LAS VEGAS – If everything goes as planned Saturday night, Shakur Stevenson wants to face Josh Warrington next.
Stevenson, who is heavily favored to beat Miguel Marriaga, has no problem whatsoever traveling to England to meet Warrington in his hometown for what would be an intriguing 126-pound title unification bout between unbeaten champions. One thing that could prevent Stevenson-Warrington from occurring would be Warrington taking a bout before fighting Stevenson, who’ll make the first defense of his WBO featherweight title against Marriaga.
“I think that’d be stupid,” Stevenson said. “I can’t really keep making 126. I was planning on [Warrington] being my last fight at 126, so like I said, if he says he wants to fight somebody else, then I think that he don’t want the fight.”
Warrington signed a promotional contract last month with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, but they didn’t announce the unbeaten Brit’s next opponent at a press conference February 13 in Leeds, Warrington’s hometown.
Warrington-Stevenson was considered by some a more makeable bout before Warrington parted ways with former promoter Frank Warren because Warren has a strong working relationship with Bob Arum, Stevenson’s promoter. Arum and Warren co-promote WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and ESPN, which has an exclusive content agreement with Arum’s Top Rank Inc., regularly streams cards Warren promotes in the United Kingdom.
Stevenson still doesn’t consider Warrington signing with Hearn an obstacle in the way of making their fight.
“I thought it was more helpful because I know Eddie is gonna pay me right,” Stevenson said, referring to the possibility of their fight being streamed on DAZN in the U.S. and being broadcast by Sky Sports in the UK. “But it’s still like, ‘Do Warrington actually want the fight?’ He’s talking about fighting [Can Xu], Gary Russell and all these other guys.
“So, if he wants the fight, then we know the fight’s gonna happen. I think he wants the biggest fights in boxing, and I think the biggest names in the division is me and him. I think he wants the fight.”
The 22-year-old Stevenson says he would welcome a quick turnaround after facing Marriaga if that’s what it takes to make his fight with Warrington (30-0, 7 KOs), who owns the IBF featherweight title.
“If sometime in May was the date that they need,” Stevenson said, “I’m ready in May.”
Warrington is obligated to make a mandatory defense of his IBF belt against British rival Kid Galahad, whom Warrington beat by split decision June 15 in Leeds.
That mandated defense isn’t overdue, however, because Warrington just became obligated to box Galahad again February 8. Galahad (27-1, 16 KOs) stopped the Dominican Republic’s Claudio Marrero (24-4, 17 KOs) in the eighth round of their IBF elimination match that night in Sheffield, Galahad’s hometown.
Stevenson (13-0, 7 KOs), a 2016 Olympic silver medalist from Newark, New Jersey, is consistently listed as at least a 30-1 favorite to beat Colombia’s Marriaga (29-3, 25 KOs). ESPN will televise their 12-round, 126-pound championship match Saturday night from Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater (10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT)..
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.