Shakur Stevenson will have to wait out the official commission hearing to determine if his proposed next fight date will be approved. The good news is that he now has an opponent in place for the occasion.
The unbeaten featherweight titlist will now apparently face Puerto Rico’s Felix Caraballo atop a June 9 card being planned by Top Rank to take place at a Las Vegas venue to be determined. Stevenson’s co-manager, former unbeaten two-division champion Andre Ward revealed the news Saturday evening on ESPN, which will carry the event, pending approval from the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), whose office is holding a monthly agenda hearing on Wednesday with part of the agenda to include whether to permit combat sports to resume in-state.
“Obviously, he’s excited,” Ward told ESPN’s Joe Tessitore, as the two served along with award-winning writer and ESPN contributor Mark Kriegel during a network-aired marathon of fights featuring former World heavyweight champion Mike Tyson on Saturday. “He wants to get back in the ring, a throwback mentality type of fighter even though he’s a young fighter. He’s working out in the gym now. He’s excited to get back in the ring by early June.
“He recently just had an opponent change because his opponent is in Mexico and having issues getting over. He’s now facing, I believe it’s Felix Caraballo.”
Caraballo (13-1-2, 9KOs) replaces originally proposed opponent Rafael ‘Big Bang’ Rivera (27-4-2, 18KOs), who could not commit to the fight due to his current inability to leave Mexico due to visa travel issues.
The fight will represent the first piece of ring action in the United States since March 13, with mass gatherings around the world shut down and disallowed due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The timing affected what would have been the first defense of the featherweight title for Stevenson (13-0, 7KOs), who was due to face Colombia’s Miguel Marriaga on March 14 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York City. The event was canceled two days prior, with Stevenson admittedly taking a break afterward after having endured a full training camp.
The 2016 Olympic Silver medalist from Newark, New Jersey—who now lives in Virginia but is currently training in Houston, Texas for this fight—claimed a featherweight belt through a tour-de-force performance in a lopsided 12-round win over previously unbeaten Joet Gonzalez last October in Reno, Nevada. His belt will not be at stake as he plans to test the junior lightweight waters, opting to retain his title status in hopes of eventually landing a unification clash versus England’s Josh Warrington.
Meanwhile, he faces a six-year pro in Caraballo, who fights outside of his native Puerto Rico for the first time in his career. The rangy puncher comes in riding a five-fight win streak, all taking place in his Mayaguez hometown. Caraballo’s most recent fight was a 57-second drubbing of Mexico’s Sergio Lopez this past January.
“I don’t know much about him,” admitted Ward, though not concerned given his client’s rich pedigree. “Shakur texted me and said, “Hey I haven’t watched the tape yet. What do you think about him?” I told him Felix has big trouble come June 9.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox