PRESSURE!! It can burst pipes or make diamonds, right? It’s a relative condition, however. For instance, one would think that an Olympic silver medalist, current undisputed boxing champion and currently recognized as one of the ten best fighters in the world, wouldn’t have a care in the world. However, when a homecoming is thrown in the mix, a heightened addition of anxiety would be understandable and perhaps expected. Such was the case for Shakur Stevenson, who Friday, Sept. 23 returned to his hometown of Newark to defend his WBC, WBO and Ring Magazine championship belt against former Brazilian gold medalist Robson Conceição.
This was the first time Stevenson would fight in his city as a champion and Newark was there in full throttle to show support. The Mayor’s Office of the City of Newark presented Stevenson (18-0, 9 KOs) with a proclamation declaring September 21, 2022, as Shakur Stevenson Day in the city. That was followed up by a special plaque from Quitman Street School students; Stevenson attended Quitman Street for elementary school, and the building sits less than a mile from Prudential Center. Additionally, Stevenson hosted a community event at Boylan Street Recreation Center where he hosted 100-150 inner city children to teach them a few boxing basics and talk about the path it took to grow in Newark to becoming a World Champion. While appreciative of the outpouring of appreciation, Shakur had to maintain balance of what the purpose of the weekend really was. “Honestly, I’m just ready to fight. I’m not really focused on the pressure. I don’t care about all that. I’m really focused on putting in the work on Friday night. I’m just ready to fight at the end of the day. All I can think about is fighting and performing. That’s everything that’s on my mind,” he said.
The results were for the new standards for Stevenson a mixed bag. He entered the city as a Champion and left without his titles, which he lost on the scale Thursday afternoon. At 25 years of age, his body is still maturing so making the 130-pound limit of Jr. Lightweight is no longer an option. In his farewell to the division fight, Stevenson bested Conceição by 12-round unanimous decision (117-109 2x and 118-108) in front of 10,107 fans Friday evening at Prudential Center, the largest crowd ever to attend a boxing event at the arena. Stevenson (19-0, 9 KOs) dominated, landing a career-high 199 punches, including a body shot knockdown in the fourth round. He stunned Conceição (17-2, 8 KOs) again in the sixth, but the Brazilian challenger hung tough. Stevenson had a point deducted by referee David Fields for hip tossing Conceição in the ninth round. After the inauspicious ninth, Stevenson closed the show in pound-for-pound form, winning the final three rounds on all three judges’ cards. After missing weight by 1.6 pounds the previous day, Stevenson will now begin his lightweight journey.
“I had a long week. I killed myself to make weight. All I want to do is come in here and perform. I did everything I could to do that,” Stevenson said. “I’m just a dominating individual. With me versus him, the ref, I did everything I could to try and beat [Conceição] up as much as I could. He held me the whole night, but I did everything I could,” said Stevenson, realizing a few of his ardent fans left a little disappointed feeling that the outcome was anticlimactic, but Hall of Fame promoter, Bob Arum offered of the performance, “Shakur was marvelous as always, and he was in there tonight against a tough fighter in Robson Conceição. There are so many great fights for Shakur at lightweight. The Newark crowd was spectacular, and we look forward to many more great fight nights in this arena.”
Boxing looks like it’s about to get fun again!! We’re here for it! Over and out, holla next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife.