SAN DIEGO, Calif., June 2, 2020 – It seems a lifetime ago when shooting star Shakur Stevenson of New Jersey (13-0, 7 KOs) picked apart Joet Gonzalez of Los Angeles (23-1, 14 KOs) in what was supposed to be a competitive fight, winning the vacant WBO world featherweight title with ease in late October.
Now Top Rank Boxing’s 2016 Olympian will be its flag-bearer as professional boxing marks its return in the U.S. on Tuesday, June 9. Stevenson will face Puerto Rican contender Felix “La Sombra” Caraballo (13-1-2, 9 KOs) in a 10-round bout at super featherweight in the main event on ESPN. The start time remains TBA.
The six-fight card will be the first live boxing in the U.S. since Brandun Lee won his 19th fight in three rounds in the main event on March 13 on Showtime’s “ShoBox: The New Generation” from the Grand Casino Hinckley in Hinckley, Minnesota. No fans or media will be present in the venue, the Grand Ballroom of the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. with the exception of reporter Bernardo Osuna. ESPN’s Joe Tessitore will call the fight from ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Connecticut. Analysts Tim Bradley Jr., Andre Ward, and Mark Kriegel will join from their respective homes.
Stevenson the ideal choice for boxing’s return
Newark, New Jersey native Stevenson has been on ice since his March 14 title defense against Miguel Marriaga was canceled. He is thrilled to be back, no matter the circumstances.
“I can’t wait to get back in the ring and return live boxing to ESPN,” Stevenson said. “I was really disappointed when my fight got canceled in March, and I said then that I wanted to be one of the first fights back. I stayed in shape so when that call came, I was ready.
“The atmosphere might be different on June 9, but I’ve fought in unique situations all over the world before so it won’t affect me. Regardless of who’s in the building, you’ll see another great performance, and I’ll remind everyone why I’m the best young fighter in boxing.”
Stevenson’s speed and power are impressive, but analyst Tim Bradley Jr. says the real key to his success is his defensive skills. “He could be (Floyd) Mayweather’s successor,” declared Bradley Jr. “He’s 13 and 0. He’s a world champion. He’s one of those guys that’s so hard to hit. He’s a master at distance reminding me of Mayweather Jr. If I had to fight this young man it would be horrible! Because I couldn’t get close to hit him!”
Mikaela Mayer makes it two Olympians in action on June 9
Fellow 2016 Olympian Mikaela Mayer of Los Angeles (12-0, 5 KOs) appears in the co-main against Helen “Iron Lady” Joseph of Nigeria (17-4-2, 10 KOs). It is also a 10-round super featherweight bout. Joseph is standing in Mayer’s way for a title fight. Joseph put up a solid effort in her decision loss to Delfine Persoon of Belgium.
Like Stevenson, Mayer is glad to be back in action after her scheduled March 17 bout in New York was canceled just before her flight. “Despite having a long, hard 10-week camp, I was unable to perform and showcase the work I had put in. I feel like I’ve leveled up my skill set, and I’m eager to show that on June 9 and capture my 13th win,” said Mayer. “It’s also great to see ESPN and Top Rank having a woman headline their first card back. I have been in camp with Shakur, and we’re ready to bring boxing back to television with exciting wins.”
The Nevada State Athletic Commission gave Top Rank Boxing the green light for two dates, June 9 and also Thursday. June 11. Assuming the shows go well, the NSAC has five more dates on the calendar: June 18, June 23, June 25, and June 30. These are still pending approval and no doubt a review of how the first two cards transpire. Only essential personnel will be allowed into the venue.
Stevenson and Mayer are ideal choices for the assignment. They’ve been on one of the world’s biggest stages, the Olympic Games. They also know what it’s like to compete at a high level with few fans in the stands from their amateur tour, needing to be completely self-motivated.
Neither is at a level where a live gate is critical to ensuring a large purse. These are young stars still on the rise, willing to make a tradeoff to get greater exposure among general American sports fans – just as they did pursuing Olympic glory. Best of all, both are flashy, come-forward action fighters. Their styles are perfectly suited to deliver solid entertainment to casual viewers.
Also on the evening’s card:
Heavyweights Jared Anderson vs. Johnnie Langston, six rounds
Heavyweights Guido Vianello vs. Don Haynesworth, six rounds
Featherweights Robeisy Ramirez vs. Yeuri Andujar, six rounds
Middleweights Calvin Metcalf vs. Quatavious Cash, six rounds
For trivia fans, the ballroom venue is not brand new to boxing. There have been three cards in the space. On September 15, 2017, Ryan Garcia got the world’s attention, scoring a vicious first-round knockout of Miguel Carrizoza, dropping him twice before scored the KO – and it only took 30 seconds. On March 6, 2015, Tony Harrison, Rau’shee Warren, Erickson Lucin, Jamel Herring, and Caleb Plant were in the lineup. And back on October 11, 2011, Roman Gonzalez scored a vicious second-round knockout win at light flyweight. Not a bad track record in the room.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities and for boxing fans worldwide. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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