LAS VEGAS — Shakur Stevenson jogged around the ring with his hands held high as the seconds ticked away on the biggest night of his career.
For 12 rounds, he practically played with Oscar Valdez in what turned out to be an utter mismatch in the ESPN main event on Saturday before 10,102 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Stevenson is simply that good.
He used an excellent southpaw jab — one of the best weapons in boxing — to keep Valdez at range and set up his own powerful left hand to the body. The unanimous-decision victory — scores of 117-110, 118-109, 118-109 — handed Stevenson a second title at 130 pounds.
“I’m a superstar in this sport,” said the 24-year-old Stevenson. ” … Line ’em up. I’m ready for whoever.”
Stevenson (18-0, 9 KOs) delivered a career-best performance in his previous outing, a 10th-round stoppage of Jamel Herring in his first bout against a reigning titleholder. The Newark, New Jersey, native was criticized for his risk-averse style but against Herring, Stevenson showed a more aggressive side.
“He was just a better fighter tonight,” said Valdez. ” … We’ll see what we have to do to improve. I don’t think this is the end.”
Valdez, 31, entered the biggest fight of his career following a maelstrom of controversy. The two-time Olympian from Mexico tested positive for the banned substance phentermine, yet was allowed to proceed with a title defense vs. Robson Conceicao in September.
Valdez (30-1, 23 KOs) struggled during the first half of that bout, but rallied for the close decision victory. The bout was Valdez’s first title defense after he captured the title from Miguel Berchelt in February, one of 2021’s best knockouts.
He was ranked No. 1 by ESPN at 130 pounds but was removed from the rankings after the adverse finding.
“I’m not a cheater. Never have been. Never needed it,” Valdez, 31, told ESPN’s Mark Kriegel in September. ” … A lot of people saying, ‘You’re a cheater. You’re using steroids. You came back positive. It’s just, it’s heartbreaking for me.”
The former featherweight champion, regarded for his fan-friendly style, blamed the positive result on herbal tea.
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