Shakur Stevenson is not interested in waiting any longer than legally required in his pursuit of a second divisional crown.
The former featherweight titlist remains the number-one contender to the WBO 130-pound strap currently held by Jamel Herring. With that status came disappointment upon learning that Herring plans to still proceed with a voluntary title defense versus former two-division champ Carl Frampton, with their announced bout due to take place Feb. 27 in London.
Tuesday’s announcement—which came through the press office of MTK Global, Herring’s advisor—comes in stark contrast to the outcome expected by Stevenson (15-0, 8KOs) and his team, given the sanctioning body’s previous ruling on the subject.
“As you are aware… Mr. Stevenson agreed to step aside as the mandatory challenger to allow the Herring v. Frampton bout to proceed, provided that the bout occur no later than December 31, 2020,” Josh Dubin, Stevenson’s attorney and co-manager stated in a formal correspondence with the WBO on Jan. 4, a copy of which has been obtained by BoxingScene.com. “The Resolution provides that the Herring v. Frampton bout "cannot be postponed or canceled."
“The Resolution also states that the decision is "a final decision of the WBO Championship Committee." December 31, 2020 has come and gone and the Herring v. Frampton bout did not happen.”
The aforementioned title fight between Herring and Frampton is one of many which has served at the mercy of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Top Rank—the Las Vegas-based promotional outfit which has both boxers under contract, though whose brand was conspicuously omitted from Tuesday’s announcement—planned to stage the fight last June in Frampton’s hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland. The intention at the time was to host the fight with fans in attendance, as Herring (21-2, 10KOs) was fine marching into hostile territory.
Instead came separate intended showcase bouts for both boxers last summer before proceeding with a head-on collision. Frampton (28-2, 16KO) settled on a late replacement foe in Darren Traynor, whom he stopped inside of seven rounds last August behind closed doors at the famed York Hall in Bethnal Green, England.
Three weeks later came Herring’s twice-postponed title defense versus Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Oquendo. Herring—a 35-year old southpaw from the Coram section of Long Island, New York who served as the captain of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Boxing team which competed in London—retained his title for the second time, settling for an 8th round disqualification win, several rounds after suffering a cut over his right eye from what was ruled as an intentional headbutt. The injury—along with suffering a scratched cornea—once again threw a wrench into rescheduling the fight with Frampton, which soon became the WBO’s problem.
Stevenson and his team sought to have the boxer’s mandatory title status enforced, with the WBO reaching a compromise. In an official order handed down on October 16, the sanctioning body gave its blessing to a voluntary title fight between Herring and Frampton on the condition that it take place no later than December 31, 2020. A specific stipulation in the ruling noted that “the bout cannot be postponed or cancelled.”
From there, Stevenson—who was named the number-one contender upon moving up in weight last summer—was due to face the winner no later than 120 days after their fight.
As 2020 ended without such a fight taking place, the expectation is now for Stevenson—a 2016 Olympic Silver medalist and brief WBO featherweight titlist—to be permitted to exercise his mandatory status in the form of a shot at the 130-pound title, whether versus Herring or in a vacant title capacity.
“[W]e request the immediate reinstatement of Shakur Stevenson as the mandatory challenger,” notes Dubin who also requests that “Mr. Herring is required to either fight Mr. Stevenson in his next bout or relinquish the WBO Jr. Lightweight Championship so that Mr. Stevenson can fight for the vacant WBO Jr. Lightweight Championship in his next bout against the highest ranked contender.”
Stevenson claimed the WBO featherweight title in a 12-round virtual shutout of unbeaten contender Joet Gonzalez in Oct. 2019. His title reign came and went without a single defense, with a planned fight versus Colombia’s Miguel Marriaga cancelled two days before their scheduled March 14th, 2019 clash due to the initial wave of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Stevenson since moved up to junior lightweight, scoring a 6th round knockout of Felix Caraballo last June at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas before officially abandoning his title reign.
Most recently, Stevenson is coming off of a 10-round shutout of Toka Kahn Clary last December, also on MGM grounds where Herring faced and defeated Oquendo.
Herring claimed the WBO 130-pound title in a 12-round decision win over Japan’s Masayuki Ito on May 26, 2019, at the start of Memorial Day weekend. Two defenses followed, including a competitive but clear victory over unbeaten mandatory challenger Lamont Roach Jr. on Nov. 9, 2019, two days prior to Veteran’s Day which Herring proudly represented as a decorated U.S. Marine and two-tour Iraqi war veteran.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox