Oscar Valdez’s vacation of the WBO Featherweight Title has allowed two unbeaten fighters to contest the vacant belt this Saturday at the Reno-Sparks Convention Centre in Reno, Nevada.
Precocious young talent, and 2016 Olympic Silver Medallist, Shakur Stevenson (12-0, KO7) will attempt to fulfil his potential, and lift his fist World Title at the first time of asking.
Stevenson would be denied gold in Rio by the excellent Cuban Amateur standout, Robeisy Ramirez. Surprisingly Ramirez would go on to lose his first professional fight.
Virginia based Stevenson has done exactly what has been asked of him so fair in his paid career, that began in April 2017. He started off with a technical decision win against Edgar Brito, with the fight full of infringements, and Brito cut to the point of not being able to continue. Shakur has gradually stepped up with each passing contest, and he really graduated with a one round blow out of the usually durable Viorel Simion in October last year. The Romanian, who had previously taken Lee Selby and Scott Quigg the distance, was down three times in a whirlwind three minutes of action.
The 22 year old has had a busy 2019, already fighting on three occasions, and picking up several ranking building fringe belts along the way.
Jessie Cris Rosales was stopped in four in January, while Christopher Diaz was soundly beaten on points in April. Stevenson’s last appearance came in July in a defence of his WBO NABO Title, knocking out former World Title challenger, Alberto Guevara in four.
Standing in his way of world honours this weekend will be another man yet to taste professional defeat.
26 year old Californian, Joet Gonzalez (23-0, KO14) is unbeaten in 23 contests, but has yet to compete anywhere near to the top level, and receives his shot at the vacant belt as the current WBO Global Champion, as spurious a Title as it sounds.
A pro since 2012, Gonzalez’s last few fights have seen him build a steady WBO ranking. He picked up the WBO NABO Title prior to Stevenson acquiring it, with a split decision win against Rafael Rivera in July last year. He defended once, with a fifth round knockout of Rodrigo Guerrero in March, and his last contest saw the WBO Global Title gained, with a sixth round stoppage of Manuel Avila in July.
Gonzalez is a pressure fighter, with several of his opponents stopped on their feet when in with him.
Prediction: Stevenson is on a collision course with the premier Featherweights, including Britain’s own Josh Warrington, and I don’t see him slipping up in a World Title tilt here. I think that Stevenson will start tentativey, but will eventually use his languid style to good effect, breaking down Gonzalez as he comes forward. This could be a real coming out party for Stevenson, and I think he will stop his brave co-challenger in around nine rounds.
If you’re looking for an undercard in Reno, you will be likely disappointed.
The highlight, is a WBC Continental Americas, and WBO NABO Bantamweight Title match between Joshua Greer Junior (21-1-1, KO12) and Antonio Nieves (19-2-2, KO11).
Nieves has challenged for the WBO World Title at Super Flyweight, where Japanese buzzsaw, Naoya Inoue retired him at the end of five rounds.