The Friday Faceup

Shakur Stevenson points to fellow US Olympic medallist Keyshawn Davis (in green).

Tomorrow night (Sat 8th), two of the brightest lights in world boxing take to the ring in Newark, New Jersey, USA on a Top Rank promotion.

Former WBC and WBO ‘world’ super-featherweight (9st, 4lbs/130lbs) champion Shakur Stevenson, and fellow USA starlet Keyshawn Davis showcase their undoubted skills, both at lightweight (9st, 9lbs/135lbs).

Both are also Olympic silver medallists, with Stevenson achieving his in Rio 2016 and Davis more recently at Tokyo 2020.

Stevenson (19-0, 9 KO’s), aged 25, is currently the more professionally advanced of the two, having already gained ‘world’ titles from 126 to 130lbs. Davis, aged 24 is yet to contest one.

They are the potential future of elite world boxing in the lighter weight classes, being charismatic individuals and multi-talented to boot. Their trajectory is very similar to those from the highly successful US Olympic team of Los Angeles 1984 which saw the rise of Evander Holyfield, Meldrick Taylor and Pernell Whitaker, amongst others. By coincidence, Keyshawn Davis is actually from the naval base city of Norfolk, Virginia made famous in boxing parlance by Whitaker, a dominant light to welterweight world champion and hall-of-famer.

Essentially Shakur’s and Keyshawn’s professional careers are only just beginning to break into the highest eschelons of the sport. For both, multi world titles and future superfights are expected if they continue their current form.

The lightweight division is one of the hottest in world boxing at the moment with major fights in the next few weeks and months. Unified champion Devin Haney meets Vasiliy Lomachenko on 20 May and there’s a big grudge match between multi-weight champion Gervonta Davis and talented Ryan Garcia on 22 April. All are potential opponents for Stevenson and Keyshawn.

Despite their obvious talent, the charisma and confidence of Shakur and Keyshawn is also reminiscent of a young ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard and team captain Howard Davis from the US 1976 Olympic team.

Tomorrow in Newark, Stevenson boxes a scheduled 12-round WBC title eliminator against Japanese Shuichiro Yoshino (16-0, 12 KO’s), and Davis a scheduled 10-rounder against Sweden’s Anthony Yigit (26-2-1, 10 KO’s). Stevenson will be boxing in his home city and promises much. In Thursday’s final press conference he pointed out “This dude (Yoshino) has been running around saying that I don’t have any power…Let’s see if he’s ready to go to deep waters with me. I’m going to drown him !”. Yoshino in response said “My trainer and I have been studying Shakur. We have a game plan to implement on Saturday”.

Stevenson, a slick southpaw, is the big favourite and with his reach and so far proven class he should have enough to advance within the distance, probably with a late stoppage.

In the Davis-Yigit contest, the latter has the far greater professional experience and with a southpaw stance will cause Davis some early problems. The American should though win over the 10 round distance, most likely convincingly on points.

The big story here is a further showcasing of the skills and future promise of the two quality US fighters, whom Top Rank have wisely invested considerably in. Look out for both to light up the coming years with their undoubted charisma and talent.

The event is broadcast in the US live on ESPN and on Sky Sports in the UK from 02:00 Sunday. The main events are backed up by a strong card featuring some good heavyweight contenders and other young talent. Enjoy their showcasing.

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