Shakur puts lightweight division on the alert; ‘Bam’ Rodriguez keeps winning, can he be stopped?
Shakur Stevenson stops Shuichiro Yoshino in Round 6 (0:44)
Shakur Stevenson’s first fight at lightweight goes well as he stops Shuichiro Yoshino in Round 6 of their bout. (0:44)
1:48 AM ET
ESPN Staff Writer
- Previously covered University of Michigan for ESPN.com and AnnArbor.com
- Also covered Notre Dame for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
ESPN Staff Writer
- ESPN Staff Writer
- Previously a college football writer for The Dallas Morning News
- University of North Texas graduate
Shakur Stevenson said it wasn’t necessarily the most in rhythm he’s been in a fight. But it had to be close.
If Stevenson, now at lightweight, can continue to perform like that in this division, there’s little reason to believe he won’t end up holding a belt — or belts — here, too. The competition will be challenging, and a fight against the winner of the Devin Haney-Vasiliy Lomachenko bout on May 20 would be an obvious one to make toward the end of the year with “fight of the year” potential.
But if Stevenson can find a way to continue to add the type of power and accuracy he showed Saturday against Shuichiro Yoshino against Haney or Lomachenko, he will be very tough to beat. And Stevenson knows that. Stevenson, for what it’s worth, believes Haney will beat Lomachenko.
And then, well…
“I think it’s going to be easy work. I think I’m going to smoke him,” Stevenson said of Haney. “I think I’m going to shock everybody by smokin’ him, making it a real easy fight. People be like, ‘Damn, you is who you say you is.'”
After Saturday night, it’s easy to understand why Stevenson has that level of confidence at this point in his career. He’s one of the best defensive fighters in boxing. On Saturday, he also showed his ability as an offensive fighter. It’s been there before. It’s there again now.
And now, at a heavier weight, he’s putting himself in a position to have some of the best fights of his career — whether it’s Haney, Lomachenko or someone else — over the next 12 months because at age 25, Stevenson remains a growing fighter.
That should concern everyone who’s up a weight class — or two — above lightweight. — Michael Rothstein
Can Jesse Rodriguez be stopped?
“Bam” Rodriguez is among boxing’s best young talents. At 23, he has massive wins on his résumé and is now a two-division champion after beating Cristian Gonzalez on Saturday night to win the vacant WBO flyweight title.
Rodriguez has set the bar incredibly high for himself after knocking out Carlos Cuadras and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai last year. It is time to recalibrate the expectations for Rodriguez with something more reasonable.
The win over Gonzalez and his September 2022 victory over Israel Gonzalez were not ones he considered some of his better performances. Against Cristian Gonzalez, Rodriguez suffered a broken jaw in the middle of the fight on his way to winning by unanimous decision in 12 rounds.
Once Rodriguez gained control, he started to press for a big finish in front of a passionate hometown crowd in San Antonio who wanted to see a showcase outing. Ultimately, that might be what injured Rodriguez, forcing him to go the distance and causing a potential setback.
In the postfight interview with DAZN, Matchroom Boxing boss Eddie Hearn said IBF flyweight champ Sunny Edwards likely needs an interim fight before facing Rodriguez in a unified title fight.
Rodriguez is an incredible talent with many good years ahead. How he beat Cuadras and Rungvisai means that anything less than spectacular won’t be among his best.
But at this point in his career, dominating performances should be more than enough as he continues to make his mark among boxing’s next generation of stars. — Ben Baby
Jared Anderson needs to step up in competition — now!
Anderson showed again why he’s one of the best young heavyweights in the world — thoroughly dominating George Arias in a three-round demolition in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday night. After the fight, Anderson said he wants to face the top heavyweights, and he’s “not ducking” and “not running.”
Nor should he.
At age 23, Anderson is the future of the heavyweight division. In a division where he and Daniel Dubois are the two main fighters under age 26 (Dubois is 25), there are many options. An intriguing next step for Anderson would be a fighter like Otto Wallin (whose only loss came to Tyson Fury) or Efe Ajagba. Jermaine Franklin has lost his past two fights, but they’ve been to Dillian Whyte and Anthony Joshua — so it could be a good litmus test fight. And what about a declining Joshua?
Top Rank has done a good job of building Anderson and there still is time — a lot of time — to build his career. But it’s time to give him a true test. Arias wasn’t that. Not close. Anderson knew it, essentially being focused and taking his time in the early rounds before waiting for the flurry to be unleashed.
When it happened, Arias was done in a matter of moments, and it’s now time to see more of what Anderson can do. — Michael Rothstein
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.