Shakur Stevenson is in the shop window and needs to impress

By Elliot Worsell

TWO things we know. We know, one, that Shakur Stevenson is an acquired taste, as brilliant as he is frustrating, and we know, two, that his days with Top Rank, his current promoter, are numbered on account of him being, well, an acquired taste.

In boxing, you see, often to win – and keep winning – is not enough. For promoters at least, it is the manner in which a boxer wins that matters most, not simply that they win. Moreover, for fans, the ones whose tastes ultimately dictate those of a promoter, it is imperative that a boxer is more than simply adept at racking up wins, whatever the cost as far as entertainment goes.

With Stevenson, the 27-year-old from Newark, New Jersey, there has long been a craving, on both the part of the promoter and fans, for him to deliver some entertainment along with his perfection. That these two things, entertainment and perfection, rarely coexist in a sport like boxing has no bearing on the demands of his audience and his paymasters, it seems.

Which is why this Saturday (July 6) he will again be expected to not only win against Artem Harutyunyan but win in a way that appeases anyone critical of the way he has been winning fights previously. That is to say, with ease, dominance, and very little effort (on the face of it).

Shakur Stevenson showboats en route to beating Edwin De Los Santos in Las Vegas (Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

It is of course Stevenson’s prerogative how he wins fights. Keep winning and he will hold on to his WBC lightweight crown and he will also continue making money and put himself in a position to fight the kind of names who could, who knows, elevate him to that next level in terms of status and marketability. This happened with Floyd Mayweather, another divisive fighter who wasn’t winning fights in the “right way”, long before Stevenson came around. Indeed, for Mayweather what really got things going, moving him from “Pretty Boy” to “Money”, was the influence of opponents like Arturo Gatti and Oscar De La Hoya, both of whom acted as the ideal foil for a boxer whose goal was always winning as opposed to entertaining.

For Stevenson, 21-0 (10), something similar could happen in the future. He is, after all, surrounded by big-name fighters, including the likes of Gervonta Davis, Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia. Any one of that trio would work as a Stevenson dance partner and, moreover, there is every chance that the threat they would present would be enough to bring out the very best in Stevenson and prove to people that he is a champion in whom it is worth investing.

For now, there is a sense that there are people undecided on that front. Even his own promoter, Top Rank, appear to be umming and ahing about the prospect of retaining Stevenson’s services beyond…

This could well be true, but clearly, whether true or not, the relationship between Stevenson and Top Rank is fractured, spoiled. Ever since they delivered for George Kambosos a title fight against Vasiliy Lomachenko (for which Stevenson once campaigned so strongly), Stevenson has apparently felt slighted, overlooked and unappreciated by them. He will, by now, have accepted there was nothing he could do about that particular situation, yet will know, equally, that he is entirely responsible and in control of his own reputation and his appeal in the eyes of fans. It is why a fight like this next one against Artem Harutyunyan is so important, both in terms of the present (retaining his title) and the future (landing lucrative opportunities). To beat Harutyunyan on Saturday night is important, yes, but it is not enough. It is not enough due to the nature of the fight – one nobody asked for – and it is not enough because Shakur Stevenson, now more than ever, is performing in the shop window, begging those who pass to stand still long enough to appreciate exactly what it is he is selling.

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