NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Shakur Stevenson came ready to put on a show in his hometown.
He delivered with a big KO — and a promise of big fights at home to come. Stevenson stamped his homecoming fight with a third-round knockout of Alberto Guevara, keeping the New Jersey fighter and 2016 Olympic silver medalist undefeated and in line for a featherweight title fight.
From Newark, Stevenson was never challenged in the brief time he was in time in the ring in front of thousands of his hometown fans Saturday night at the Prudential Center.
“That was a great performance I put on for the city of Newark,” Stevenson said.
The 22-year-old Stevenson (12-0, 7 KOs) had the crowd of 5,150 on its feet and pointing phones toward the big screens to film his ring entrance. Ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. was about drowned out by applause during his introduction of Stevenson as “making his hometown return, as he proudly represents Newark, New Jersey.” Stevenson even titled his neck toward the videboard above the ring to catch the reaction from proud fans.
Stevenson’s last Instagram post came from the staredown, and he wrote “Newark let’s turn up tomorrow!!!”
Stevenson, his trunks trimmed in sparkling purple, battered Guevara from the start in the main event of the Top Rank card and dropped the Mexican with a body shot late in the second round that might have ended the fight had it not been for the bell.
No worries. The celebration was moments away, and Stevenson connected on a left at 2:37 in the third to score the knockout on a wildly overmatched Guevara (27-5).
“Top Rank, you all have to give me better competition I want the IBF and WBO (belts),” he said.
Stevenson’s combination of technique, power and charisma has stamped the 126-pounder as a likely future star since early in his amateur career. He left Rio de Janeiro in tears in 2016 after a decision loss to Robeisy Ramirez in the gold-medal round. He’s rebounded just fine as a pro, scoring five KOs in his last seven fights.
“There ain’t no pressure when you’re built for this,” Stevenson said. “I see me bringing big fights to Newark. I see me bringing boxing back to Newark, New Jersey.”
Stevenson’s mother, Malikah, named him after Tupac Shakur, the rapper and social activist who died nine months before her first son was born. Stevenson’s grandfather began teaching him how to box at age 5, and he has barely lost since he won his first fight at 8. Stevenson mostly avoided trouble on Newark’s tough streets, and his grandfather’s steady influence kept him devoted to his sport. He returned to Newark after the Olympics and was feted with a parade in his honor. Stevenson was joined by his parents and other members of his family in the celebration and hailed as the pride of the city.
His reputation took a hit last July when he was arrested following a brawl inside a Miami parking garage. He was sentenced to one year of probation and 50 hours of community service for an altercation that started while Stevenson was celebrating his 21st birthday with friends.
Stevenson walked out to a hometown hero’s welcome in the home of the New Jersey Devils and gave the fans a short, and satisfying, victory.
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