2016 Olympic silver medalist and rising Top Rank prospect Shakur Stevenson puts his WBO featherweight title on the line against Miguel Marriaga on Saturday, March 14. Their clash will headline an ESPN card at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York.
The 22-year-old, Stevenson (13-0, 7 KOs) will be making his first defence against the three-time world title challenger, Marriaga (29-3, 25 KOs), who will be an obvious underdog although anything can transpire come fight night.
Tale of the Tape
Stevenson became the first male fighter from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games to win a professional world title when he beat Joet Gonzalez via unanimous decision last October. The Gonzalez victory punctuated a banner year for Stevenson, who fought four times that year, defeating world title challenger Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz and Alberto Guevara.
Stevenson regularly spars with stablemate and welterweight world titleholder Terence Crawford and appeared on the Crawford-Amir Khan undercard at Madison Square Garden in the win over Diaz.
Marriaga should still provide a stiff test as one of the division’s hardest punchers. He’s fallen short in prior title challenges against Vasyl Lomachenko, Oscar Valdez and Nicholas Walters.
The 33-year-old Colombian veteran has since rebounded nicely winning his last four straight bouts including a December knockout over Alfredo Vargas via body shot. Marriaga is a capable fighter who can never be counted out and will certainly give a game effort.
The backdrop to Saturday’s matchup is the looming collision course between Shakur Stevenson and fellow titlist Josh Warrington.
The two are expected to unify their belts later in the spring if Stevenson gets past Marriaga. Top Rank’s Arum, Stevenson’s promotor, and Frank Warren, Warrington’s former promotor, had been in talks on a deal for the fight to take place on May 16 at Elland Road Football Ground, an outdoor soccer stadium in Warrington’s hometown of Leeds, England.
However, Stevenson did not want to wait until May to fight, so he and Arum arranged an interim fight to headline a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card in March and ultimately chose Marriaga as the opponent.
Prediction: Marriaga has fallen short each time he’s stepped up in competition and Stevenson is another upper-class opponent. Marriaga likes to push the action and has a come-forward style where he likes to throw power shots to the head and body.
However, he lacks an effective jab and his defense can be porous at times. I can’t see Marriaga outboxing Stevenson so he’ll have to land the perfect punch or combination thereof to win this one.
Given his power, Marriaga is never really out of a fight though. The smart money is on Stevenson to win this bout with his youth, skills and talent making the difference.
The card will also feature former Junior Featherweight World Champion, Jessie Magdaleno (27-1, 18 KOs) against unbeaten Sakaria Lukas (23-0, 16 KOs) in a 10-round showdown.
Roughly two years ago, Magdaleno was a rising star until he met Isaac Dogboe, who would put a halt to his ascension via 11th round stoppage to become Ghana’s youngest world champion in a WBO super bantamweight title match.
It was Jessie’s second title defense and a grueling affair indeed as he was dropped three times after scoring a 1st round knockdown of his own. The outcome was made worse by the fact that Dogboe predicted the knockout as the two fighters taunted each other leading up to the fight.
Magdaleno has since gone on to win his last two fights, both in 2019 with a unanimous decision victory last March over Rico Ramos followed by a technical decision against Rafael Rivera in August.
He’ll be facing little-known Lukas, from Namibia and a nine-year pro who has won his last four fights by knockout. He’s also a former Africa featherweight champion having won the title in 2013. In 2015, he won the Pan African featherweight title after beating Nathaniel Kamati.
Prediction: Magdaleno, still has a high ceiling despite his setback against Dogboe. He is your consummate boxer-puncher who utilizes distance really well to land punches with surprising power against unsuspecting opponents.
Magdaleno’s style has always been fan-friendly and he’s been well-managed throughout his career. The one knock against the Mexican has been his inactivity, which cost him in the Dogboe fight where he was coming off a year-long hiatus due to a hand injury. The championship pedigree of Magdaleno should be more than enough to bang out a comfortable decision win here.
Knockout artist, Edgar ‘The Chosen One’ Berlanga (13-0, 13 KOs) will return for an 8-round super-middleweight fight against Alan Campa [according to Boxrec at the time of writing].
‘The Chosen One’ has won all of his bouts via knockout and was last seen beating Cesar Nunez via TKO in December at the main theater at Madison Square Garden.
Also on the ESPN+ portion of the card:
Junior welterweight John Bauza (13-0, 5 KOs) will face Romain Tomas (8-3, 1 KO) in an e-rounder.
Frederic Julian (12-0, 10 KOs) will meet Victor Darocha (9-5-1, 6 KOs) in a 6-round bout.
Welterweight Matthew Gonzalez (10-0, 6 KOs) will take on Dakota Linger (12-3-2, 8 KOs) in a 6-round match.
The undercard bouts will be streamed on ESPN+ at 7p.m. ET. The main card will be live at 10:30p.m. ET on ESPN.