Coach Stephen Edwards says Shakur Stevenson could play it safe and make it a boring fight if he gets hit hard by heavy-handed knockout artist Edwin De Los Santos in their battle for the vacant WBC lightweight title on November 16th.
Those two will be headlining during Formula 1 Grand Prix week at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. What could make Shakur look especially bad is if he’s upstaged by Emanuel Navarrete, who will be defending his WBO super featherweight title against Robson Conceicao in the co-feature.
Top Rank was smart to include Navarrete on the card as insurance just in case Shakur fails to entertain the fans. At least if Shakur chooses not to engage, Navarrete will give the fans someone exciting to watch.
Edwards reminds fans that Shakur (20-0, 10 KOs) went into the safety-first mode in his fight against the power-punching Jeremiah Nakathilia in 2021 and boxed his way to a dull twelve round unanimous decision.
Some of the crowd booed Shakur during the fight, and he was criticized afterward for the overly cautious pull-back style that he used throughout the fight. While some would say that all that mattered was Stevenson winning, they’re missing the point.
The 2016 Olympic silver medalist Shakur wants to become a superstar, and he can’t do that if he’s boring the fans to the point where they don’t want to watch him.
There will be fans who enjoy the Mayweather-esque style that Stevenson uses, but not for the rest of them. They’ll turn their attention to more entertaining fighters at lightweight, like the young contender Raymond Muratalla, who comes to fight and is willing to put his chin on the line.
“All fights are dangerous when you’re not hand-picking a guy. When you got a guy in his prime that is motivated, it’s always dangerous,” said Stephen Edwards to MillCity Boxing. “Edwin De Los Santos is dangerous. I’ve seen him fight a couple of times.
“He knocked out [Jose ‘Rayo’ Valenzuela] from the Benavidez camp. I seen him beat him,” said Edwards about De Los Santos third round knockout win over ‘Rayo’ last year in September.
“He can fight. It’s hard to pick against Shakur Stevenson, though. I’m not going to try and overthink it.”
If Shakur chooses to stand and trade with the southpaw De Los Santos, he could get clipped, but at least the boxing fans would respect him for not running.
Shakur lost to Cuban Robeisy Ramirez in the finals of the 2016 Olympics because he ran from him instead of standing his ground. Robeisy chased him around the ring; Stevenson hasn’t learned his lesson from that fight because he’s still fighting the same way unless he’s matched against weak opposition.
“Shakur Stevenson is one of the best fighters in the world,” said Edwards. “He might be the most difficult style to beat. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him get hit with combinations. He got hit with single shots. I’ve never seen him get hit with two shots.”
Guillermo Rigondeaux was one of the best fighters in the world, too, but he never became a star because his fighting style wasn’t entertaining to a lot of fans. Shakur is even more defensive than Rigondeaux and lacks his punching power.
“Yes, De Los Santos has got a chance, yes, he’s heavy-handed, and yes, he’s motivated. I just can’t pick against Shakur Stevenson. It’s got to take a special fighter to beat him,” said Edwards.
“I’d say Shakur Stevenson by unanimous decision [over De Los Santos], but he could have his moments in the fight. We haven’t seen Stevenson get hit on his chin, and that dude can punch,” said Edwards.
There’s no question that if De Los Santos lands one of his big shots on Shakur’s chin, he’ll do damage because he’s not invincible. Like anyone else, Shakur will get hurt. If Rayo couldn’t take De Los Santos, neither will Shakur if he gets hit on the button.
“I remember one of Stevenson’s fights where he didn’t want to engage,” said Edwards about Shakur’s fight with Jeremiah Nakathilia in 2021. “The dude was a good puncher, and he [Shakur] kind of boxed a boring fight. I could tell that he was mad at his performance.
“I think he played it safe because the dude had heavy hands. So, I could see one of those kind of fights. He got some criticism for that performance, but that dude can punch. So, he’s the one feeling it,” said Edwards,
You could see the change in Shakur from the third round against Nakathilia when he get hit hard a couple of times. From that point on, Shakur used his pull-back style 24/7, not any chances whatsoever.
Shakur looked like he was fencing rather than boxing. He would move forward, throw a jab or right hand, and then retreat. It was always the same, and the crowd hated it.
“We’re not feeling it, and so he fought kind of fought, I wouldn’t say boring, but a safety first fight,” said Edwards. “Everybody kind of crapped on his performance a little bit. I wouldn’t say that’s a chin in his armor, but we have seen him play it safe when he’s in there with a big puncher.
“From what I heard in the gyms, and in the word on the curb, De Los Santos is a real puncher. He’s a heavy-handed, sparky dude. So if he hits Shakur with something he don’t like, I could see him playing it safe and just pecking & poking and see and just playing it safe for the decision.
“Shakur has probably matured since then [the Nakathilia fight] and gotten a little stronger and more confident. Against that African kid, it did happen. So, let’s see how he deals with a puncher moving forward,” said Edwards.