Thursday, July 25, 2024

Shakur Stevenson outpoints Artem Harutyunyan to retain WBC lightweight title, becomes promotional free agent

Shakur Stevenson entered Saturday’s bout with Artem Harutyunyan knowing there was extra weight to put on a good show in the last fight of his current deal with Top Rank. Stevenson didn’t manage to light the boxing world on fire with his performance, but he did pick up a clear unanimous decision victory to retain his WBC lightweight championship.

Despite being an elite pound-for-pound fighter, Stevenson entered the ring coming off an abysmally dull win over Edwin De Los Santos where just 105 punches connected for both men combined. With free agency looming, Stevenson’s value as an attraction was at a low point. This made Harutyunyan an odd choice of opponent with a somewhat negative style that kept him competitive in a fight with Frank Martin before losing on the scorecards. The worst fears of how the fight could play out came to life in the opening round with the fighters landing a combined five punches.

Harutyunyan’s attempts to walk forward were countered by Stevenson’s backstepping and distance management, a tactically correct decision but one that had the crowd loudly booing by the middle of the third round. Harutyunyan seemed to be focused on working to the body to negate Stevenson’s slick defense and sharp footwork.

By the late stages of the third, Stevenson seemed to find his range and timing, throwing with a bit more force when Harutyunyan would fall into the wrong distance or open too wide on his attacks. With that came more of Stevenson as the aggressor, walking Harutyunyan down and imposing his will.

After grabbing control of the fight, Stevenson walked back to his corner after Round 4 and announced, “I’m going to stop him.” Before long, it seemed a Stevenson stoppage was all but inevitable, with the champion rattling Harutyunyan to the body and head with regularity.

Things started to slide away from that inevitability in the second half of the fight, with Stevenson not stringing punches together and having trouble pinning Harutyunyan down. At times, Stevenson grew frustrated with Harutyunyan moving around the ring to avoid exchanges. Other times, Harutyunyan again was the aggressor, throwing combinations while Stevenson relied on his defense to avoid any meaningful damage but not following through with counters.

Harutyunyan survived to the final bell, never suffering a knockdown, as he did in his fight with Martin. As a result, the crowd did boo as the final bell sounded.

The win was never in doubt for Stevenson and the 119-109, 118-110, 116-112 scorecards felt like little more than a formality, but Stevenson’s performance won’t do much to quiet the concerns that he will never prove a major star and leaves many questions about his value as he now goes in search of his next promoter.

“He said he had to bring his running shoes, that’s what he told me earlier,” Stevenson said after the fight. “It’s kind of hard to prove [that I’m the guy] if you don’t got a fighter trying to fight back. He was just trying to survive. He’s a good fighter and he’s tough but I wanted him to try a little harder. … I think the boos were probably because of him. He wasn’t trying to make the fight.”

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