ALTHOUGH highly touted American prospect Shakur Stevenson is closing in on the featherweight champions, he remains, despite his eagerness, a high risk, low reward proposition easy to avoid.
That’s the view of IBF champion Josh Warrington’s manager Steve Wood, who has defended his man’s right to swerve Stevenson’s advances and look for big fights elsewhere.
“It was like anything else,” Wood told SecondsOut.com. “Josh is a world champion like Lee Selby was a world champion. Josh was chasing him and this kid’s doing the same. He’s seen that Josh is a world champion and he’d like to be one.
“He doesn’t bring anything to the table for us apart from a hard fight and nothing to gain. Josh is right [to say] if he’s a world champion it changes things, but as just a defence it doesn’t make any sense. I think Stevenson will be a world champion soon. He’s a threat and we’ve nothing to gain.”
It’s hard to argue with Wood’s stance. Stevenson, after all, is a gifted former amateur star – a silver medallist at the 2016 Olympic Games – whose pro career so far consists of routine win after routine win.
As impressive as the American has been, though, he remains both unproven and dangerous, a combination no active world champion will be in any rush to sample.
This leaves Warrington looking not down the rankings for opponents but up or at least sideways. It means he has his heart set on unification fights against the likes of Oscar Valdez, the WBO champion, and Leo Santa Cruz, the WBA ruler.
“It is frustrating and I know [promoter] Frank Warren is doing his best, but we’re getting blocked at each port,” Wood said. “We’ve not given up but it’s proving very difficult.
“It’s frustrating for me and annoying for Josh, as he’s cleaned up over here, beating Selby, Carl Frampton and [Kid] Galahad. His big fight is a unification fight so whatever we do while waiting would be a marking-time fight from our point of view.
“Josh is getting to the latter stages of his career now and while we’ve got the momentum we want the unification fights now. If we are going to have a unification fight in the next-but-one, we’ve got to prepare, and I don’t want him in a world war immediately before that.
“Our first choice is Santa Cruz as he’s rated number in The Ring and we’re number two; they’ve said that if they meet, it would be for the Ring belt. It’s something Warren’s tried to make: Al Haymon is his advisor, Richard Schaefer his promoter. I spoke to Schaefer myself on Saturday and the interest is just not there. With Top Rank, we’re trying to get Valdez and it doesn’t seem like he wants it; he’s targeting Frampton, who Josh has beaten.”
If Josh Warrington’s mindset is anything like his fighting style, he won’t stop trying to make the big fights. One way or another, he’ll get there in the end.
We touched on this in yesterday’s BN@5, but Eddie Hearn has today confirmed the WBC have agreed to make Saturday’s (July 20) heavyweight fight between Dillian Whyte and Oscar Rivas an interim title fight, meaning the winner gets a shot at the full title next year.
The WBC heavyweight title is currently held by Deontay Wilder, of course, but the hard-hitting American has a couple of tough fights of his own on the horizon. The first is a rematch against Luis Ortiz, mooted to take place around September time, while the second, the one we really want to see, is a rematch against Tyson Fury, teased for next February.
Once that schedule clears, Wilder, or whoever happens to dethrone him, will be tasked with defending the WBC heavyweight title against the winner of Whyte vs. Rivas.
“I’m very happy that we have reached an agreement with the WBC and this makes Saturday night even more so important,” Hearn told Sky Sports.
“Dillian Whyte has faced all comers in reaching his WBC number one position and now he stands just one more test away from a shot at the WBC world title. It’s all on the line this Saturday at The O2.
“We’ve been campaigning for this for a long time. There is one more hurdle to overcome in Oscar Rivas.”
Though few are picking Rivas to pull off the upset, the undefeated Colombian is certainly not worth overlooking. Diminutive but aggressive and heavy-handed, Rivas boasts amateur victories over Andy Ruiz Jnr and Kubrat Pulev and was last seen knocking out Bryant Jennings – the American who recently gave Joe Joyce a tough fight – in the twelfth round. Whyte’s nearly there, but still has plenty more to do.