By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Bob Arum’s admission that he didn’t want Shakur Stevenson to fight Christopher Diaz isn’t the only bone Stevenson picked with his promoter this week.
Stevenson feels “disrespected” because Arum arranged for rising lightweight star Teofimo Lopez to fight in the co-main event, boxing lingo for the bout before the headliner, Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. The 21-year-old Stevenson believes his fight should be featured immediately before Terence Crawford and Amir Khan box because Stevenson insisted on facing a tough world championship challenger in just his 11th professional fight.
The Brooklyn-born, Las Vegas-based Lopez – though talented, powerful and charismatic – is scheduled to meet a less imposing opponent than Stevenson. The 21-year-old Lopez (12-0, 10 KOs) will face Finland’s Edis Tatli (31-2, 10 KOs) in a 12-rounder.
Lopez quickly has become must-see TV. Arum also repeatedly has mentioned Lopez as a potential opponent for WBA/WBO lightweight champ Vasiliy Lomachenko (13-1, 10 KOs) in what would be a pay-per-view fight early next year.
Stevenson (10-0, 6 KOs), a 2016 Olympic silver medalist from Newark, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico’s Diaz (24-1, 16 KOs) will square off in a 10-rounder. The winner figures to move into position to fight WBO featherweight champ Oscar Valdez (25-0, 20 KOs) later this year.
“I’m right before the co-main event and I feel disrespected,” Stevenson told BoxingScene.com. “I definitely should be the co-main event because of [the tougher fight]. If they could tell me one good reason why, I mean, that’d be cool. I feel disrespected by that, to be honest with you.
“I’m fighting a difficult opponent and someone that’s coming to fight. A lot of people see it as a 50-50 fight, even though I don’t. But I feel like I should be the co-main event. But it is what it is. I’m gonna do what I’ve gotta do regardless, and after this we can figure that situation out.”
Stevenson-Diaz will be the second of four fights ESPN Pay-Per-View’s will air Saturday night, starting at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT ($69.95 in HD). Some boxing fans have expressed more interest on social media in Stevenson-Diaz than Crawford-Khan because they feel it’ll be more competitive and represents a steep step up in class for Stevenson.
Stevenson demanded this fight, even when Arum tried to talk his managers – Josh Dubin, James Prince and Andre Ward – out of it. Stevenson’s improvement over the past year has convinced him, his team and Crawford, who has helped him develop during training camps in Colorado Springs, Colorado, that he is more than ready to defeat the 24-year-old Diaz.
“I see a lot of up-and-coming fighters that’s in my generation, my time,” Stevenson explained, “and they all calling out for names and saying that they wanna fight these top fighters. But none of them are actually stepping in the ring with nobody. So I felt like, ‘OK.’ I feel like I’m the leader of all of them. I’m the leader of this generation. Once they offered the fight to me, I said, ‘Yeah, this is a perfect opportunity.’ ”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.