NEWARK, New Jersey – The odds on his fight against Robson Conceicao were so wide, Shakur Stevenson probably proved more Friday night about his drawing power than his prowess inside the ring.
Stevenson, 25, helped attract an announced crowd of 10,107 to Prudential Center, the home arena of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils. That total stands as the second-largest crowd for boxing at Prudential Center, which opened in 2007, and provided proof to Stevenson’s handlers that the two-division champion is a ticket-seller in his hometown.
Only the Tomasz Adamek-Michael Grant card, which drew an announced audience of 10,972 in August 2010, surpassed this number of fans for a boxing event at Prudential Center. Stevenson (19-0, 9 KOs), who was 13 years old when the Adamek-Grant show took place, took particular pride in disproving those that insisted he isn’t a draw.
“I’m definitely proving that I’m a bigger star than everybody give me credit for,” Stevenson said during his post-fight press conference early Saturday morning, following his wide win against Conceicao on all three scorecards. “A lot of people try to act like I’m down here [motioned low toward the floor] and all these 135-pounders is up here [raised his arm]. But clearly, I just did a show in my hometown and did big numbers here.
“So, I appreciate all my family and friends, and all the fans that came out to support me. … It made me feel good. I’m glad that I got the support of my whole city. And I pray and hope that my city keeps supporting me the way that they do.”
Stevenson’s dominant, 12-round victory over Oscar Valdez in their 130-pound title unification fight April 30 drew an announced crowd of 10,102 to MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and generated approximately $1.6 million in ticket revenue. Bob Arum, whose company promotes Stevenson, noted after that event that thousands of Mexican fans assembled that night to support the previously unbeaten Valdez (30-1, 23 KOs), but he was pleasantly surprised by the turnout Friday night at Prudential Center.
“Tickets sold extraordinarily good, a lot more than we anticipated,” Arum told BoxingScene.com. “We [opened up] some new sections because demand was so good.”
There is a big Brazilian population in the Ironbound section of Newark, which accounted for some fans purchasing tickets to cheer Conceicao (17-2, 8 KOs), who won a gold medal for Brazil at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Several undercard fighters, most notably featherweight prospect Bruce “Shu Shu” Carrington and welterweight prospect Jahi Tucker, are ticket-sellers as well.
Arum estimated, however, that 90 percent of buyers were there to support Stevenson, who has developed into one of the best boxers, pound-for-pound, in the sport. Gate revenue from Friday’s event will amount to about half of what the Stevenson-Valdez show produced because price points for tickets were lower in Newark than in Las Vegas, but Arum is still pleased with Stevenson’s showing at the box office.
“I think that’s very important,” Arum said. “We know that boxing-wise, he’s a great talent. The question has always been, what about star power? Can he draw? Well, he demonstrated that he could draw when he fought [Jamel Herring] in Atlanta [last October 23 at State Farm Arena]. We had a very good crowd there. And then when he fought Valdez, it was a tremendous crowd. And now here. So, he is showing that he is a big, big draw. We’re very pleased with that kind of development.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.