There is a part of Shakur Stevenson that still holds out hope for a long-desired showdown with fellow unbeaten featherweight titlist Josh Warrington.
With the 22-year old from Newark, New Jersey threatening to outgrow the division, it seems more unlikely by the day that a unification clash between the two will ever take place. If he has it in him to make 126 pounds for at least one more fight, longtime and reigning titlist Gary Russell Jr. has floated the idea of such a showdown.
“That would be a hell of fight, me and Gary,” Stevenson (13-0, 7KOs) acknowledged during a recent media conference call to otherwise discuss his upcoming fight versus Puerto Rico’s Felix Caraballo. “I really believe we are the two most skillful fighters in the division. That would be a hell of a fight.”
For now, Stevenson—a 2016 Olympic Silver medalist for the United States boxing team that competed in Rio—will test the waters in the junior lightweight division. His bout versus Caraballo (13-1-2, 9KOs) will take place June 9 at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, marking the first televised boxing event to take place in the United States since March 13. It will also serve as a gauge for whether he will remain at 130 for good, or if there is still enough left in him to drop back down in weight. For now, the only such bout that would entice him to lose those four extra pounds would be a clear shot at England’s Warrington (30-0, 6KOs) who awaits a fight date for his unification clash with the division’s last remaining titlist, China’s Can Xu.
Stevenson has the shortest reign of the four, claiming his belt in a 12-round virtuoso performance versus previously unbeaten Joet Gonzalez last October. Xu (18-2, 3KOs) claimed a secondary version of the title last January, with an upgrade to come by the time he faces Warrington, who recently celebrated his two-year anniversary as a featherweight title claimant.
Russell ( 31-1, 18KOs) has reigned the longest, not just in the division but in the sport as a whole. The 32-year old southpaw from the greater Washington D.C. area claimed his belt with a 4th round knockout of Jhonny Gonzalez in March 2015. Just one title defense per year has followed, along with a lot of frustration over an inability to land the division’s best which in turns leading to little respect shown towards his featherweight peers.
That last part stops well short of Stevenson, who has long admired the 2008 U.S. Olympian and long reigning champ and fully of the belief that the feeling is mutual.
“He knows I’m the only one that... you see how he talk about everyone else,” notes Stevenson. “He don’t respect a lot of other fighters but he respects me a lot.
“He’s been around me, he knows my mindset. He knows what I’m about. So, I understand Gary when he (called for a fight).”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox