LAS VEGAS — Junior lightweight world titleholder Shakur Stevenson would love to unify belts against Top Rank stablemate and fellow titleholder Oscar Valdez in his first fight of 2022, but Top Rank chairman Bob Arum has a different idea and is not in a hurry to make that fight immediately.
Arum’s preference is to first match WBO titleholder Stevenson (17-0, 9 KOs) with former pound-for-pound king and former three-division world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko (15-2, 11 KOs) next, assuming Loma defeats former lightweight titleholder Richard Commey in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card (Sky Sports in the United Kingdom) on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York.
As for Valdez (30-0, 23 KOs), who holds the WBC 130-pound belt, Arum would next like to have him square off with Mexican countryman Emanuel Navarrete (35-1, 29 KOs), who holds the WBO featherweight world title but would move up in weight for the bout.
Then, perhaps if Stevenson and Valdez are victorious, he would match them against each other in a fight he had previously said he was anxious to make. But he has had a change of heart.
“Loma-Shakur, that’s the fight I want to make,” Arum told World Boxing News. “I think that’s a great fight. Whether it’s at 135 pounds of 130 or at a catchweight. I don’t need it for a title.”
He said he plans to talk to Lomachenko manager Egis Klimas about the fight after the Commey bout and would also speak to James Prince, the manager of Stevenson.
“Loma-Shakur is a major pay-per-view fight. Valdez-Navarrete is a great Hispanic attraction (on ESPN),” said Arum, who put on the Nov. 20 Terence Crawford-Shawn Porter welterweight title fight in the main event of the first boxing pay-per-view that was exclusive to streaming service ESPN+.
Stevenson said Arum is just parroting what Team Valdez has told him. Stevenson does not believe that Valdez, who, like Stevenson is also a former WBO featherweight titlist, is interested in facing him, at least not yet, especially after struggling to a disputed unanimous decision over Robson Conceicao to retain the belt on Sept. 10.
“Bob is repeating what Valdez’s team said to him.” Stevenson told World Boxing News. “(Valdez-Navarrete) sounded like a great idea after watching Navarrete fight (and retain his title against Joet Gonzalez on Oct. 15), and he don’t want to just get rid of Valdez just yet.”
So, while Stevenson’s preference is to unify titles against Valdez, he is open to facing Lomachenko — but only if it is at 130 pounds for his title. Although Lomachenko has been fighting at 135 pounds since 2018, he has always maintained that for a significant fight, he would be willing to return to the junior lightweight division.
“If I’m fighting Lomachenko he’s coming to fight for my belt, so it would be at ’30,” Stevenson said. “Like I said, I’ll fight anybody, but you got to realize once I beat Lomachenko they’re gonna water down my victory. Once I beat Lomachenko, what are they gonna say? ‘Oh, well, he lost to Teofimo (Lopez) already. He’s not the same fighter.’ They gonna water down my victory.”
Lomachenko lost his unified lightweight title by unanimous decision to Lopez in October 2020. That is why Stevenson said he wants Valdez – to unify titles and because he is also undefeated.
“Valdez is undefeated, a fighter in his prime,” Stevenson said. “That’s been the fight that’s been talked about for so long. I think (Top Rank is) allowing Valdez to make his way out of it.”
Ask Stevenson about any name at junior lightweight or lightweight, and he said he would be interested in the fight.
“I’d be OK with Lomachenko, or I’d be OK with Valdez; I’d be OK with Navarrete,” Stevenson said. “I don’t or dodge nobody. I’m OK with every fight they present to me as long as the money is right. We’ll sit down and talk. We’ll see what the plan is.”
If Stevenson can’t secure a unification bout with Valdez, he said bring on a unification bout with newly crowned IBF titleholder Kenichi Ogawa (26-1-1, 18 KOs) of Japan, who claimed the vacant belt when he dropped South Africa’s Azinga Fuzile twice. He won a unanimous decision on Nov. 27 in New York in the co-feature of the card headlined by George Kambosos Jr.’s huge upset of Lopez to take the unified lightweight world title. Before Lopez lost, that was another opponent Stevenson would have embraced facing, and he would do the same against Kambosos.
The 24-year-old Stevenson, who is coming off a very impressive 10th round knockout victory of Jamel Herring to take his junior lightweight title on Oct. 23 in Atlanta, said that whomever he fights next, he is looking forward to a significant fight next time out, which is penciled in for March or April.
Award-winning writer Dan Rafael is the Lead Boxing Contributor for World Boxing News. Follow Dan on social media @DanRafael1.