Shakur Stevenson ready for the best lightweights; who’s in line to fight for the vacant 130-pound titles?

Boxing

Shakur Stevenson lost his titles on the scales on Thursday, but on Friday night, he dominated Robson Conceicao in a unanimous decision victory to stay unbeaten. With the win, Stevenson ended his run at 130 pounds and is now headed to the lightweight division where bigger and better matchups await. Is Shakur ready for undisputed champion Devin Haney? Or the hard-punching Gervonta Davis? How about a fight against Ryan Garcia?

For Conceicao, this was his second title opportunity and he will probably have to wait for another. With the WBC and WBO belts now vacant, a very interesting matchup between former champ Oscar Valdez and featherweight titleholder Emanuel Navarrete is a must see.

Also on tonight’s card, Keyshawn Davis took care of business scoring another stoppage victory and showed why he’s one of the top young prospects in boxing.

Mike Coppinger offers his thoughts on these topics and more.


Shakur is ready for the best fighters at 135 pounds

Stevenson proved once again that it’s going to take a special fighter to beat him. Between his piston-like southpaw jab, sense of range and punch variety, Stevenson appears to be a complete package who is still improving at 25 years of age.

His quick hands made Conceicao pay with counter shots all night. A more aggressive approach — and more power — displayed over his last three fights make Stevenson an even greater challenger as a lightweight.

Only the sport’s elite will have a chance to upend the former two-division champion, and no such boxers competed at 126 or 130 while Stevenson was there. Fortunately, he’ll find plenty of top-notch boxers at 135, his new home. Devin Haney, another excellent defensive fighter, is the undisputed lightweight champion, and he’ll put all four belts on the line in a rematch against George Kambosos Jr. on Oct. 15 in Australia.

If Haney wins, as expected, he could head into a spring fight with Vasiliy Lomachenko, which could leave Stevenson seeking top-flight opponents, a search that could extend into 2024. It’s conceivable that Haney and Lomachenko strike a two-fight deal if they face each other. Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia also (sometimes) campaign at 135 pounds, but they are aligned with different promoters and networks, a major obstacle to any fight with Stevenson, who’s with Top Rank and ESPN.

Fights with Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. and Isaac Cruz are also interesting, and surely easier to make, even though they’re also with other promoters.

Whomever Stevenson fights next, it’s clear he’s ready now for the best his new division has to offer.


Conceicao still a viable contender

Conceicao won three rounds on one scorecard and two rounds on the other two, but was dogged in his determination all night and showed he deserves another meaningful opportunity.

An Olympic gold medalist, Conceicao was at a competitive disadvantage after he weighed under the 130-pound limit, while Stevenson failed to do so. Stevenson was stripped of his two titles, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Conceicao earn a shot at one of those belts again next year.

Conceicao arguably deserved the decision over Oscar Valdez last September but faded down the stretch. The fight was marred in controversy after Valdez was allowed to compete despite a positive test for a banned substance weeks before the bout.

The 33-year-old Brazilian entered the fight rated No. 2 by both the WBC and WBO. Those organizations will order vacant title fights between their top two available contenders, and it’s possible Conceicao won’t fall much if they consider his opponent didn’t make weight.


Tonight’s potential winners: Oscar Valdez and Emanuel Navarrete

Valdez, who was routed by Stevenson in April, is rated No. 3 by both the WBC and WBO. It’s a good bet he’ll be in position to vie for one of the vacant titles.

If he goes the WBO route, a fight with Emanuel Navarrete is tantalizing, a matchup Top Rank has been keen on for a while. Navarrete is a featherweight champion who’s expected to climb to 130 pounds sooner than later. After all, he’s 5-foot-7 and has seemingly run out of available, worthy challengers aligned with Top Rank.

If he wanted to move up to junior lightweight for an immediate title shot, the WBO would likely grant his wish since he holds the organization’s 126-pound title. And even if it isn’t for a vacant belt, a matchup between Valdez and Navarrete could materialize in the near future, an all-action battle between two Mexicans.

Slick boxer-puncher O’Shaquie Foster occupies the top spot in the WBC rankings, so he figures to finally land his long-awaited title shot.


Keyshawn Davis continues to progress

After he captured a silver medal at the Olympics last summer, Davis has continued to impress in the pros.

Against his most experienced opposition yet, Davis (6-0, 5 KOs) shined with a fifth-round TKO of Omar Tienda (25-6, 18 KOs) on Friday in the ESPN co-feature.

The 23-year-old from Norfolk, Virginia showed off his smooth footwork and sharp combination punching from the opening bell. He dropped Tienda with a right hand on the temple and then finished him off with a bundle of power shots with his foe pinned against the ropes that forced referee Albert Earl Brown to step in.

So far, Davis looks as good as any prospect in boxing. The true test will come when he faces a gatekeeper, and it’s realistic to expect him to challenge for a title in 2024.

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