It’s no surprise to discover that swift-footed featherweight Shakur Stevenson excelled in basketball and football. But he traded a baseball mitt for boxing gloves after tee-ball. Don’t tell that to Stevenson’s foe Friday night in Reno, Juan Tapia, who lost every round on each judge’s scorecard.
“I will always pitch a shutout,” said Stevenson, who improved to 5-0 with two knockouts. Tapia’s record dropped to 8-2. The 2016 Olympic silver medal winner from Newark, New Jersey, has had great success in The Biggest Little City in the World. He won three Junior National Championships in this town, along with the Olympic Trials.
“It was a nice crowd in Reno,” he said of the 2,221 who attended the nationally televised fight card in the Grand Sierra Resort. “And I can’t wait to get home to Madison Square Garden.”
While the fight was never in doubt, Tapia had his moments.
Stevenson is a tall 126 pounder with a lightning-quick right jab. Like a young Muhammad Ali, he is fast enough to lean and backpedal out of his foe’s punching distance. He shouts as he exhales with each punch he throws.
But Tapia displayed skill and elusiveness, as well. Shakur used a variety of techniques – left-hand leads, wide hooks aimed toward the body, dancing backward and charging forward – but was never close to stopping the fighter from Brownsville, Texas.
Tapia pinned Stevenson into the ropes in the fifth round, the two went toe-to-toe for a flurry in the sixth and Tapia landed his biggest shot, a roundhouse left hook, in the seventh. Stevenson responded by spinning his opponent and tripping him to a knee.
“He’s awkward,” said Stevenson, who had a bruise on his head from a headbutt. “Every now and then he landed a shot. I want to make sure I don’t let my guard down. I don’t like to get hit. I am going to get better as I get older.”
Stevenson is 20 years old and his mother was at ringside. Every time her son took a punch, she shouted, “Make him pay for that, Shakur!”
– Tim Parsons