There’s no need to beat around the bush.
Last Thursday night, boxing fans who endured into the early hours of Friday got to experience one of the worst major title fights ever aired.
Sure, sometimes styles don’t clash but lack of style clash doesn’t fully explain Shakur Stevenson-Edwin De Los Santos. The winner by decision, Stevenson, is now a three-division titlist with a WBC lightweight belt in tow. He earned it by throwing, according to CompuBox, 209 total punches across 12 rounds.
That’s a little more than 17 punches a round.
Stevenson landed 65 of those 209, an average of not even 5 ½ punches a frame.
And that was for the win!
De Los Santos was more active, throwing 316, but only landing 40. It was just awful viewing.
That puts this “fight” in a special class of stinker that is almost hard to quantify. Let’s compare it to another all-time dud like Juan Manuel Marquez-Derrick Gainer. That turgid 2003 unification affair, won by Marquez on a technical decision brought about by an accidental head clash, ironically saw Marquez also throw just 209 punches, landing 51 while Gainer threw 156 and landed 16.
It was utterly unwatchable then, but those were also their numbers after seven rounds. A young fighter some are touting as a potential pound-for-pound king, who ESPN is hard selling as the latest most avoided man in the sport, jabbed, posed, and moved his way through a nationally televised contest worse than Marquez-Gainer and it went the distance.
It’s better to win than to lose, and De Los Santos was as woeful to watch, but for the immediate star hopes of Stevenson this has to be seen as a setback.
Futures: The solace point for Stevenson will be that one can bounce back. Stevenson’s star was on the rise after impressive outings versus Oscar Valdez and Shuichiro Yoshino. The right matchmaking can put this behind him quickly.
Marquez-Gainer was awful but it got Marquez to the first Manny Pacquiao fight and the arc of his career changed for good.
The problem for Stevenson is that, in a market where the best talents at lightweight are split across multiple platforms, Stevenson made it easier to avoid him. He’s got a belt so he’s no one’s mandatory. What’s the sell point for the moment? Fight this difficult defensive fighter who might beat you and drag down the audience’s impression of both fighters?
There’s easier ways to make a living.
The fight also raised the question of whether this is what we can expect anytime Stevenson has the least concern about the power of his opponent. De Los Santos came in with a high knockout percentage and Stevenson fought at a range where he seemed to not even want De Los Santos to breathe on him. It was reminiscent of his approach to Jeremiah Nakathila. That was a skittish outing on Thursday.
It would be easier if Stevenson was more active but the way boxing is structured now it might be half a year before he’s back in the ring and he left nothing that will feel missed in his absence. In another era, Top Rank could bring him back early next year and get him in the ring 3-4 times to reset the storyline for their charge. It could still be done now but will it? Winning the way he did Thursday might ultimately have lost the 2024 calendar year for Stevenson if he was hoping to get in the way of a Tank Davis, Devin Haney, or Teofimo Lopez.
There could be one option that would give Stevenson a chance to work with a more amenable style.
Emanuel Navarrete’s placement underneath Stevenson at least hinted at a possible showdown being built. That’s a fight that would give Stevenson plenty to counter. Navarrete isn’t going to try to play counter games. However, Navarrete’s draw with Robson Conceicao might merit a rematch before that can happen. Despite two knockdowns, Navarrete was outworked and outboxed for a lot of rounds Thursday and escaped with a draw…Carlos Cuadras might be a cat because he’s on at least his eighth fistic life. His win over Pedro Guevara kept him in the mix at 115 lbs…Nick Ball might have ended Issac Dogboe as a contender…Diego Pacheco may or may not be champion one day but he’s sure fun television.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com