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Shakur Stevenson planning move up in weight, would still do Josh Warrington fight at 126 if he could

It looks like Shakur Stevenson will never defend the WBO featherweight title he won last year.

Terence Crawford v Amir Khan Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Top Rank and Frank Warren had been discussing a featherweight title unification bout between WBO titleholder Shakur Stevenson and IBF titleholder Josh Warrington since late last year, but negotiations went south, Warrington signed with Matchroom Boxing, and now the word is that Warrington is looking to unify with WBA titleholder Xu Can, with a deal nearly in place.

Stevenson (13-0, 7 KO) won the vacant WBO belt last October by defeating Joet Gonzalez, and was set to defend on Mar. 14 in New York against Miguel Marriaga. That event was one of the sport’s first coronavirus-canceled shows, and now it sounds like Stevenson will never make a defense of the WBO featherweight belt, as he intends to move up in weight when he returns.

“Honestly, if I had a choice, I would be fighting Warrington, but I’m hearing Warrington wants to fight Xu Can,” Stevenson told Crystina Poncher. “But I don’t understand it because [Xu is] a guy with two losses. He’s got an interim title, not the super. They said they would bump him up for the fight or something like that.”

To be clear here — and I don’t blame Shakur for not spending his time studying the differences in this bullshit — Xu (18-2, 3 KO) does not hold an interim title. He holds the WBA “world” title, and is the ranking active titleholder for the sanctioning body. The WBA have bumped fighters from “world” to “super world” to allow them to unify before, and that seems to be the idea here.

Technically, Leo Santa Cruz is still recognized as the “super world” WBA titleholder at 126, but he has the same designation after moving up and fighting at 130 in his last bout, and he’s not expected to go back down. He hasn’t officially vacated at featherweight, but Xu figures to take his place to make the Warrington fight happen.

And at any rate, it doesn’t change Stevenson’s bigger point, which is that Warrington (30-0, 7 KO) should have fought him in a bigger bout, and says he definitely would’ve stayed a bit longer at 126 if that fight had really been on the table.

“I don’t understand that when you can fight a whole champion that’s undefeated and got a bigger name than that dude you’re planning on fighting,” he said. “I don’t understand it, that’s what he decided to do. They can’t say I ducked anybody. I would make that my last fight at 126 if I had the opportunity, but I don’t got that opportunity, so I wanna go up to 130.”

As for the scrapped March fight with Miguel Marriaga (29-3, 25 KO), Stevenson is open to rescheduling that at 130 pounds.

“We still can do the Marriaga fight. That could be my first fight at 130. Marriaga’s fought at 130 before. That wouldn’t be a problem for me. I don’t know how he would feel about it, because there’s not a title on the line.”

Marriaga did, indeed, fight at 130 for his 2017 bout with Vasiliy Lomachenko, which was for Lomachenko’s WBO belt, and lost after seven rounds when his corner stopped the fight. He’s mostly fought at featherweight, but one figures the 33-year-old would probably be willing to take that fight with Stevenson still, unless there’s a chance of him fighting for the 126-pound Stevenson will be giving up, but there probably isn’t, as he’s ranked the No. 6 contender and it’d take a lot of passing and maneuvering to make that happen. It’s boxing, so not impossible, but not likely.

For what it’s worth, the WBO’s top five ranked contenders at 126 are Michael Conlan, Ruben Villa, Ryan Walsh, Jessie Magdaleno, and Musashi Mori. There are good fights to be made in that group, for sure.

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