Ahead of what >could be his toughest test yet, a 130-pound title unification bout Saturday night in Las Vegas against Oscar Valdez (30-0, 23 knockouts), Stevenson (17-0, nine KOs) said he has found tranquility. But he’s hoping to keep rising after Saturday’s bout.
“I feel like [my star] is skyrocketing,” Stevenson said during a recent phone interview.> I feel like after this fight I should be making big paydays I should be getting The Ring magazine belt, letting it be known that I’m the best fighter at 130 pounds. So, I definitely could see myself skyrocketing, but we got to handle business first. The job’s not done yet.
>Stevenson’s opportunity comes after a decisive technical knockout victory over Jamel Herring in October when he displayed the aggression that critics felt he had lacked in previous bouts. Stevenson pressed and battered Herring, marching forward before the referee stopped the fight in the 10th round.
Almost seven weeks later, Stevenson’s girlfriend, rapper Young Lyric, gave birth to their first child, Leilani. <Shortly after Leilani’s birth, Stevenson, who last year relocated his family to Houston, departed for an eight-week training camp to prepare for the Valdez fight.
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Stevenson’s father was absent for most of his life before he learned of his death in September. <He spoke about their relationship and the importance of being a caretaker in a recent Top Rank YouTube series titled “Being Me: Shakur Stevenson.” In those weeks after Leilani’s birth, Stevenson said he was afraid to miss her early moments, afraid to become an “unfamiliar face.” So he regularly jumped on FaceTime between sparring sessions with Caleb Plant and welterweight champion Terence Crawford.
Stevenson, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist, said he’s in the best shape of his career. He said he ran and sparred more rounds during this camp than any other, and after a 12-round exchange, he was ready for three more>.
Stevenson will risk his record on Saturday against Valdez, who defeated Robson Conceição by unanimous decision in September. >The Conceição result, a debatable outcome to some, occurred a month after Valdez tested positive for a banned substance but was allowed to compete in the bout. Valdez has asserted his innocence, but others — including Stevenson — have ridiculed him for the positive test result.
In Valdez, Stevenson will face a boxer who has displayed the power that his critics said he lacked — and that some felt he evinced in the Herring fight>. Stevenson will rely on that growth and his agility to try to earn a statement win.
“It’s a big fight,” Stevenson said. “I just feel like the whole world is paying attention, and Saturday night there’s going to be so many eyes on you, and you just got to perform>. You’ve got to step up to the plate. You can’t fold.”