ON Wednesday Stephon Young got the best news of his career. That in three days he would be stepping in for an injured Zolani Tete to challenge Nonito Donaire on Saturday (April 27) for the WBA bantamweight title and a place in the World Boxing Super Series final.
Young was preparing to boxing on the undercard at the Cajun Dome in Lafayette but this fight is everything he could have wished for, only realised at the last possible moment. “It made it even better,” Young told Boxing News. “I just knew my shot would one day come, I just didn’t know it would come so soon.
“Coming into this fight on Saturday I was already watching three opponents, I was watching the opponent I was actually supposed to fight and I was watching both champions, Donaire and Tete.”
For this shot to come against such a high profile fighter as Donaire makes it all the sweeter for Young. “I think he’s a good fighter,” the American said. “But I know me. I know myself.
“I believe in myself.”
“It means a lot to me, it’s just the start of a new chapter for me,” he continued.
Victory would represent a significant reversal for Young. He has a 18-1-3 record, the sole loss coming against unbeaten Reymart Gaballo last year in an ‘interim’ title bout. He’s drawn with Nikolai Potapov and world title challenger Antonio Nieves, as well as a four round draw with Samuel Jude Yniguez all the way back in 2012. He considers those results mere bad luck. “I’ve been in many fights where I was on the B side, I went in as the underdog and I feel like I beat all of the guys I got the draws with. I was just fighting on the card with them and their promoter and you know boxing. Some fights you have to put it on these guys. They couldn’t give me the L but they didn’t want to give me the win either,” he said. “I learned from them. I can’t just to do enough, I have to step on the gas. There are times in fights when you have to step on the gas.”
If Young is primed and motivated, Donaire could be forgiven for a slight feeling of deflation at missing out on Tete, and his WBO bantamweight strap, at such short notice. “Listen, I get it. He got tendonitis in his shoulder and wants it healed. He has to make the call he has to for himself. And I do as well,” Donaire said. “My family sacrificed, I sacrificed, I’m on weight, I’ve been training and in the end I am not responsible for another man’s injury.
“So I’m going to go in there against Stephon Young, and I’m going to do what I came here to do in front of the Lafayette fans, my friends and family: take my titles to the finals.”
Equally Young is aware that Nonito is “a veteran in the game. He’s a champion. He’s been a champion before and he’s a champion now. Champions know how to adapt. I’m a champion without the title right now so I’m okay with it.”
Looking forward to the clash on Saturday, Young said, “I think the fight will be very technical. I think he’s going to try to overpower me. He’s going to try to be right there for everything I throw, come straight forward. I’m just going to use my skills on him.”
“I’m a boxer, I’m slick,” he warns. “Fast, good footwork and I can also come forward.”
He is most of all determined. “I’m from St. Louis city, not too many people make it out of my city. For me to be even be at this level right now, it’s like a dream come true,” Young said. “My neighbourhood, it was very, very hectic growing up. I had to find out what I really wanted to do in life. I had to get myself focused and really do it. Where I’m from in St. Louis, like I say, a lot of people don’t make it out. The street life takes everybody away.”
Now he has his perfect opportunity. “Timing is everything,” Young said. “It’s happened right on time.”