 KOs) because Stevenson has been dating Gonzalez’s younger sister, Jajaira Gonzalez, for the past three years. Stevenson has refused to discuss that situation, whereas Gonzalez has been open about it and says he doesn’t think Stevenson is “good enough” to date his sister, an aspiring Olympic boxer.
Their personal dispute aside, the 22-year-old Stevenson is certain Gonzalez hasn’t boxed someone as good as him since the 26-year-old Californian turned pro in July 2012.
“I think it’s a huge step up,” Stevenson said. “I don’t think he has faced this kind of competition. I feel like the highest person he fought was Rafael Rivera. And last I checked, [Rivera] said no to the fight with me.”
Rivera (27-4-2, 18 KOs) turned down an opportunity to face Stevenson on short notice July 13 at Prudential Center in Newark. Stevenson instead knocked out Alberto Guevara (27-5, 12 KOs) in the third round that night.
Stevenson acknowledged that he, too, will encounter a better boxer than he has faced thus far when they square off at Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nevada (ESPN+; 10 p.m. EDT/7 p.m. PDT).
“Yeah, I feel like it’s a step up for me,” Stevenson said. “I feel like Joet is a great fighter. I feel like he got great defense, he puts pressure. He’s got some type of power, he say. I don’t know about that.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.