LAS VEGAS — Shakur Stevenson is fed up.
For years he had to hear talk about the new “Four Kings” of boxing — Devin Haney, Teofimo Lopez, Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia — with his name inexplicably left off the list despite being the only Olympic medalist of the bunch and a two-division world champion.
WATCH: Shakur Stevenson vs. Edwin De Los Santos, exclusively on ESPN+
He’s tired of being avoided by the aforementioned names for reasons that routinely plague boxing which range from being on the “other side of the street” to “it’s not time.” He hears this despite fights being made that manage to circumvent the nonsensical rules that he feels only apply to him.
He also finds it funny that every single time he moves up a weight class, all the “big names” find a way to move up and vacate their titles instead of facing him.
Whether or not his feelings are rooted in reality, Shakur Stevenson is visibly annoyed and plans to take his frustrations out on Edwin de Los Santos on November 16 in Las Vegas in a bout for the vacant WBC lightweight championship.
Stevenson was originally penciled in to face former pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko, but Loma declined. Then he was set to face rising lightweight star Frank Martin, only for Martin to pull out at the last minute for reasons Stevenson still has problems processing. De Los Santos (16-1, 14 KOs) signed on the dotted line to face Stevenson when nobody else would but it’s not the fight anybody wanted.
Through clenched teeth, you could feel Stevenson’s annoyance with having to talk up his opponent. The Dominican isn’t a bad fighter by any stretch of the imagination, but a win for Stevenson essentially does nothing for his career aside from making him a three-division world champion. And while that’s great, it’s not what the 26-year-old wants.
It’s obvious that Stevenson has grown increasingly annoyed with each interview heading into the fight as he’s been asked over and over again why nobody will fight him.
“It has to do with me having been in the ring with a lot of these fighters,” Stevenson told The Sporting News about why he’s been avoided. “Being that they’ve been in the ring with me, they know that I’m the truth. They know who they’ve been in the ring with and sometimes you’ll never forget that.”
It’s no secret that Stevenson has sparred with Devin Haney and Gervonta Davis over the years and there have been whispers in the inner circles of boxing that he gave each and every individual that he stepped between the ropes with a headache. He’s talked about it ad nauseam and has seen new headlines pop up about how he needs to be more exciting to earn an opportunity at the bigger names in the sport.
At first, Stevenson was able to talk about his opponent and the reasons why others have avoided him with a smile. As the weeks went by, the smile slowly disintegrated. The questions are the same and his answers won’t change. But each interview births a headline that his rivals will feed into, causing angst and drama on social media. Nothing he can say will silence his detractors and all he can do is watch his words get spun out of control.
MORE: Where is Shakur Stevenson on the P4P list?
After Tuesday’s press conference, a simple inquiry about how he’ll approach the De Los Santos fight triggered the young champion, and his frustrations visibly boiled over.
“I don’t know what y’all can expect,” Stevenson said. “My opinion is my opinion. I go in there and fight for me. When I come I want to be satisfied with my performance. I don’t give a f—k about what y’all should expect or want.”
He wasn’t done airing out the media.
“Y’all got favorites. Honestly, I’m starting to understand why ’Tank’ (Gervonta Davis) treats y’all the way he treats y’all. He’s incognito to you because y’all are trifling. You pick favorites, spin your own narratives, and spread lies.”
This lashing out wasn’t all that surprising given what Stevenson has had to answer over the past several weeks. He’s watched other personalities in boxing explain why he should have taken the short end of the split to fight Devin Haney or the reasons why he isn’t as popular on social media as Ryan Garcia and Gervonta Davis are because of his fighting style and perceived lack of power.
He’s sick and tired of it. If it were up to Stevenson, he would have already faced the top names in the sport and already proven to be one of the best in the business. But boxing isn’t that simple. It’s a business where marketing can play a far more significant role in a fighter’s career than his talent.
As the fight inches nearer, Stevenson has decided to not get caught up in the narratives surrounding his career. All he can do is fight, win, and force the hand of those who have avoided him.
“Honestly like a week ago,” Stevenson told The Sporting News when asked when he realized that concerning himself with the media wouldn’t be productive to his career. “I got too consumed trying to prove things to y’all. I don’t have to prove anything to you at the end of the day. Regardless of what I do, you will still talk sh-t about me.”
While criticism is inescapable in this business, Stevenson can rest easy knowing that he’s not being avoided because of his lack of talent. He’s truly that good.
And if he continues to collect world titles and dominate the opposition, how much longer can he be denied?