When Shakur Stevenson learned last month that Miguel Berchelt pulled out his fight against Oscar Valdez, Stevenson volunteered to step in on short notice.
Valdez wasn’t interested in facing Stevenson instead of Berchelt on Saturday night in Las Vegas. Battling Berchelt represents a chance for Valdez to become a two-weight world champion, as they’ll fight for Berchelt’s WBC super featherweight title whenever their 12-round, 130-pound championship match is rescheduled.
Mexico’s Valdez is the number one contender for Berchelt’s belt. Stevenson is the WBC’s second-ranked challenger for Berchelt’s title.
Stevenson doesn’t believe Valdez would’ve accepted him as Berchelt’s replacement even if the WBC would’ve designated Berchelt, who tested positive for COVID-19, its champion in recess and sanctioned their fight for its 130-pound crown.
“Once they said that the Valdez and Berchelt fight wasn’t gonna happen, I really wanted to come in and fight Valdez, take Berchelt’s spot and fight Valdez,” Stevenson told BoxingScene.com. “But I guess Valdez’s team and them don’t want that fight right now. I think that they don’t want that fight at all. I think that for as long as they can, they’re gonna try to avoid that fight.”
The 23-year-old Stevenson instead will encounter Toka Kahn Clary in ESPN’s main event Saturday night at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
The 10-round bout in which Stevenson (14-0, 8 KOs), a Newark, New Jersey, native, will face Clary (28-2, 19 KOs, 1 NC), of Providence, Rhode Island, will headline an ESPN tripleheader set to start at 10 p.m. EST and 7 p.m. PST.
The heavily favored Stevenson expects to fight the winner of the Jamel Herring-Carl Frampton fight in his next appearance. Cincinnati’s Herring (22-2, 10 KOs) will defend his WBO junior lightweight title against Northern Ireland’s Frampton (28-2, 16 KOs) on an undetermined date early in 2021.
If Stevenson can become a champion in a second division sometime next year, the former WBO featherweight champ hopes to challenge the Berchelt-Valdez victor toward the end of 2021. Stevenson thinks Berchelt (38-1, 34 KOs) will beat Valdez (28-0, 22 KOs).
“Berchelt is a real big 130-pounder,” Stevenson said. “He’s strong, he’s awkward and he’s just not a normal style that you prepare for. I think that Valdez is coming in there to go to war and think that it’s just about to be a war. But Berchelt can really punch and all that kind of stuff, so I think that’s gonna play a part. I think that Valdez can punch a little bit, too, but I just think that Berchelt comes with straighter punches. Valdez is wild and I think that the punches that’ll get there quicker are the straighter punches.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.