Shakur Stevenson is doubling down on his bid to become a three-division titlist.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that a request has been filed with the WBO by the management team for Stevenson, who seeks to be named the sanctioning body’s mandatory contender at lightweight. Similar measures were taken with the WBC, who has already confirmed Stevenson as next in line to challenge for its title and now hopes for the same with the WBO.
Both belts are presently held by Devin Haney (30-0, 15KOs), the lineal and undisputed champion who also holds the WBA ‘Super’ and IBF titles. A recent call to order by the WBO confirmed—through non-response—that Haney plans to remain at 135 and not yet compete for its 140-pound title.
“ I understand that the WBO set a deadline of July 12, 2023 at 9:00 p.m. ET for Mr. Haney to decide whether he would be vacating his title and moving to the Jr. Welterweight division,” Josh Dubin, Stevenson’s co-manager noted to WBO President Francisco ‘Paco’ Valcarcel and Championship Committee Chairman Luis Batista-Salas in a letter obtained by Boxing Scene. “To my knowledge, Mr. Haney elected to remain in the Lightweight Division, and therefore, the declaration of Mr. Stevenson as the Mandatory Challenger, is timely and appropriate.
“On behalf of James Prince and Shakur Stevenson, I thank you for your consideration and ask that you expeditiously declare Shakur Stevenson the Mandatory Challenger to Devin Haney’s Lightweight Championship.”
WBO representatives did not immediately respond to a Boxing Scene inquiry seeking comment.
Stevenson (20-0, 10KOs) is the number-one contender with both the WBC and WBO. As previously reported by Boxing Scene, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman confirmed the 2016 Olympic Silver medalist and two-division titlist as its mandatory challenger. Haney has until the end of business day Friday to confirm whether he will remain at 135 or plans to challenge for the WBC Junior welterweight title currently held by Regis Prograis (29-1, 24KOs).
Should Haney confirm plans to challenge Prograis or not respond at all, the WBC will take next steps to determine who Stevenson would face for the vacant title. Confirmation by Haney to remain at 135 will trigger an order to begin negotiations for such a fight.
The WBO is in position to follow suit. A decision by Haney to commit to a fight versus Stevenson would eliminate two mandatory obligations in one fell swoop.
“Consistent with Section 6 of the World Boxing Organization’s Regulations of World Championship Contests,” noted Stevenson’s team, “The criteria for a Mandatory Challenger include the following:
(1) Has a record acceptable to the World Championship Committee, and who, because of accomplishment and achievement, is recognized by the World Championship Committee as a class boxer; and
(2) Complies with the WBO and Association of Boxing Commissions Criteria for the Ratings of Professional Boxers; and
(3) In the event that the Champion has a contract with a major television network (HBO, SHOWTIME, ZDF, Sky or other similar broadcast company), is an acceptable challenger to the Champion’s television network.”
Stevenson has won titles at featherweight and junior lightweight. He won WBO belts at both weights and was the lineal and unified WBC/WBO champ at junior lightweight. The unbeaten Newark, New Jersey native regularly fights on ESPN through career-long co-promoter Top Rank, with whom Haney just completed a three-fight deal that saw him fully unify the lightweight division titles.
Haney twice defeated George Kambosos on the road in Melbourne, Australia to unify the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO lightweight titles. The unbeaten champ then defended the undisputed crown in a May 20 points win over Vasiliy Lomachenko to complete his three-fight deal with Top Rank and DiBella Entertainment.
Currently a free agent, Haney is able to fight on any platform.
“There is no impediment to a fight between Mr. Stevenson and Mr. Haney,” noted Dubin. “As Mandatory Challenger, Mr. Stevenson agrees to be subject to and to abide by the Regulations of the WBO and further agrees that if it becomes necessary, he will be bound to participate in, and comply with, the results of a purse bid.”
Stevenson last fought on April 8, when he stopped unbeaten Shuichiro Yoshino in the sixth round of the WBC light title eliminator in Newark, New Jersey.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox