By: Sean Cross
When Shakur Stevenson entered the ring at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Friday night, he may not have the title belts, but the 18-0 fighter had no doubt that his hometown crowd was behind him. Stevenson, originally from Newark, lost his WBO and WBC junior lightweight titles at weigh-ins Thursday. That doesn’t mean his opponent, 17-1 former gold medalist Robson Concecao, wasn’t still worthy of winning those belts. If Conceicao beats the favored Stevenson, he will not only clinch the world title, but also pull off perhaps the biggest upset of the year. The scheduled 12-round bout was the main event of the card broadcast live on ESPN.
First up was an easy 8 round fight between 25-5 Omar Tianda and legendary former silver medalist 5-0 Keyshawn Davis. The first round was very competitive, but Davis started putting his punches together early in the second. There was no doubt that Davis was in complete control in the third, giving looks and keeping distance with ease. Tianda, perhaps frustrated, dropped Davis to the mat in the fourth. The act did nothing to stem the tide of the fight.
A single, sharp right put Tianda in the fifth. Tianda gets up playfully but the fight is over. Davis’ flurry caused the referee to stop the fight after a few moments.
It was time for the main event. The opening two rounds of Stevenson-Conceicao went quickly but not exactly meaningfully. Concecao lands his jab as Stevenson tries to effectively maintain range and ground. The two men clashed in the third. Stevenson was clearly the stronger of the two, but it was Conceicao who landed the better shots. Both men traded in the fourth hide. Conceicao was dropped with a body shot at the end of the round. But he beat the count, and was able to return to the corner.
Even though Concecao was still in the fight, it was Stevenson who was landing a flurry of body shots in the fifth round. Still, Concecao kept swinging. It was hard not to admire the man in the midst of battle. Although he was now clearly being beaten, he was ready to go out with his sword. Still, Conceicao returned to his corner at the end of the seventh, looking hurt, battered and completely defeated. It was fair to ask how long the fight should continue.
Although the pounding continued over the next several rounds, the performance brutal, Stevenson began to look like he couldn’t really stop the man in the distance. This gave the fight a desperate air. Conceicao basically couldn’t win, but he also couldn’t get out. To witness it, the violence fueled by Stevenson began to seem almost mundane. Almost.
Surprisingly, with a little more power, Concecao entered the fight. Conceicao obviously didn’t have that kind of power, but when Stevenson took control of the match, he simply gave up trying his best. The championship rounds offered more of the same. Stevenson punches the man, but Concecao continues to throw punches ineffectively. His face disheveled, but his determination in tact, Concecao fought desperately until the final bell.
The judges did their job – Stevenson won by unanimous decision.