Shakur Stevenson is following through on his plan to remain at 130 pounds.
The unbeaten Stevenson confirmed to ESPN.com on Thursday that he’ll give up the WBO featherweight title he won eight months ago. Stevenson told BoxingScene.com following his 130-pound debut last month that he would remain at junior lightweight if he couldn’t secure a featherweight title unification fight against England’s Josh Warrington.
With Warrington (30-0, 7 KOs), the IBF 126-pound champion, committed to facing China’s Can Xu (18-2, 3 KOs), the WBA’s secondary title-holder, in his next fight, Stevenson will continue competing within the 130-pound division.
“I just didn’t want to keep making the weight,” Stevenson told ESPN.com. “I think I should be in the rankings to fight for a title [at junior lightweight] ASAP. I think I deserve it.”
The 23-year-old Stevenson (14-0, 8 KOs) fought for the first time at 130 pounds June 9. The 2016 Olympic silver medalist knocked out unknown underdog Felix Caraballo (13-2-2, 9 KOs) with a body shot in the sixth round of a main event ESPN televised from MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
The southpaw from Newark, New Jersey, wants a 130-pound showdown with WBA champion Leo Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs). Santa Cruz is expected to face WBA lightweight champ Gervonta Davis (23-0, 22 KOs) in his next fight, though.
Nevertheless, Stevenson has left the featherweight division without defending the WBO belt he won by out-boxing Joet Gonzalez (23-1, 14 KOs) and winning their 12-round fight for the then-unclaimed championship by unanimous decision October 26 in Reno, Nevada.
“You know what? Warrington didn’t want the fight to happen,” Antonio Leonard, Stevenson’s co-promoter, told ESPN.com. “Because we gave him all the opportunity. He didn’t even start acting like he wanted to fight Shakur until he seen we might go up to 130. He didn’t want to fight Shakur.”
Stevenson was willing to fight Warrington in Warrington’s hometown of Leeds, England, but he was dissatisfied with the purse he was offered for the Warrington bout early this year. Stevenson was supposed to defend his WBO featherweight title against Colombia’s Miguel Marriaga (29-3, 25 KOs) on March 14 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York, but that entire card was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.