By Jake Donovan
Top Rank and Shakur Stevenson are heading back to the negotiating table in pursuit of the featherweight title.
The unbeaten rising contender will contend for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) featherweight title, which was recently vacated by long-reigning undefeated titlist Oscar Valdez who will now campaign at featherweight. Rather than naming his next opponent, however, Stevenson (12-0, 7KOs) and Top Rank have been ordered to come to terms with the next-highest ranked challenger, California’s Joet Gonzalez.
“Please be advised the parties have thirty (30) days upon receipt of this letter to negotiate and reach an agreement regarding the Vacant WBO Featherweight Championship Contest between Shakur Stevenson and Joet Gonzalez,” Luis Batista Salas, chairman of WBO championship committee stated in a letter submitted to Rank and Golden Boy Promotions (Gonzalez’s promoter) on Tuesday.
“If an accord is not reached within the time frame set forth herein, a Purse Bid will be ordered pursuant with the WBO Regulations of World Championship Contests.”
Should the matter go to purse bid, the fight will be eligible for all WBO-registered promoters, providing the winning bid is at least $150,000.
Stevenson advanced to the top of the WBO featherweight rankings shortly after his 12-round win over former title challenger Christopher Diaz this past April in New York City.
The 2016 Olympic Silver medalist from Newark, N.J. returned home for his next—and most recent—fight, a 3rd round knockout of late replacement Alberto Guevara this past July.
Little did he know at the time his next opponent was also in a boxing ring that evening, even if some 2,800 miles away.
Gonzalez (23-0, 14KOs) has been calling for a title fight since his first fight of 2019, which came this past March. However, it was his last win, a 6th round stoppage of Manuel Avila in Carson, Calif.—live on DAZN while Stevenson was headlining on ESPN on the other side of the country—that guaranteed his place in line right behind his fellow unbeaten contender.
Once the title became vacant, Gonzalez—managed by Frank Espinoza, as is Valdez—and Stevenson now share the same direct path to the crown.
The ordered fight also leaves Top Rank to work with Golden Boy Promotions in reaching a deal. The two sides aren’t regular business partners these days—Top Rank as the primary content provider for ESPN and Golden Boy enjoying an output deal with DAZN—but normally manage to get the job done when it comes to finalizing terms for mandatory title fights.
The next 30 days will prove whether they can continue that trend.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox