ATLANTA – Shakur Stevenson doesn’t feel any additional pressure to deliver more entertainment Saturday night than he did during his last fight.
Some dissatisfied fans and media chastised Stevenson for his defensive approach against Jeremiah Nakathila, particularly during the second half of their 12-round, 130-pound WBO interim title fight June 12 in Las Vegas. The left-handed Stevenson seemed content to out-maneuver Nakathila, who possessed power in his right hand but not nearly enough craft to deal with Stevenson’s superior skill level and high ring IQ.
The unquestionable result was a shutout on all three scorecards – 120-107, 120-107 and 120-107 – but Stevenson’s victory provided few memorable moments for those that either viewed their fight on ESPN or attended the card Stevenson and Nakathila headlined at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. The mundane nature of his prior appearance notwithstanding, Stevenson stated during their final press conference Thursday at the Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center that he won’t press to knock out Jamel Herring in their 12-round fight for Herring’s WBO junior lightweight title Saturday night at State Farm Arena (ESPN; 10:30 p.m. EDT).
“Definitely not,” Stevenson told press conference moderator Mark Shunock. “At the end of the day, it’s an elite-level fight, championship-level fight. You can’t judge me off of one fight, when I performed time and time [again]. I can’t sit there and say, ‘Oh, I’m going in there and looking for a knockout.’ But if he slip up and make any mistakes, I’m gonna capitalize.”
Cincinnati’s Herring (23-2, 11 KOs) has won seven consecutive fights since Ladarius Miller out-pointed him unanimously in their 10-round lightweight bout in August 2017 at Sam’s Town Hotel & Gambling Hall in Las Vegas. The 35-year-old Herring revitalized his career after hiring Terence Crawford’s trainers, Brian McIntyre and Jacqui “Red” Spikes, who altered his style and moved him down from the lightweight limit of 135 pounds to the 130-pound division.
The 24-year-old Stevenson (16-0, 8 KOs), of Newark, New Jersey, is 3-0 since he relinquished his WBO featherweight title to compete in the junior lightweight division. The 2016 Olympic silver medalist dropped Namibia’s Nakathila (21-2, 17 KOs) with a right hook toward the end of the fourth round and cruised to a decisive victory.
“He came to fight,” Stevenson said. “He came to fight, at the end of the day. You gotta respect him as a man. He brung his right hand. He was looking for a big right hand. He came to fight, but he just couldn’t deal with what was going on in the ring.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.