Shakur Stevenson’s handlers at Top Rank Inc. are going down the list of potential opponents in the WBC rankings for his next fight.
The WBC ordered a lightweight elimination match between the third-rated Stevenson and second-ranked Isaac Cruz at its annual convention two months ago. Mexico’s Cruz (24-2-1, 17 KOs) is expected to fight someone other than Stevenson next, however, and Golden Boy Promotions, which represents fourth-ranked William Zepeda (27-0, 23 KOs), doesn’t want Stevenson next for its Mexican contender, either.
That could leave Stevenson to face undefeated Japanese contender Shuichiro Yoshino when the unbeaten Newark, New Jersey native returns to the ring April 8 in a main event ESPN will televise. Stevenson (19-0, 9 KOs) assessed Yoshino (16-0, 12 KOs) as a potential opponent during the former featherweight and junior lightweight champion’s appearance this week on “The DAZN Boxing Show.”
“I think that we gotta rate him with his performance with Nakatani, being that Nakatani fought Teofimo, went 12 rounds,” Stevenson told co-hosts Barak Bess and Akin Reyes. “I think he lost on a majority decision. I may be wrong – I don’t remember. But then [Nakatani] fought Lomachenko. He ain’t do too good with Lomachenko, but he end up getting stopped later on in the fight.
“And then [Nakatani] fought Yoshino, and [Yoshino] stopped him faster than anybody. And he actually really knocked him out or something like that. So, we know he got power. We know he’s tough. And for him to beat that dude [Nakatani] – and he beat Ito – it let us know that he solid.”
Tokyo’s Yoshino, 31, has emerged as a top lightweight contender by beating two of his countrymen over the past nine months.
Yoshino knocked out Masayoshi Nakatani in the sixth round of his most recent fight, which took place November 1 at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. The only previous losses for Nakatani (20-3, 14 KOs) came against Vasiliy Lomachenko (17-2, 11 KOs), who stopped him in the ninth round, and Teofimo Lopez (18-1, 13 KOs), who defeated him by unanimous decision in their 12-rounder.
In the bout before he knocked out Nakatani, Yoshino defeated former WBO junior lightweight champ Masayuki Ito (27-4-1, 15 KOs) by technical decision. Yoshino led Ito on all three scorecards (107-102, 107-102, 106-103) when their 12-rounder was stopped in the 11th round due to an accidental clash of heads that made a doctor determine Ito shouldn’t continue April 9 at Saitama Super Arena.
Lomachenko is the WBC’s number one lightweight contender, but the Ukrainian southpaw’s team is in negotiations to challenge undefeated, undisputed 135-pound champion Devin Haney (29-0, 15 KOs). Stevenson, 25, will make his debut at the lightweight limit April 8.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.
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