Shakur Stevenson stepped in to fill a void and give Top Rank a main event to close out their 2020, and in the end took a rather ho-hum decision win over Toka Kahn Clary at the MGM Grand “Bubble” in Las Vegas.
Stevenson (15-0, 8 KO) won on scores of 100-90 across the board, which was the only score to have. Clary falls to 28-3 (19 KO) in the shutout defeat.
The 23-year-old Stevenson actually hurt Clary, 28, early in the fight, and it seemed in the first few rounds that he would end the fight when he wanted to, but if that’s the case, he never quite wanted to do it. More likely is Clary just didn’t give him a lot to work with overall, and Stevenson never really pressed. Shakur took this fight on a few weeks’ notice — as did Clary, to be fair — when the originally planned Miguel Berchelt vs Oscar Valdez fight fell through after Berchelt tested positive for COVID.
Stevenson, who won and vacated a world title at 126 without defending it, has his sights set on a 2021 title shot at 130, and it could happen. He’s in line to face the winner of Jamel Herring vs Carl Frampton, whenever that might finally, actually happen, so maybe by the summer of next year he can get a crack at the WBO belt. Top Rank also have the Berchelt-Valdez winner, whomever comes out of it with the WBC belt, while the various WBA belts (super world is Gervonta Davis, world is Rene Alvarado, and interim is Chris Colbert, who also won on Saturday) are out of his reach, promotionally, save for maybe Alvarado, though I don’t know if Shakur would be interested in fighting for a secondary belt.
Stevenson will likely wind up taking another interim bout by the time he faces the Herring-Frampton winner. One hopes they can find someone at least a little more competitive than Clary and Felix Caraballo were in Stevenson’s two 2020 outings, and that’s not just because the fights were kind of boring in being so predictable, but because Stevenson is the type of guy we all would really like to see in a legit matchup.
Masayoshi Nakatani TKO-9 Felix Verdejo
We thought this might be the real best fight of the weekend, and it was. Terrific fight, and amazing resilience shown by Japan’s Nakatani, who was fighting for the first time since his July 2019 loss to Teofimo Lopez, where he took Lopez a full 12 rounds and frustrated him a bit along the way simply by not going away.
Tonight, Nakatani (19-1, 13 KO) went down in the first and fourth rounds, the first times he’d ever been down in his career, but he just would not back down or go away, and eventually, he got to Verdejo (27-2, 17 KO), hurting him in the seventh round, and then dropping him twice in the ninth for the stoppage win. Nakatani also got badly shook again between those things happening, but Verdejo just couldn’t get him to give up or quit on the fight.
“I fought (Teofimo) Lopez and I want to fight him again, that’s why I kept going,” Nakatani said through a translator.
If you missed this one, this is one worth your time to seek out and watch. One of the best fights of 2020. It keeps the 31-year-old Nakatani in the discussion at 135, while for the 27-year-old Verdejo, we really don’t know. This might have been his best effort and simply not good enough.
It’s unlikely he’d retire that young, but his dedication to boxing has been questioned in the past. He’ll probably come back and give it another run, he’s still young enough, but there’s the outside chance a guy like him might just not see the point. He’s not what he was hoped to be coming out of the amateurs, when it was thought he could be a legitimate new star for Puerto Rico, someone to follow Tito Trinidad and Miguel Cotto as the sport’s big star from the island. That hasn’t happened.
Edgar Berlanga TKO-1 Ulises Sierra
Berlanga makes it 16-for-16, as he goes to 16-0 with 16 KO, all first round stoppages. There was some hope — from Bob Arum, from Andre Ward, from others — that Sierra would be the type of guy to be able to survive a round and give Berlanga some rounds, but it wasn’t to be. Berlanga just clubbed him down, dropping Sierra three times.
Sierra (15-2-2, 9 KO) is no great fighter, that’s not the question. He’s a 31-year-old who is best regarded as a high-level sparring partner, having worked with the aforementioned Ward, Canelo Alvarez, Jaime Munguia, and others. Ward spoke of Sierra as a guy who “lasts an entire camp,” tough and gives good work in the gym. But Berlanga just too strong, as has been the case. There’s no question that Berlanga hits hard, but he knows very well that eventually someone won’t just fall over.
