CONFIDENCE is a precious commodity. Most of us improvise and blag our way through life, shaking off the familiar foe of self-doubt but always aware of its corrosive powers. How, then, do some people seem equipped with a roadmap for life?
“I just feel like I’m the best in boxing,” declares the undefeated (now former) super-featherweight champion, Shakur Stevenson, a young man who’s been proclaiming his own greatness ever since he first laced up a pair of gloves. “I’ve been saying this for a while and I still stand by it.”
Stevenson will be looking to further his claim as the finest fighter in the sport when he takes on Brazil’s Robson Conceicao on Friday night (September 23). The 25-year-old American’s impressive recent form has seen him stop Jamel Herring in 10 rounds and dominate Oscar Valdez to cement his status as the best in the division. Conceicao himself could be forgiven for claiming victory over Valdez also, having previously lost a controversial decision to the Mexican in September 2021. It’s this performance which prompted Stevenson’s interest in the fight.
“He deserved a shot after his fight with Valdez. A lot of people thought he won. I have a different belief on that. I feel like he left it too close. But at the end of the day he earned his shot and I feel like he deserves it. I’m one of those fighters where I don’t mind fighting the best. I feel like fighting the best always brings the best out of me,” he says.
“Expect for me to put on a masterful performance and dominate and beat the hell out of Robson Conceicao. I’m going in there to beat him up so hopefully he ready but I’m whooping his ass.”
The fight itself was announced as something of a New Jersey homecoming for Stevenson, with Top Rank’s blue chip prospects, Keyshawn Davis and Bruce “Shu Shu” Carrington, eagerly sharing the stage to promote their own fights on the undercard at Newark’s Prudential Center.
To observe Stevenson that day was to see someone basking in the recognition he’s been craving. He looked entirely at home on stage with his grandfather and trainer, Wali Moses, lauding Bob Arum’s young starlets who’re looking to replicate his success and signing autographs for local kids afterwards. Indeed, it was reminiscent of Stevenson’s own time as support act to Terence Crawford, a time he himself treasures as an invaluable experience to gain knowledge and advice from one of the best in the sport.
“I’m ready to embrace that role. Just show love to other fighters and other fighters younger than me. I’ve been grinding my whole life for this and finally it’s paying off. It was a very fun experience being back home. Being in front of my family and friends and just enjoying the environment. It was very fun and I can’t wait to fight in front of them on September 23.”
Stevenson was previously irked by certain sections of the boxing media excluding him when declaring Teofimo Lopez, Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia and Gervonta Davis the new ‘Four Kings’ of contemporary boxing. Stevenson insisted at the time that he was “cut from a different cloth” to his contemporaries, and in backing this up has barely lost a round on the way to becoming the best in the 130lbs weight class. It’s this combination of self-belief and obsession with competition that he believes is pushing his career trajectory upwards.
“I’m just one of them kinds of persons. I’m very competitive. I like to compete at everything and I believe in myself 100 per cent. It was just something I was born with. I was born with a love for boxing. I think the love and passion for boxing keeps me going all the time. I think that’s where it all comes from. Just my love for the sport. I enjoy boxing, I enjoy going in the ring, sparring, fighting, and everything when it comes to boxing.”
Away from boxing Stevenson’s life has taken on added responsibility. He proposed to his girlfriend, Michelle Ragston (aka Young Lyric), immediately after his fight with Valdez and then in December announced the birth of their baby daughter. He’s is conscious of the impact these life events have had on him.
“It’s shaped me very well. I feel like being a role model and being a father, it’s a whole different world. At the end of the day you’ve got to be smart outside the ring just as much as inside the ring. I kind of flow with life like that.”
Speculation has been circling as to how long Stevenson will now remain at 130lbs, especially with the prospect of big money fights at lightweight tempting him up. The American is dismissive of Britain’s Joe Cordina, the current IBF belt-holder at super-feather, but has been open to the prospect of travelling to the UK to take him on. Ultimately, however, his plans will be dictated by how comfortable he feels in the run-up to Friday night. (Having weighed in at 131.6lbs for Friday’s bout against Conceicao, and therefore relinquished his super-featherweight titles, now we know.)
“He [Cordina] only won one fight! I think he beat someone [Kenichi Ogawa] that beat Tevin Farmer but Tevin Farmer really beat him. So he only won one fight. We’ll see. If I’m still at this weight I’ll beat his ass too. It’s just got to do with the weight cut. Depending on how hard the weight cut is for this fight, we’ll find out after.”
As for a future superfight with Top Rank’s Vasily Lomachenko, Stevenson remains as unabashed as ever, keen to climb boxing’s pound-for-pound rankings and elevate his name to the top of the sport.
“If that’s what they want [Lomachenko] then I’m down for it. I’m down for whoever. Whoever wants smoke I’m with it. I don’t mind. Anybody! Anybody can get it!”