Stevenson dominates Gonzalez to win vacant title

After all the bad blood and bitter feelings, Shakur Stevenson and Joet Gonzalez finally got to put their hands on each other Saturday night.

In the end, it was Stevenson, the highly touted rising star and 2016 U.S. Olympic silver medalist, who put on a masterpiece in a near-shutout decision to easily win a vacant featherweight world title in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nevada. All three judges scored the fight 119-109 for Stevenson.

At the crux of the ill feelings between the two was the fact that Stevenson’s girlfriend of the past three years is Gonzalez’s younger sister Jajaira, an amateur boxer. Gonzalez has made no secret of the fact that he does not like their relationship or Stevenson. Their father, Jose Gonzalez, Joet’s trainer, has the same feelings and is estranged from his daughter.

As much as Gonzalez wanted to beat up Stevenson, he never came close to doing any damage. Round after round, Stevenson befuddled Gonzalez, an offensive-minded fighter, with his speed and movement in a performance that harkened back to the brilliance of the young Floyd Mayweather and Pernell Whitaker, two defensive-minded all-time greats and Olympic medal winners Stevenson’s potential has been compared to.

A pro for only 2½ years, Stevenson was on the fast track from the moment he turned pro and expected to win a world title quickly.

At 22, he has lived up to the billing as he claimed the 126-pound belt recently vacated by Oscar Valdez, who elected to move up in weight rather than face Stevenson, who was his mandatory challenger.

Stevenson became the second-youngest active world titleholder behind only 20-year-old Devin Haney, who was elevated from an interim lightweight titlist to full titlist a few days ago. Stevenson also won a featherweight world title in the second-fewest fights in boxing history behind only Vasiliy Lomachenko, who did in three bouts.

Further, Stevenson made a bit of history by becoming the first 2016 male Olympian to claim a world title. Two others previously tried and failed. China’s Bin Lu was 1-0 when he challenged for a junior flyweight belt and suffered a 12th-round knockout loss to Carlos Canizales in July 2018 and on Sept. 28, Uzbekistan’s Batyr Akhmedov, who represented Turkey in the Olympics, was 7-0 when he faced Mario Barrios for a vacant junior welterweight belt and lost a controversial decision.

Stevenson (13-0, 7 KOs), a 22-year-old southpaw from Newark, New Jersey, who earned $350,000 to Gonzalez’s $200,000, dominated with his jab, body shots and exceptional movement that left Gonzalez frustrated and rarely able to land anything clean. Stevenson would bounce in and out firing shots and be gone by the time Gonzalez could get anything off. He was particular effective with straight left hands to Gonzalez’s body.

Gonzalez (23-1, 14 KOs), 26, of Glendora, California, pressed the action but could not corner Stevenson or get him to the ropes to land his shots. Often, Gonzalez would throw a wide shot — or several — that would miss by a mile with Stevenson having long vacated the spot Gonzalez was aiming for.

Gonzalez, who complained to his father after the sixth round that he could not tire Stevenson out, had mild success in the seventh round as he forced Stevenson to the ropes and tried to rough him up and landed a few shots. Stevenson looked like he may have taken the round off after exerting so much energy on defense through the first half of the bout.

The seventh-round success was short-lived. After the eighth round, Jose Gonzalez told his son that he would need a knockout in order to win.

After the ninth round, Jose Gonzalez once again was truthful with his son, telling him, “You already lost this fight. You got to stop him.”

Jose Gonzalez reiterated the need for a knockout going into the 12th round, but Joet, with bruising on his face, never came close to even hitting Stevenson with a truly clean punch, much less a knockout.