Shakur Stevenson could headline the first televised, post-pandemic boxing show in the United States.
The Athletic reported Wednesday that Stevenson will meet Mexico’s Rafael Rivera in a main event ESPN will televise June 9 from an undetermined MGM property in Las Vegas. Stevenson told BoxingScene.com last month that he expected to be among the first fighters showcased when ESPN and Top Rank brought back live boxing because his fight against Miguel Marriage was the first ESPN main event postponed during the coronavirus crisis.
Carl Moretti, vice president of boxing operations for Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc., told BoxingScene.com on Wednesday that details haven’t been finalized for Top Rank’s June return.
“We are trying to get back in a timely fashion,” Moretti said. “As far as who’s fighting who, and on which date, it’s all up in the air right now. There’s so much more work that needs to be done.”
Moretti confirmed, though, that Stevenson (13-0, 7 KOs) will not defend his WBO featherweight title in his next fight.
“Whenever Shakur returns,” Moretti said, “we anticipate him fighting in a 10-round, non-title fight at 130 pounds.”
The 2016 Olympic silver medalist has told numerous media outlets that he intends to vacate his 126-pound championship if he can’t secure a title unification fight against IBF champ Josh Warrington. Mexico’s Rivera is not ranked among the WBO’s top 15 featherweight contenders, and thus is not eligible for a title shot.
Arum told BoxingScene.com and other outlets recently that his company would begin staging televised, four-fight cards early in June from an undetermined hotel in Las Vegas, without fans in attendance. Those shows will require extensive, expensive COVID-19 testing for everyone involved.
If ESPN televises a Top Rank show June 9, it would be the first live boxing broadcast from the United States since Showtime aired an installment of its “ShoBox: The New Generation” series March 13 from Hinckley, Minnesota.
Stevenson was supposed to make the first defense of his WBO 126-pound championship against Marriaga on March 14 in Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater. That card was canceled the night of March 12 due to the coronavirus outbreak, several hours after the official press conference was held at Madison Square Garden.
Arum initially intended to go forward with the Stevenson-Marriaga show without fans in attendance. The New York State Athletic Commission eventually decided to cancel that card, as well as another Top Rank card scheduled for March 17 at The Hulu Theater.
If Stevenson faces the 26-year-old Rivera (27-4-2, 18 KOs, 1 NC) next, he wouldn’t be considered as tough an opponent for Stevenson as Colombia’s Marriaga (29-3, 25 KOs).
Rivera is 2-4 in his past six fights, including a 12-round, unanimous-decision defeat to Leo Santa Cruz in February 2019 in Los Angeles. Jessie Magdaleno defeated Rivera by technical decision in Rivera’s last fight, August 17 in Los Angeles.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.