Shakur Stevenson tops Dec 12 Top Rank show, Edgar Berlanga features
One of the leaders of boxing’s electric youth movement, Shakur Stevenson, is set to close out 2020 in grand fashion. Stevenson, the undefeated former featherweight world champion from Newark, N.J., will fight Toka Kahn Clary in the 10-round junior lightweight main event Saturday, Dec. 12, from MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
The 10-round co-feature will showcase Puerto Rican lightweight star Felix “El Diamante” Verdejo against Japanese contender Masayoshi Nakatani. In the ESPN-televised opener, super middleweight wrecking ball Edgar “The Chosen One” Berlanga, 15-0 with 15 first-round knockouts, will fight an opponent to be named in an eight-rounder.
Stevenson-Kahn Clary, Verdejo-Nakatani and Berlanga will headline a special telecast LIVE on ESPN and ESPN Deportes beginning at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
“I have no doubt Shakur Stevenson will put forth another tremendous performance as he prepares to challenge for a junior lightweight world title in 2021,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Toka Kahn Clary is a highly skilled southpaw boxer, and I expect him to be in top form. With Felix Verdejo and Edgar Berlanga in action as well, this is a great card to close out 2020.”
Stevenson (14-0, 8 KOs) took the fast route to a world title after capturing a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Last October, a little more than three years after turning pro, he bested Joet Gonzalez via unanimous decision to win the vacant WBO featherweight world title. After COVID-19 forced the cancellation of a March title defense against Miguel Marriaga, Stevenson moved up to junior lightweight and kicked off the MGM Grand Las Vegas Bubble experience June 9 with a knockout win over Felix Caraballo.
Said Stevenson, “I was really hoping to get another fight in 2020, so I jumped at this date when it was offered to me. I started training camp the next day and am preparing for another stellar Shakur Stevenson performance on December 12. I’m putting the 130-pound division on notice. I’m the best junior lightweight in the world, and my first fight of 2021 will be for the WBO title.”
Kahn Clary (28-2, 19 KOs), a one-time top prospect from Providence, RI, is an eight-year pro who turned around his career following a stunning first-round knockout loss as a 19-0 prospect in 2016. He lost a close decision to Kid Galahad in an October 2018 featherweight world title eliminator, and since that defeat, he has won three straight at junior lightweight. Kahn Clary last fought October 29 and knocked out veteran Jonathan Perez in two rounds.
Said Kahn Clary, “I want to thank Top Rank and DiBella Entertainment for giving me this opportunity to showcase my talent. There is no doubt that Shakur is a great fighter. He’s fast and very skilled, but so am I. Come December 12, boxing fans will see the difference between a man and a boy. I’m in the best shape of my life, and the world will see Toka Kahn Clary shine.”
Verdejo (27-1, 17 KOs), a 2012 Olympian and the 2014 ESPN.com Prospect of the Year, is now a contender seeking a world title opportunity in a talent-rich weight class. He has won four fights since a March 2018 defeat to Antonio Lozada Jr., most recently knocking out the previously unbeaten Will Madera in one round July 16 inside The Bubble. Nakatani (18-1, 12 KOs), from Osaka, Japan, is a former long-reigning OPBF lightweight titleholder who made his United States debut on July 19, 2019. On that evening, he pushed then-contender Teofimo Lopez the distance in a grinding 12-rounder.
Said Verdejo, “Before my last fight, I promised my fans and followers of boxing everywhere that I would shine again. And I did. Now, on December 12, I have before me the most important challenge of my career. I won’t make the mistake of looking past Masayoshi Nakatani because I know a world championship opportunity is at stake. That is my motivating force.”
Berlanga (15-0, 15 KOs) is back in short order following his headline-grabbing first-round knockout over Lanell Bellows on the Vasiliy Lomachenko-Teofimo Lopez undercard. After the knockout, the young knockout artist climbed on the ropes and proclaimed, “I’m a [expletive] monster!” Come December 12, he’ll look to make it a Sweet 16 and move closer to the record of 21 first-round knockouts to start a career, held by the late Ali Raymi.
Berlanga said, “Top Rank has given me another huge opportunity to showcase my skills. I’m just grateful for this big platform and to everyone who made it happen. On December 12, you’re going to see the Puerto Rican monster at it again.”