LAS VEGAS – Shakur Stephenson ran around the ring with his hands high as the seconds passed on the biggest night of his career.
For 12 rounds, he practically played Oscar Valdez in what turned out to be an absolute mismatch in Saturday’s ESPN main event ahead of 10102 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Stevenson is simply good.
He used an excellent penalty kick – one of the best weapons in boxing – to keep Valdes in range and put his powerful left hand on the body. A unanimous decision win – scores 117-110, 118-109, 118-109 – gave Stevenson a second title at £130.
“I’m a superstar in this sport,” said Stephenson, 24. “…describe them. I’m ready for whom.”
Stevenson (18-0, 9 KOs) gave the best performance of his career in his previous round, stopping in the 10th round for Jamal Hering in his first match against the defending champions. Stephenson, who was born in Newark, New Jersey, has been criticized for his risk-averse approach, but against Herring, he has shown a more aggressive side.
“He was just a better fighter tonight,” Valdes said. “…We’ll see what we need to do to improve. I don’t think this is the end.”
Valdez, 31, got into the biggest fight of his career after a storm of controversy. The Mexican double-bred Olympian has tested positive for the banned substance phentermine, however he was allowed to proceed with his title defense against Robson Conceicao in September.
Valdes (30-1, 23 KOs) struggled during the first half of that match, but rushed for the close decision win. The match was Valdes’ first title defense after he seized the belt from Miguel Berchelt last February in one of the best knockouts of 2021.
Valdez was ranked #1 by ESPN at 130 pounds but was removed from the rankings after negative results.
“I’m not a cheater,” Valdez told ESPN’s Mark Kriegel in September. “…a lot of people say, ‘You’re a cheater. You use steroids. I came back positive.’ It’s just, it’s heartbreaking for me.”
The former featherweight champion, seen as his fan-loving style, blamed the positive result on herbal teas.
“Beer enthusiast. Subtly charming alcohol junkie. Wannabe internet buff. Typical pop culture lover.”