Shakur Stevenson has steadily been testing the Super Featherweight waters after a short spell as WBO Featherweight champion, and he aims to put on a show this weekend to put the division on notice.
Stevenson (14-0, 8 KOs), who is the mandatory challenger to the WBO Super Featherweight crown held by Jamel Herring, meets Liberian born fringe contender, Toka Kahn Clary over ten rounds in the final show of the year inside the Top Rank at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas.
2016 Olympic Silver Medalist, Stevenson has made serene enough progress since turning over in April 2017.
The 23-year-old is backed by legendary promoter Bob Arum, and Arum is keen to move Shakur quickly.
It took him just 13 contests to become world champion when he claimed the vacant WBO Featherweight title in October 2019, widely outpointing Joet Gonzalez in Reno.
Stevenson shook off rust in very first bubble show in June, knocking Felix Caraballo out in six in his last appearance.
Clary (28-2, 19 KOs) shouldn’t pose too many risks for Stevenson in Las Vegas, although he is unbeaten in his last three.
Clary’s last defeat came in October 2018 in an IBF final eliminator, where Kid Galahad just had too much know-how for him, and the Sheffield-based stylist took a comfortable enough points win.
Clary has also been knocked out in a round, in 2016, caught cold by journeyman, Jhon Gemino.
Prediction: Stevenson will be targeting big names at 130 pounds, and he will want to look good with a dominant win over Clary. After showcasing his skills for a few rounds, he should be able to step on the gas after halfway to score a stoppage win.
Verdejo returns against former Lopez foe Nakatani
Another Olympian features at the top of the bill, as 2012 London participant Felix Verdejo attempts to finally realise his once promising potential.
The Puerto Rican lost to Vasyl Lomachenko in the quarter-finals in London, and the 27-year-old has been a professional since December of the same year.
The closest he has come to a shot at world honours was in 2017, but the then-WBO Lightweight champion, Terry Flanagan, withdrew through injury.
He was due to face Antonio Lozado Torres as a replacement, but Verdejo (27-1, 17 KOs) was then injured himself, and 13 months later when the pair finally met, Torres stunned Verdejo with a tenth and last round stoppage.
Verdego has posted four straight wins since, the last in July, a first round stoppage of Will Madera.
Here, Verdejo takes on Masayoshi Nakatani (18-1, 12 KOs) over ten rounds at Lightweight, with the Japanese last in action in July 2019, losing a wide decision over twelve to Teofimo Lopez. That was his first venture outside Japan.
Prediction: Verdejo will obviously want to out-do Lopez, but I think he will have to settle for a wide win on the cards here.
Berlanga eyes 16 straight first round KO’s
Big-punching New Yorker Edgar Berlanga has fifteen first round knockouts from as many straight wins, and he goes for another inside three minutes when he faces Ulises Sierra (15-1-2, 9 KOs) over eight at Super Middleweight.
Sierra suffered his first defeat last time out when he was soundly outscored by Vladmir Shiskin, and the hope is that he will take Berlanga (15-0, 15 KOs) at least a few rounds.
Prediction: I think Berlanga may drop Sierra early, but it could take three or four rounds to fully remove the San Diego native from battle.