ONE of boxing’s time-honoured traditions is for a star amateur to build steadily before being pitched into a big test. Once that might have been for a minor belt, but now they’re for world titles. Thus it is that Shakur Stevenson, brilliant young silver medallist for the USA at the 2016 Rio Olympics, takes professional experience of just 12 fights (all wins, seven early) into a fight on Saturday (October 26) for the vacant WBO featherweight championship, relinquished by Oscar Valdez, who moved up to super-feather.

Venue is the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nevada and opponent is Glendora, California’s Joet Gonzalez, also unbeaten at 23-0 (14).

Stevenson, a skilled southpaw from Newark in New Jersey, is with Top Rank, who promote this show and have a long-established history of developing their prospects at just the right pace.

Shakur Stevenson
Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Shakur boxed a six-rounder on his debut (no four-rounders for him), an eight in his fifth fight, and a 10 in his ninth paid outing.

That brought a first-round stoppage of Viorel Simion, the rugged Romanian who in his prevoous fight had lasted 12 rounds with Scott Quigg (and whose only other loss was on points to Lee Selby).

Two fights later, in April this year, Stevenson notched a 10-round points victory over Christopher Diaz, a Puerto Rican who’d boxed for a world title up at 130lbs.

Gonzalez can’t boast such a pedigree. Promoted by Golden Boy, Joet is four years older at 26 and has boxed pro since 2012. He’s come up without much fanfare, his biggest win being a July 2018 split 10-round decision over Rafael Ramos, a Mexican who seven months later lost unanimously to Leo Santa Cruz for the WBA Super crown. Joet does boast an impressive number of clean knockouts (10) and has a two-inch reach advantage (70 to 68). But Stevenson, two inches taller at 5ft 8ins, has showed no signs of a weak chin – so expect him to use his flashy skills and sharp punching to outbox Gonzalez for a clear points victory.