Amateur boxer Shakur Stevenson was born on June 28, 1997, the same day Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear in their rematch for the WBA heavyweight championship. At just 18 years of age, Stevenson, a Newark, NJ native, is one of Team USA’s best chances of taking home an Olympic gold medal in Rio, where he’ll campaign at bantamweight.
He was introduced to the sport by his grandfather, Willie ‘Wali’ Moses, when he was five and immediately fell in love with it. By age eight, he had his first amateur fight. “I like fighting under the lights. I like performing when everyone is looking at me. When all the attention is on me and I get to show my talent best,” said Stevenson.
The lights will be shining bright when the self-described “slick southpaw” arrives in Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics and represents the United States. The male last fighter to win gold for Team USA was Andre Ward at light heavyweight during the 2004 Athens Games.
I want to impress myself. Basically, be better than what I was yesterday.
“I’m human so of course I feel pressure but once I get in the ring it just goes right away. As soon as I get in . . . I just feel like I’m in my gym sparring or something. I try to put that away because if you focus on that you’re just gonna get nervous and it’s not good for you. But, I try to mainly focus on what I’m supposed to do. I want to impress myself. Basically, be better than what I was yesterday.”
Stevenson, who currently lives and trains in Virginia, has been sparring with fighters from the amateur and professional ranks. “Lately, Jaron Ennis, who went to the Olympic trials. He lost in the finals at 141 but he’s a crazy good boxer. And another person who was at the Olympic trials at that same weight, Richardson Hitchins, they call him Africa . . . He just won the Golden Gloves. They give me really good work,” Stevenson said.
As far as pros go, he’s recently sparred with O’Shanique Foster, and Antoine Douglas, who he lives with in Virginia. “I can’t wait to be in the pros, close to home, get my family to come support. I kind of want to move fast because I feel like I can prove to the world I’m not just no little kid. I’m a little kid that’s a grown man, basically. I can hang in there with anybody.”
We haven’t won a gold medal since Andre Ward so I’m gonna be the one to do it and then come off the gold medal and go straight to the pros at 126.
Stevenson possesses the physical gifts which will make him a successful pro. He has a great jab and the ring awareness to maintain his distance so he’s within range to land punches but far enough out of range to slip them.
However, before he can turn pro he has unfinished business in the amateurs as he travels the road to Rio. With the Summer Olympics less than 100 days away, Stevenson will be locked in his goal of bringing home the gold medal.
“We haven’t won a gold medal since Andre Ward so I’m gonna be the one to do it and then come off the gold medal and go straight to the pros at 126.” As far as boxing history goes, June 28, 1997 is remembered as the day of the bite heard ‘round the world, but if Stevenson goes to Rio and does what he says he’s going to do, it will be known as the day USA was blessed with its next great champion.