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Shakur Stevenson has the talent to be great, but it's not fair to compare him to Floyd Mayweather

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist

LAS VEGAS — Top Rank’s roster may be the deepest of any promoter’s in boxing. In addition to co-promoting WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, the company has Terence Crawford, Vasiliy Lomachenko, Teofimo Lopez, Naoya Inoue, Jose Ramirez, Josh Taylor and Artur Beterbiev under contract.

In the long-run, though, the guy who may turn out to be the best of them is WBO featherweight champion Shakur Stevenson, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist who is 13-0 with seven knockouts.

Stevenson is talented enough to be the pound-for-pound best boxer in the sport when he is fully matured. He’s not all that far away from it now, and he still has plenty of developing to do.

Top Rank chairman Bob Arum is never shy in praising his prospects, but he lavishes the praise on the slick lefty from Newark, New Jersey, who will meet Felix Caraballo on Tuesday at the MGM Grand in the main event of the first boxing card held and televised in the U.S. since the coronavirus pandemic began.

“Shakur is, and I said it when we did our first fight, a future star in the sport of boxing, a future superstar.” Arum said. “I look at him as the southpaw version of Floyd Mayweather, and I think he will exceed the performances by Floyd. I just think he's a rare, rare talent, and I think that he's a young man who's growing in size and so I think 130 pounds will be a brief stop in his career because he's growing into a welterweight and maybe even a junior middleweight.”

Arum’s been around the game for more than a half-century, and in Bruce Trampler and Brad Goodman, he has two of the best talent judges in the game working for him.

Shakur Stevenson will fight Felix Caraballo on Tuesday in a non-title super featherweight bout on ESPN. (Mikey Williams/Top Rank)

It’s Arum’s modus operandi to compare his current stars to his greats of the past, but it’s not hyperbole to say Stevenson is going to be a big-time player in this sport.

But it’s another thing entirely to say he’s going to surpass Mayweather, who wound up his career 50-0 and is among the greatest fighters who ever lived. He’s got wins over four fighters — Oscar De La Hoya, Arturo Gatti, Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez — who are already in the Hall of Fame.

He also beat Miguel Cotto, Manny Pacquiao and Canelo Alvarez, who are cinches to make it when they’re done. And he beat Diego Corrales and Ricky Hatton, who have an outside shot of making it.

If they all make it, it would mean that nearly 20 percent of all Mayweather’s opponents were Hall of Famers. That’s a pretty big statement, and it doesn’t include solid professionals like Marcus Maidana, Andre Berto, Zab Judah, Jose Luis Castillo, Jesus Chavez, Genaro Hernandez, Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez, Robert Guerrero and Victor Ortiz whom he’s beaten.

Mayweather was a vastly superior offensive fighter in the early part of his career. He was more defensive and cautious as he moved up in weight, but he was a dangerous offensive fighter early and dropped Corrales five times before stopping him in the 10th.

Stevenson won his world title in his 13th fight, five faster than Mayweather. But Mayweather was a week shy of two years into his pro career when he stopped Genaro Hernandez to win his first belt, while Stevenson won his two years, eight months after turning pro.

To his credit, Stevenson eschews any comparisons to Mayweather and said he’s focused on being the best version of himself he can be. He doesn’t figure to get much competition from Caraballo, who is fighting for the first time in the U.S. and is a massive underdog.

Stevenson hasn’t fought since defeating Yoet Gonzalez, his girlfriend’s brother, eight months ago, but he doesn’t expect it to impact him much.

“I don't think time off is going to do anything because I'm a gym rat and I'm always in the gym,” he said. “So, me being a gym rat and in the gym, I probably got to get off a little rust in the first to two rounds, but other than that, I'm ready to go. I'm in the gym every day, ain’t no way I'm having rust just from being off for eight months and not been sparring. I did a full training camp on March 14 and then got right back in the gym, took like a month off, and then got in the gym. So, I'm a gym rat. I don't think it's going to affect me.”

As the main event in the first card back since the pandemic forced the closure of sports throughout the world, Stevenson will have a lot of eyes on him.

No doubt, those who watch will like what they see for as long as it lasts. But as great as he is and as much potential as he possesses, it doesn’t do much good to compare him to Mayweather yet.

If he comes even close to replicating the kind of career Mayweather had, he’ll be one of the biggest stars the sport has known.

Shakur Stevenson (L) and Felix Caraballo pose after making weight for their super featherweight fight Tuesday on ESPN. (Mikey Williams/Top Rank)

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