After the 2012 London Olympics, USA amateur boxing in the USA looked dead and buried. For the first time in history, the men’s team left the Olympics without a single medal. Four years later, it was reborn at Rio. Shakur Stevenson is the man who brought it back to life.
Stevenson won a silver medal at bantamweight, just missing out on gold after a superb fight against Cuban maestro Robeisy Ramirez.
His medal combines with the gold won by Claressa Shields and the bronze that Nico Hernandez’s secured for the best haul of medals for the USA since the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
“I want to win a world title, become a great pro and break records.
At 19-years-old, Stevenson has been ear-marked as the next superstar of boxing. It was of little surprise to see Floyd Mayweather make a beeline for the signature of a fighter heralded as his successor at the peak of the sport.
While Mayweather hinted that Stevenson had already joined “The Money Team family”, Stevenson said he is yet to agree terms with any promoter.
“I haven’t signed with anyone right now,” he said. “I’m going to go back, look at my options and then focus on that.” That hasn’t stopped him setting lofty goals for his pro career. “I want to win a world title and become a great pro and break records,” he added.
Stevenson is blessed with dazzling hand speed, impressive punching technique, supernatural hand-eye coordination and natural ring smarts beyond his years.
The southpaw is named after rapper Tupac Shakur, who died nine months before Stevenson was born. Stevenson first took up boxing at five, after being introduced to the sport by his grandfather. In 2014, he won both the AIBA Youth World Championships and the Youth Olympic Games.
His silver medal in Rio came in the hottest division in amateur boxing. In Ramirez, Stevenson, and Michael Conlan, bantamweight (69 kg / 152 lb) boasts a trio of talents that would form a legendary rival in the professional ranks.
While Stevenson shone in the ring, his path to the final was aided by circumstances outside it. When Conlan’s controversial conqueror Nitikin dropped out of his scheduled semi-final against Stevenson with injuries, the American gained an extra rest-day to add to his first-round bye.
If Ramirez was tired, he wasn’t showing it. The two fighters engaged in a thrilling duel, matching elite skills at breathtaking pace.
The more experienced Ramirez won a decision in a bout that could have gone either way. The loss was Stevenson’s first defeat in what will likely be his final international contest.
His tears after losing missing out on a gold medal bout were a reminder that the New Jersey native is still just a teenager.
His talent, youth and nationality make Stevenson the hottest property in boxing. He’d be wise to weigh up his options carefully before deciding who would best guide his career.