Shakur Stevenson rolls past Artem Harutyunyan, retains WBC title

 

Shakur Stevenson retained his WBC lightweight title with a unanimous decision victory over Artem Harutyunyan on Saturday in the final fight of his promotional deal with Top Rank.

For the third time in four fights, Stevenson (22-0, 10 KOs) boxed in his native Newark, New Jersey. He controlled the fight from the opening bell, showing off the skills that earned him recognition as ESPN’s No. 8 pound-for-pound boxer.

And for the second consecutive fight, Stevenson cruised down the stretch against a major underdog. In November, Stevenson scored a lackluster decision victory over Edwin de Los Santos, a fight in which neither boxer landed double-digit punches in any round.

Stevenson was determined to deliver far more entertainment this time around, but the stoppage didn’t materialize. One of boxing’s best defensive fighters, Stevenson was a -3500 favorite against Harutyunyan, according to ESPN BET.

“It’s kind of hard to prove [you’re the best] if you don’t have a fighter trying to fight back; he’s just trying to survive,” said Stevenson, 27. “… I would have wanted him to try a little harder so it could be a more fun fight.

“I did everything I could to get him out of there, too. I got to cut off the ring a little bit more. … I’m going to go back to the gym and work on cutting off the ring.”

There were boos during the final two rounds of what was mostly an uneventful fight. Stevenson said the jeers were aimed at Harutyunyan because “he ain’t really try to make the fight.” Harutyunyan landed double-digit punches in only one round, the ninth.

Stevenson, meanwhile, stunned Harutyunyan to the body several times, landing 66 such shots. The champion outlanded the challenger 170-74 overall. Stevenson controlled range with his jab, was able to fend off Harutyunyan’s attacks and counter with sharp combinations of his own.

Harutyunyan (12-2, 7 KOs) was fighting in his first world-title bout. He entered the ring on the heels of a spirited decision loss to lightweight contender Frank Martin in July, a fight in which he was dropped in the 12th round.

The Armenian suffered cuts under both eyes and emerged with bruises scattered around his face. Harutyunyan, 33, represented Germany in the 2016 Olympics and won a bronze medal. At those same Games in Rio De Janeiro, Stevenson captured a silver medal two weight classes below at bantamweight.

Stevenson went on to win titles at 126, 130 and 135 pounds, where he currently reigns. All of his 22 pro fights have been promoted by Top Rank, but Stevenson now enters free agency. He rejected a five-fight extension offer that would have guaranteed him $3 million per bout, sources told ESPN.

“I want to fight the best fighters in boxing,” Stevenson said. “That’s how you’re going to get to see the best version of me, when you put me in the ring with someone else that wants to fight back and compete.”

Such a marquee fight has thus far eluded Stevenson. He’s rated No. 3 by ESPN at lightweight. The division’s top two boxers, Gervonta Davis and Vasiliy Lomachenko, are in negotiations to fight later this year.

“If they don’t fight me, they don’t fight me,” Stevenson said. “I’m just going to stay in the gym and be ready.”

Conceicao ends Foster’s title reign

Robson Conceicao won his first world title in his fourth bid with a split decision victory over O’Shaquie Foster in the 130-pound title co-feature.

Brazil’s Conceicao, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, prevailed by scores of 115-113 and 116-112, while the third judge scored it 116-112 in favor of Foster, who was making the third defense of his WBC title. The decision was an unpopular one: Conceicao landed just 11% of his punches.

“I thought it was a shutout,” said Foster, a 30-year-old fighting out of Houston. “… I thought it was an easy fight. I didn’t get touched except with a headbutt. … I want the rematch. They stole this from me.”

Foster (22-3, 12 KOs) won the title with a decision victory over Rey Vargas in March 2022. Conceicao (19-2-1, 9 KOs) previously lost to Stevenson and Oscar Valdez in title challenges, though neither fight was contested on an even playing field. Stevenson was stripped of the title after he failed to make weight against Conceicao, and Valdez tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug weeks before their fight.

Conceicao’s third title challenge was a draw with Emanuel Navarrete in November, another co-feature to a Stevenson title fight.

“I do think I won the fight,” Conceicao, 35, said through an interpreter. “… He didn’t come to fight. He was running and running. I was the winner.”

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