The Athletic is reporting that Top Rank’s first show back on ESPN will be taking place on Tuesday, June 9, with Shakur Stevenson likely facing Rafael Rivera in the main event.
The bout would take place at an MGM property in Las Vegas, with no fans in attendance, of course, which is going to be Top Rank’s standard for the time being in terms of location and protocol.
The 22-year-old Stevenson (13-0, 7 KO) was set for a Mar. 14 main event against Miguel Marriaga, where Stevenson was to defend the WBO featherweight title he won last October. That card was one of the first taken down by the COVID-19 pandemic, as it was scrapped two days out.
Stevenson has recently said he intends to move up to 130 in search of bigger fights, but we’ll see. The 26-year-old Rivera (27-4-2, 18 KO) isn’t ranked in the WBO’s top 15, so this doesn’t figure to be a title fight either way, and promoter Bob Arum has repeatedly stated that he expects cards to be headlined by 10-round, non-title fights for the time being, at least for the most part.
If you’re familiar with Rivera, chances are it’s because you’ve seen him lose a fight or two. He’s 2-4 in his last six, winning a couple of low-level fights while taking losses against Joseph Diaz Jr in 2017, Joet Gonzalez in 2018, and Leo Santa Cruz and Jessie Magdaleno in 2019. The Santa Cruz fight was a world title bout at 126, which was pretty absurd. He’s never been stopped, which I suppose is a selling point.
It’s nice to get some news about fights coming back and a specific fight at that, but it’s also going to be hard to get really excited about fights like this, if we’re being totally honest. Stevenson has beaten fighters at this level repeatedly already, and done so with no trouble. There may be some intrigue about what sort of shape he’ll be in, but that’s about it, and if the shape isn’t “horrible,” he won’t be expected to have problems.
Top Rank’s current plan is to do two events per week on ESPN starting in June, so at the very least we should have a lot of boxing coming our way starting in a few weeks, or at least that is the plan right now.