Shakur Stevenson used his quickness to make a quick climb to capture the WBO Featherweight World Championship.
Stevenson topped Joet Gonzalez on Saturday by unanimous decision in front of a sold-out crowd of 3,000 at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. Stevenson of Newark, New Jersey, improved to 13-0 with seven knockouts. Gonzalez of Los Angeles fell to 23-1 with 14 knockouts.
The 22-year-old Stevenson speedy, strategic attacks and quick defensive maneuvers took Gonzalez out of his comfort zone.
Stevenson is the first 2016 male Olympian to win a world boxing championship. He won the silver medal in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Stevenson said post-fight. “Coming here to Reno closer to his hometown, it was great. It’s an amazing feeling, I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life.”
All three judges had Stevenson winning 11 of the 12 rounds, 119-109. But Gonzalez, who was the crowd favorite, put up a fight. The 26-year-old featherweight connected on several combinations and strikes to the body.
His composure in the ring impressed Stevenson.
“I am not going to lie, Joet is tough as hell,” he said. “I have nothing but respect for Joet. I have nothing bad with him. If he wants to be cool, I’ll be cool with him.”
Both fighters hardly broke a sweat through the first four rounds. Stevenson flashed his lightning-quick hands with a pair of jabs and an uppercut. Gonzalez connected a strong right hook to the body and a smooth counter.
The pace increased in the fifth round. Gonzalez nipped Stevenson with a right-hand jab in the corner during the waning seconds.
Gonzalez appeared to to take the seventh round. The 5-foot-6 featherweight tagged Stevenson with a left overhand hook and followed it up with a quick one-two combination.
But Stevenson responded in the eighth with a series of jabs and defensive slides to avoid hits.
By the 11th round, Stevenson controlled the fight with strategic attacks that kept Gonzalez off guard. His quick hands and feet slid around the ring like a snake with a venomous bite.
Gonzalez tried to rally in the 12th round with a pair of early jabs. But Stevenson’s speed and quickness avoided any disaster down the stretch to clinch the win.
With a belt around his waist, Stevenson wants to unify the featherweight championships. His eyes are set on IBF champion Josh Warrington.
“I’m a champion, you’re a champion,” he said. “He said he wouldn’t fight me without a title. I got a title now, let’s work.”
— Isaiah Burrows