Shakur Stevenson is a free agent; what does his future look like?


Shakur Stevenson captured Olympic silver at the 2016 Games in Rio De Janeiro and, eight months later, made his pro debut with Top Rank.

Bob Arum, Top Rank’s founder and CEO, signed Stevenson as a 19-year-old, the only promoter the champion has ever worked with. Seven years later, their relationship is bound to change following Stevenson’s successful WBC lightweight title defense vs. Artem Harutyunyan on Saturday.

Stevenson (22-0, 10 KOs) was dominant — he was a -3500 favorite, per ESPN BET — but failed to deliver the thrilling victory he sought. There were boos down the stretch as Stevenson cruised to a unanimous decision victory against an overmatched opponent for the second consecutive fight. This time, the boos were from his hometown fans at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Stevenson, 27, said the jeers were aimed at Harutyunyan (12-2, 7 KOs) because “he ain’t really try to make the fight.” And while it’s true that neither Harutyunyan nor Edwin De Los Santos — Stevenson’s last opponent in November — truly pressed the action, the onus was on the supremely gifted Stevenson to find a way to finish his opponent.

Now, Stevenson will test free agency on the heels of an uneventful victory, not the statement-making performance he needed.

Stevenson turned down a five-fight extension with Top Rank, sources told ESPN, that would have guaranteed the boxer $3 million per bout.

He could sign with a rival promoter — PBC, Matchroom, Golden Boy, etc. — or remain a free agent and the flexibility that brings fighters such as Devin Haney or his mentor, Terence Crawford.

“I want to honestly start my own promotional company and just work with promoters and do a lot of short-term things so that way I’m not locked in and stuck to somebody,” Stevenson told ESPN last Sunday.

He lamented that he didn’t score the KO and while he blamed Harutyunyan, Stevenson also looked inward. The champion said he needed to improve his ability to cut off the ring.

Outside the ring, Stevenson will navigate uncharted waters. Eddie Hearn, chairman of Matchroom Sport, has publicly expressed interest in a deal with Stevenson. Surely, many other promoters will pursue Stevenson, too. He is, after all, an undefeated champion rated No. 8 by ESPN pound for pound.

Now, it appears Stevenson is ready for a change.

Going into Saturday’s fight, Stevenson felt Top Rank didn’t do enough to promote his fight with Harutyunyan because he turned down the extension.

“It just feels like they want me to promote the fight and do the things that do the job that they’re supposed to be doing,” Stevenson said. “… It just feels like I’m just not part of the promotion team no more. … I just wish at the end of my contract that we got going on that it would’ve been better than this.”

“I feel as though they promoted me well until the end of my contract, until my contract is about to be up,” he added. “And that’s when things kind of drifted and changed.”

Still, Stevenson wasn’t ready to close the door on a future reunion with Top Rank.

“Shakur Stevenson’s contractual situation in no way impacted Top Rank’s promotional efforts in regards to his fight with Artem Harutyunyan,” Top Rank spokesperson Evan Korn told ESPN. “Shakur is a tremendously talented fighter, and the passionate crowd at Prudential Center was a testament to the efforts of both parties.”

Whatever the case, Stevenson knew he needed a statement performance Saturday, especially on the heels of his lackluster win over De Los Santos.

Stevenson prevailed over De Los Santos via scores of 115-113, 116-112 and 116-112 as boos rained down throughout that fight as well. Stevenson and De Los Santos both failed to land double-digit punches in any of the 12 rounds.

Instead of returning to the ring sooner to erase the memory of his poor performance, Stevenson waited eight months to fight Harutyunyan.

“I asked Top Rank, ‘Can I come back sooner?’ I got one more fight on my contract. And with everything with Top Rank, they didn’t allow it,” Stevenson said. “They made sure that I was pushed back until June, July. June was the initial date that they gave me. And then, somehow, it ended up going back to July. … I asked, ‘Can I come back in March?’ I wanted to be right back, to be honest … but they made me wait this long.

“I think that I’m the best fighter on the roster and I didn’t accept the deal that they wanted, so I feel as though maybe they wanted to push me back as far as I can go.”

Stevenson shouldn’t have anyone else to blame shortly. As a promotional free agent, Stevenson will call the shots as he pursues the sort of marquee fight that’s eluded him. ESPN’s top two boxers at Stevenson’s weight (135 pounds), Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Vasiliy Lomachenko, are in negotiations to fight each other this fall.

Lomachenko is also promoted by Top Rank, and while Stevenson pressured for that matchup, it never materialized. Davis, one of boxing’s top stars, is with PBC.

Stevenson said he would explore a jump to 140 pounds “for money fights” and mentioned Mexico’s Isaac Cruz, a champion who is developing a large fan base. He’s with PBC.

There’s also Ryan Garcia, Devin Haney and Teofimo Lopez. Lopez, who Top Rank promotes, is a champion at 140 pounds. Garcia is suspended until April 2025 and said he can’t make 140. Haney, too, could be finished at the weight.

The most appetizing, feasible option for Stevenson might be Mexico’s William Zepeda, who delivered another scintillating performance Saturday night with a third-round KO of Giovanni Cabrera. Zepeda, a Golden Boy boxer, is on the cusp of a title shot.

“I haven’t talked to Shakur,” said Golden Boy Promotions founder and lead promoter Oscar De La Hoya on the DAZN broadcast before Zepeda’s victory. “I love his style. I love that he’s a very talented fighter. There’s no question to that. … I just feel like William Zepeda can take on anybody. … William Zepeda-Shakur Stevenson is a fight people would love to watch. … I would love to work with Shakur Stevenson.”

Stevenson, meanwhile, has already won titles in three divisions. So what’s missing? A mega fight, and he’ll now be unencumbered by boxing promotional politics as he seeks one.

“I mean I definitely don’t want to close the door, but it seems like [Top Rank is] ready to close the door more than me,” Stevenson said. “So truthfully speaking, if they saying f— me, it’s f— them, too. So that’s how I feel.”



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