Stevenson tops Caraballo in sport’s Vegas return

Shakur Stevenson dominated Felix Caraballo over six one-sided rounds at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, in what was the return of boxing to the city.

Stevenson (14-0, 8 KOs) was sharp from the very beginning, muting the aggression of Caraballo (13-2-2, 9 KOs) who tried to press Stevenson early, but was met with a wide variety of sharp and accurate punches that were seemingly coming in all directions. Stevenson scored a knockdown in the first round by Stevenson as he struck Caraballo in the body with a right hook.

“I came in to get him out of there,” Stevenson said. “I hit him with everything I could early on, I wobbled him a bunch of times. He took a lot of punishment. I started realizing the head shots weren’t going to get him out of there. So I started going to the body.”

It became steadily worse for Caraballo, who was game, but outclassed. The only real moment of difficulty for Stevenson was when he winced and shook his left hand after landing a punch with it in the fifth. According to ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna, who was ringside in Las Vegas, Stevenson was headed to the hospital after the fight for further evaluation.

After softening the body for a few rounds, it was a digging left from Stevenson to the stomach of Caraballo that had him on his knees in the six round and forced referee Tony Weeks to wave off the fight.

“He opened up wide, and I caught him in between his punch,” Stevenson said. “I caught him right in the middle of his shot.”

This was a non-title affair for Stevenson, who is the reigning WBO featherweight champion, and his first outing since his mid-March bout against Miguel Marriaga was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Stevenson, who was bitterly disappointed by not being able to perform a few months ago, was relieved to be back at work.

Despite the victory — something Stevenson is very much used to — he admitted that this fight was unlike any other given the protocols surrounding the event.

“It was a different atmosphere, losing the weight was different, training in the gym was different. I couldn’t be around nobody,” said Stevenson, who also said that not having a live audience was awkward. “It is a little different.”

Just 22 years old, Stevenson seems to be getting bigger and stronger and there are questions if he will even go back down to 126 and make a defense of that WBO belt. There had been talk of him facing IBF champion, Josh Warrington, in a unification bout, but an agreement does not seem imminent.

It’s not clear where his immediate future lies, but many believe he will be one of the most dominant boxers for the next decade, comparisons have been made the Floyd Mayweather.

“We’re two different fighters, we got two different styles, I got my own style,” said Stevenson regarding the Mayweather comparisons. “I’m still my own fighter. I’m the first Shakur Stevenson.”

Las Vegas had not hosted a boxing event since Feb. 22, when Tyson Fury knocked out Deontay Wilder in seven rounds.