AT the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday night America’s Shakur Stevenson eased to victory against Oscar Valdez of Mexico, proving he is by some distance the best fighter in the super-featherweight division.
He won a unanimous decision and dropped Valdez in the sixth round.
Among those seen ringside before the start of Valdez-Stevenson was Teofimo Lopez, who on a Top Rank bill 18 months earlier, also at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand, produced the finest performance of his career to beat the great Vasiliy Lomachenko. The belief that he had matured into a fighter worthy of the highest level was justifiable, and yet he has fought just once since, losing to George Kambosos Jnr on a night when he was the heavy favourite, and then not coming close to returning to the ring.
Stevenson had established himself at a high level when he stopped Jamel Herring in October 2021, and, in contrast to Lopez, demonstrated against Valdez the extent to which that is likely to prove just the start.
Carrying himself to the ring like a fighter relishing his status as a titlist, he was as untroubled by the heavily pro-Mexican crowd as he was by Valdez’s aggression. Using a both sharp and accurate jab he capitalised on his size advantage to almost immediately take control.
As early as the end of the second round he had learned to successfully read and negate his strong, proven opponent, and he thereafter proceeded to build a convincing lead.
The knockdown, in the sixth round, convincingly captured what ultimately unfolded. Stevenson’s speed meant he landed a right hand just as Valdez swung his left and missed to the extent that the combination of his loss of balance and the punch he had just taken sent him into the ropes and down.
The superb Stevenson then became almost disdainful of his opponent, controlling the pace and range of the fight and keeping Valdez where he knew he would continue to regularly miss.
Lopez, Stevenson’s compatriot, followed his biggest victory with the worst result of his career when he should have been entering his prime. Stevenson has already recorded a new high – and even shown he has significantly more to achieve.