Bob Arum anticipates one of the most talented fighters his company promotes to extend their partnership.
Arum replied that it’s “not even a question” when asked by BoxingScene.com whether Shakur Stevenson will sign a contract extension with Arum’s Top Rank Inc. According to a report by ESPN.com’s Mike Coppinger last week, Stevenson turned down a five-fight, $15 million contract extension offered by Top Rank.
The three-weight world champion has one bout remaining on his current contract, but the 26-year-old Stevenson revealed recently that he was going to retire right in the crux of his physical prime. Arum didn’t take Stevenson’s retirement talk seriously and thus discussed Stevenson’s next fight with James Prince, Stevenson’s manager, and Antonio Leonard, Stevenson’s co-promoter, at the Top Rank card headlined by Teofimo Lopez and Jamaine Ortiz on Thursday night in Las Vegas.
“I talked to Prince and Antonio at the fight [Thursday] night,” Arum told BoxingScene.com. “Shakur’s gonna fight in June and we’ve gotta figure out an opponent for him.”
Stevenson (21-0, 10 KOs) owns the WBC lightweight title, but finding a high-profile opponent for Stevenson’s next match might prove to be difficult.
Two of the three top 135-pound contenders Top Rank has under contract, Ukraine’s Vasiliy Lomachenko (17-3, 11 KOs) and Australia’s George Kambosos Jr. (21-2, 10 KOs), are scheduled to fight each other for the vacant IBF lightweight title May 12 at RAC Arena in Perth, Australia. Lomachenko, whom Stevenson has long wanted to fight, is the WBC’s number one contender for Stevenson’s championship.
Raymond Muratalla (19-0, 16 KOs), a Fontana, California native who is the WBC’s fourth-ranked contender for Stevenson’s crown, is the third abovementioned lightweight contender under contract with Top Rank.
Mexico City’s Isaac Cruz (25-2-1, 17 KOs) is ranked second among the WBC’s lightweight contenders, but he has moved up to the 140-pound division to challenge WBA super lightweight champ Rolando Romero (15-1, 13 KOs) on March 30 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Another Mexican contender, William Zepeda (29-0, 25 KOs), is rated third by the WBC, yet he is scheduled to square off against English southpaw Maxi Hughes (26-6-2, 5 KOs) in an IBF/WBA elimination match March 16 at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
A pay-per-view showdown between Stevenson and unbeaten knockout artist Gervonta Davis (29-0, 27 KOs), who owns the WBA lightweight title, doesn’t seem any closer to taking place than at any point in recent years.
Top Rank has promoted Stevenson throughout his seven-year, 21-fight professional career, which the Newark, New Jersey native launched after he won a silver medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Stevenson has won world titles in the 126-pound, 130-pound and 135-pound division and established himself as a top 10 fighter on most credible pound-for-pound lists. The skillful southpaw hurt his market value, however, by employing a very cautious strategy against Dominican southpaw Edwin De Los Santos (16-2, 14 KOs) in a 12-round, 135-pound title fight he won by unanimous decision November 16 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“I think that Shakur had to fight the fight he did because I think he had some injuries, that kinda thing,” Arum told BoxingScene.com the day after Stevenson’s forgettable fight with De Los Santos. “I mean, I know we had him visiting doctors in the weeks before the fight for various ailments. So, I think he therefore fought a very cautious fight. But it was a stinker. It was a snoozer, and particularly after the fight before [a 12-round majority draw between Emanuel Navarrete and Robson Conceicao], which was one of the best fights of the year.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.