Can Shakur Stevenson Live Up To His Potential? | He Fights Jamel Herring In ATL This Weekend

Image Credit: Top Rank

Shakur Stevenson had all the hype entering his professional boxing career.

Stevenson had early success at the Youth Boxing Level. He won the 2014 AIBA Youth World Championships and 2014 Summer Youth Olympics. In 2015 he won the Senior US Olympic Trials, qualifying for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

However, Stevenson won a silver medal in Rio, losing to Robeisy Ramírez of Cuba in the gold medal match. Still, he was the highest-medaling male for the USA, with Claressa Shields winning her second gold medal for the USA women’s boxing team.

Not Talking About Practice

Since turning pro in 2017 with promoter Top Rank and Hall of Famer Andre Ward as his manager, Stevenson has failed to light up the game. Although he sports an undefeated 16-0 record with eight KOs, he hasn’t faced the top competitors and made the splash the public thought he would.

The 24-year-old Newark-born young gun won the vacant WBO featherweight title unceremoniously in 2019. He left the stagnant division with boxers like WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. and no real name-value opponents.

In the junior lightweight division, Stevenson is in a realm with champions Jo Jo Diaz, Oscar Valdez, and his upcoming opponent, Jamel Herring. Now facing Herring in the new mecca of Black culture, Atlanta, this weekend at State Farm Arena on Saturday, Stevenson needs to win and win spectacularly.

Turning Point

Sources said that Stevenson and Herring will earn a career-high $1.5 million for the bout that will headline Top Rank Boxing on ESPN/ESPN+.

“We got awkward opponents with real good punching power; it’s not always easy to shine,” Stevenson said to ESPN. “I ain’t the only one that went through this. I go back and look at old Floyd Mayweather fights. [HBO commentators] Emanuel Steward and Larry Merchant, they’re saying Floyd Mayweather, ‘He’s not that good. He’s a very, very boring fighter.’

“I go fight Jamel Herring next and go beat him and then go beat Oscar Valdez. They’ll be saying I’m the best young fighter and put me on the pound-for-pound list.”

However, Jamel Herring has another thought process on Stevenson’s boxing maturation.

Stevenson’s Steppingstone

“I told [Stevenson] that when the fight happens, I know it will be his toughest fight,” Herring told ESPN last month. “I said it to his face: ‘I’m going to be your biggest fight, your biggest test.’ I’ve been in there with better guys than he’s fought by far.”

Herring (23-2, 11 KOs) is on a seven-fight win streak, with three title defenses. He won the title with a decision victory over Masayuki Ito in December 2018.

His most recent sixth-round TKO of former champion Carl Frampton in Dubai was a statement win. Although he is 35 years old, Herring is looking to capitalize on his recent success by demurring the shine of Stevenson.

Red Herring

He served two tours in Iraq as a Marine, lost a child to SIDS, and made the case not to be overlooked.

At 5 feet 10, Herring towers over most in the division. He also revealed crisp combinations and underestimated power in his fight against Frampton.

Stevenson is 5 feet 8, and although he is a slick boxer with a seek-and-destroy mentality, he has to win to solidify his potential in the fans’ minds.

Stevenson is looking to use Herring as a steppingstone to the stardom he feels is promised to him. But in boxing nothing is promised, and a loss to Herring could stymie his rise and his career.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.