Shakur Stevenson lost his two 130-pound titles on the scales, but he still cruised to a unanimous decision win over Robson Conceicao on Friday before an announced crowd of 10,107 in Newark, New Jersey.
Two judges scored the bout 117-109, while the third judge had it 118-108 for Stevenson, who took down Conceicao with a left hand to the sternum with one second remaining in Round 4.
“I was killing myself to make weight,” said Stevenson, ESPN’s No. 9 pound-for-pound boxer. “He held me all night, but I did everything I could. I think he held a lot when I came in.”
Stevenson (19-0, 9 KOs) was stripped of his WBC and WBO junior lightweight belts on Thursday after he weighed 131.6 pounds, more than 1½ pounds over the division limit. Conceicao (17-2, 8 KOs) weighed 129.6 pounds and was eligible to win the two belts.
Those titles are now vacant, and the top two available contenders in each organization’s rankings will compete for the belts in the future.
Because Conceicao made weight, he would have won his $200,000 purse even if the fight didn’t happen. Instead, Stevenson paid Conceicao a $150,000 financial penalty from his $3 million purse, sources tell ESPN, as part of a side deal to allow the fight to go ahead.
“Respect to him,” Stevenson said, “but everybody wants that kind of salary.”
The title bid was Conceicao’s second after a September 2021 decision loss to Oscar Valdez. Conceicao was at a competitive disadvantage in that attack, too; Valdez tested positive for a banned substance weeks before the fight.
The decision loss to Valdez was contested, but the loss to Stevenson was anything but.
In a return attack, Stevenson showed all the tools that made him a two-division champion and pound-for-pound fighter at the age of 25. His southpaw, one of the best in the sport, set the tempo and opened Conceicao’s guard for stabbing left hand that caused a lot of damage.
Conceicao, a 33-year-old Brazilian, dug to the body with effective right hands early, but Stevenson’s shots were more accurate and compact.
Stevenson’s sharp punches disrupted Conceicao’s rhythm, a predictable attack that featured bunches of looping right hands that he set up with jabs. The Olympic gold medalist loaded up on the power shots, and many met their mark, but few seemed to land clean or have any effect on Stevenson.
The challenger found more success in Round 3 with some red-hot left hands delivered from awkward angles, but the bout never lasted long enough to build any momentum.
Stevenson broke through in the closing moments of Round 4 with the knockout, which seemed to change the trajectory of the fight definitively.
Shakur connected with a powerful left cross with 20 seconds left in Round 6 that stunned Conceicao, before he walked him down to deliver a damaging hook in the waning seconds.
Conceicao came back in Round 8 on the strength of a series of flowing right hands – the first round he won on one scorecard – but Stevenson’s pressure began to take its toll.
Usually, Stevenson chooses to box from the outside, but he was aggressive tonight, especially down the stretch. He was deducted one point in Round 9 for throwing Conceicao to the mat; Stevenson complained that his opponent was leaning on his neck.
He began to land with more regularity over the final three rounds as Conceicao absorbed the punishment, but he was never in serious danger of being stopped.
“He’s really clumsy and he’s really tough, so he knows how to survive,” Stevenson said. “I tried to fight. I wanted to stand there and hit him. And he grabbed and held.”
The win was Stevenson’s second of 2022 after an April decision loss to Valdez, who also had a knockout. That win added a second title to Stevenson’s collection after an October 2021 TKO of Jamel Herring captured him his first 130-pound title.
Now, those titles are history after Stevenson’s mishap on Thursday, an event the fighter admitted left him embarrassed.
“I’m tough, even through my tough times I still find a way to push through,” said Stevenson, ESPN’s No. 1 junior lightweight. Conceicaco was rated #8 following a dominant win over Xavier Martinez in January.
Stevenson added: “I’ve learned that I’m really tough.”
He will have plenty of opportunities to put it all in the past as he begins his campaign at lightweight, a division that has far more talent than the divisions in which Stevenson has competed.
“All at 135 [pounds] have to get it,” he said. “We have to fight the champion. Me and Devin [Haney]we can lock it after he fights [George] Kambosos [on Oct. 15]. I will fight [Vasiliy] Lomachenko too.”