“I’m not Canelo, I’m not Jaime Munguia, I’m none of those guys, and that’s what I told him after the fight,” Berlanga told Bernardo Osuna. “I said, ‘You were in there with a real dude,’ and we got the work done and we’re out of here now.”
But he says he’s got a clear goal for 2021: “(Getting) rounds, by stepping up competition. The better opposition we fight, I believe we’re gonna get those rounds in. 2021 is a big year for us, and I’m looking forward to it.”
OK, we're just out of superlatives now. The streak continues. Again. Plain. And. Simple.— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) December 13, 2020
The THIRD knockdown of the first round moves @EdgarBerlangaJr to 16-0 with sixteen first round KOs.#StevensonClary | LIVE on ESPN pic.twitter.com/mQr4wupeeA
- Quincy LaVallais UD-8 Clay Collard: So the folk hero story of Clay Collard ends, as he drops an eight-round unanimous decision in this rematch with LaVallais, a fighter he’d faced before in a six-round draw in 2019. Collard (9-3-3, 4 KO) sees his five-fight 2020 win streak end as he gets ready to head back to MMA, holding a PFL contract for next season, which starts in April. He’d started talking about wanting to win world titles in both MMA and boxing, which was always an, uh, unlikely dream, but his whole run this year was unlikely. We got some great fun from him in an often bleak year for the sport and in general. And hats off to the 27-year-old LaVallais (10-0-1, 5 KO), who made his big TV shot count, and really should get more chances. Like Collard, he’s probably not going to rocket to the top for real, but he’s got some skills and could be a really good gatekeeper at the very least for a bit.
This was one "0" Clay Collard couldn't snatch.— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) December 13, 2020
Quincy LaVallais closes the undercard by besting Collard in their rematch via UD.
The #StevensonClary main card is up on ESPN following LSU-Florida. pic.twitter.com/Zi7P0NWCXg
- Jesse Rodriguez KO-2 Saul Juarez: Another eye-catching performance from the 20-year-old “Bam” Rodriguez, who goes to 13-0 (9 KO) by putting Juarez (25-13-2, 13 KO) away in the final minute of the second round. Juarez’s record doesn’t look like much, but this is only his second stoppage loss, and his first since 2011. The first time was an eye injury, this time he did get busted in the eye and didn’t answer the count. Rodriguez is someone you really want to be keeping tabs on at 108/112, he’s got skill and natural power and some ferociousness in his game.
- Robeisy Ramirez TKO-6 Brandon Valdes: Ramirez, the former two-time Olympic gold medalist from Cuba, wraps up his 2020 at 5-0 on the year, improving his pro record to 6-1 (4 KO). The 26-year-old southpaw featherweight still doesn’t quite look like the phenom you’d have been right to expect when he turned pro, but he’s very good, and he really might be someone who answers the call when the opponents get tougher; yeah, he lost his pro debut, but he hasn’t come close to losing since, and he avenged it, too. It was a learning experience. Valdes (13-2, 7 KO) did have a little success here and there, but mostly just on being game, when it really got down to it, the 22-year-old Colombian was out of his league with Ramirez.
- Haven Brady Jr RTD-2 Michael Land: An easy second pro win for Brady (2-0, 2 KO), an 18-year-old featherweight from Georgia who turned pro in October. He looked sharper, more relaxed, more in control here. Maybe just lack of pre-debut jitters, which would make plenty of sense. Another kid you can expect to see on TR undercards for a long time.
- Kasir Goldston TKO-2 Llewelyn McClamy: The 17-year-old Goldston gets his first pro stoppage in his second pro bout, so he’s 2-0 (1 KO) now after turning pro in September. He’s a 5’10” southpaw who will settle at 140 early, fighting at 142/143 in his first couple. The 31-year-old McClamy (2-1, 1 KO) was no match for Goldston, just totally out of his depth and dropped twice in the second round. On the second one, referee Robert Hoyle had seen plenty.