Shakur Stevenson is done waiting around for his chance to become a three-division champion.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that Stevenson’s team has formally contacted the World Boxing Council (WBC) to call for a mandatory title fight versus undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney and with the possibility of an even purse split. Newark’s Stevenson is the WBC mandatory challenger and has attempted to negotiate such a fight in good faith but has already reached a point where the sanctioning body will have to intervene.
“Consistent with WBC Rule 3.7, Shakur Stevenson has been designated the mandatory challenger for Lightweight Champion Devin Haney,” Josh Dubin, Stevenson’s co-manager along with James Prince, stated to the WBC in an official letter obtained by BoxingScene.com. “While we have tried for the last several weeks to negotiate a bout with Mr. Haney on Mr. Stevenson’s behalf, we have not made much progress.
“Therefore, we respectfully ask that the WBC officially order the bout pursuant to Rule 2.8 so that the “Free Negotiations Period” can begin. I am confident that once the thirty (30) day negotiation deadline is set, we will make more headway. In the event we cannot reach an agreement, Mr. Stevenson intends to enforce his mandatory position through the purse bid process.”
Stevenson is guided by Prince and Dubin and is a staple of Top Rank’s promotional company. Haney (30-0, 15KOs) is currently a promotional free agent after having spent his last three fights under the co-promotion of Top Rank and DiBella Entertainment.
Las Vegas’ Haney entered the deal as the WBC lightweight champion and leveraged the relationship to fully unify the 135-pound division through back-to-back wins over George Kambosos in 2022. He defended all four titles and the lineal championship in a twelve-round, unanimous decision victory over former three-divisional titlist Vasiliy Lomachenko on May 20 in his Las Vegas hometown.
Stevenson (20-0, 10KOs) was already the mandatory challenger by that point. He earned that position through a sixth-round knockout of then-unbeaten Shuichiro Yoshino (16-1, 12KOs) in their April 8 WBC lightweight title eliminator in Newark, New Jersey.
The 26-year-old southpaw—a 2016 Olympic Silver medalist for Team USA—was there for the event and briefly joined Haney before the defending champ left the ring and headed to his locker room. The two exchanged words on a potential future fight, though Stevenson—a former WBO featherweight titlist and WBC/WBO junior lightweight champion—has made it abundantly clear that he wants it to be next.
Both sides acknowledged early talks for such a fight, though Stevenson was publicly displeased about only being offered 25 percent of the pot.
That matter was also addressed, though Stevenson's team has taken the additional step to ensure the two-division champ is granted proper financial compensation for such an event.
“it has come to my attention that in ordering the mandatory and officially commencing the “Free Negotiations Period,” the WBC has, of late, notified the parties of the division of proceeds in the event a purse bid becomes necessary,” Dubin noted in a follow-up letter also obtained by Boxing Scene. “It has been my experience in the past that the division of proceeds is not addressed until the Free Negotiations Period terminates. Nonetheless, in the event the Board of Governors elects to consider the division of proceeds upon ordering the commencement of the Free Negotiations Period, the following sets forth Mr. Stevenson’s position regarding how the proceeds should be divided in the event a purse bid becomes necessary.
“Section 2.16 of the WBC rules states that the Board of Governors, “may, by a majority vote, authorize a modification of the division of purse offer proceeds between boxers in a purse offer in particular cases, such as consideration of outstanding marketing value of one of the boxers, as the WBC shall determine in its sole discretion. The modification of the split of the remainder shall be limited to 60-40% and 55-45%, except in the most exceptional circumstances, in which the split may be modified to 50-50% at the WBC’s sole discretion.” Respectfully, this is precisely the exceptional circumstance that Section 2.16 contemplates. When considering the market value of Shakur Stevenson, by any and every metric, it is quite clear that a 50-50% split is appropriate.”
Stevenson’s team also cited his current drawing power, as his televised fights have exceeded the respectable ratings posted by Haney in his two fights versus Kambosos. Haney’s win over Lomachenko headlined an ESPN Pay-Per-View event whose figures were never officially released but reportedly sold in the vicinity of 150,000 units.
“Shakur Stevenson has consistently drawn among the best ratings on linear television of any professional boxer in the sport,” pointed out Dubin. “For instance, when Mr. Stevenson fought Oscar Valdez on April 30, 2022, he drew 1,166,000 million viewers on ESPN. Moreover, even against lesser-known opponents, he has, in every instance, drawn a higher television rating than Mr. Haney. By way of example, when Mr. Stevenson fought Robson Conceicao (a virtually unknown boxer from Brazil) on September 23, 2022, he drew an average of 1,076,000 viewers.
“The very next month, Mr. Haney fought well-known Unified Champion George [Kambosos] and drew an average of just 945,000 viewers. Mr. Haney’s next fight drew even less viewers, averaging just 923,000.
Dubin continued: “Another compelling metric of market value is ticket sales. Mr. Stevenson has consistently been a draw at the gate, regardless of the opponent. He has drawn more than ten thousand fans for each of his last three bouts. In fact, his last two bouts set attendance records for professional boxing at Newark’s Prudential Center, a record long held by popular former champion Tomasz Adamek.2 Those two bouts were against highly ranked, but lesser-known opponents (Shuichiro Yoshino and Robson Conceicao). When Mr. Haney fought a lesser-known opponent in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas, he reportedly sold less than three thousand tickets.
“Finally, Mr. Stevenson is an Olympian. He proudly represented the United States of America at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio. Mr. Stevenson won a silver medal and garnered international attention. Mr. Haney did not represent his country at the Olympics.
Regardless of the ruling that comes from this push, Stevenson is all but ensured to next challenge for the WBC title. There has been speculation that Haney will move up to junior welterweight, as Boxing Scene has confirmed there is already an open line of dialogue for a potential fight versus WBC 140-pound champ Regis Prograis.
In the event of Haney moving up in weight or failure to honor his mandatory, Stevenson would then face the next highest available contender—which at the moment would mean a Stevenson-Lomachenko showdown.
For now, the hope from Team Stevenson is a resolution to the title shot they are owed versus the current champion.
“In conclusion, in the event a purse bid becomes necessary, Mr. Stevenson strongly urges the Board of Governors to institute an equitable division of purse bid proceeds pursuant to Section 2.16 of the WBC rules,” stated Dubin. “By any measure, he possesses ‘outstanding marketing value.’”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox