Saturday night (ESPN+, arguably the two best Jr. lightweights in the world will lock horns to unify two of the four major belts in their division and earn recognition as rightful champion of the class from TBRB and Ring Magazine.

No fight needs much more hyperbole than that.

It carries extra credentials anyways.

Both men are Olympians, Shakur Stevenson a Silver Medalist for the United States and Oscar Valdez a member of the Mexican national team.  

Both men have won belts at both featherweight and Jr. lightweight.

It is only the fifth unification clash at Jr. lightweight since the title split in 1969 and just the second of those where both men were unbeaten.      

There are clouds. Valdez, in his last bout, failed a test for a banned substance but was cleared and allowed to fight anyways. Stevenson, the betting favorite, has made statements about it during the build. Stevenson has a chance to make a statement in the ring next (ESPN, 10 PM EST).

Valdez has a chance to respond in kind. 

Let’s get into it. 

Stats and Stakes

Shakur Stevenson

Age: 24

Titles: WBO Jr. Lightweight (2021-Present, 1st Defense) 

Previous Titles: WBO Featherweight (2019-20)

Height: 5’7 

Weight: 130 lbs.

Stance: Southpaw

Hails from: Newark, New Jersey

Record: 17-0, 9 KO

Press Rankings: #1 (TBRB, Ring, ESPN, BoxRec)

Record in Major Title Fights: 2-0, 1 KO (3-0, 1 KO including interim title fights)

Last Five Opponents: 108-6-2 (.940)

Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Joet Gonzalez UD12; Jamel Herring TKO10

Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: None


Oscar Valdez 

Age: 31

Title: WBC Super Featherweight (2021-Present, 1 Defense) 

Previous Titles: WBO Featherweight (2016-19, 6 Defenses)

Height: 5’5 ½   

Weight: 129 ½ lbs.

Stance: Orthodox

Hails from: Nogales, Sonora, Mexico

Record: 30-0, 23 KO

Press Rankings: #2 (TBRB, BoxRec) 

Record in Major Title Fights: 9-0, 4 KO

Last Five Opponents: 110-8-1 (.929)

Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Evgeny Gradovich TKO4; Scott Quigg UD12; Miguel Berchelt KO10

Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: None

The Pick: Stevenson stripped down to nothing to make weight Friday and that could play into an element that may be more glaring after rehydration. Stevenson, along with a speed, skill, advantages in height and length, and a high defensive IQ, is big for the weight classes he’s competed in so far. Stevenson has a frame that could easily see him rise another two or three divisions and he’s not yet in his mid-20s. Two fights ago, Valdez used a savvy game plan and excellent punch placement to batter another man who had a natural size edge but Miguel Berchelt is a much different fighter than Stevenson.

To defeat Stevenson, the more experienced Valdez will need to draw on every lesson in his career so far. Valdez will have to jab with Stevenson and land before Stevenson can step back and force him to reset. If Valdez can’t force exchanges where there are chances to land big, Valdez could find himself in a long, repetitive night. Valdez is crafty and can apply smart pressure of the sort Stevenson hasn’t seen yet as a professional.

In the end, it probably won’t be enough to stop the younger man’s careful road to stardom. Stevenson’s jab and greater speed should contain Valdez for more of the fight than Valdez can overcome. It will have some spirit but at the end of the night expect to see Stevenson’s hand raised with a clear decision.       

Rold Picks 2022: 18-4

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at