Shakur Stevenson lost his two 130-pound titles at the scales, but he still cruised to a unanimous decision victory over Robson Conceicao on Friday before an announced crowd of 10,107 in Newark, New Jersey.
Two judges scored the bout 117-109, while the third judge had it 118-108 for Stevenson, who floored Conceicao with a left hand to the sternum with one second remaining in Round 4.
“I killed myself to make weight,” said Stevenson, ESPN’s No. 9 pound-for-pound boxer. “He held me the whole night, but I did everything I could. I think that he was doing a lot of holding whenever I got to the inside.”
Stevenson (19-0, 9 KOs) was stripped of his WBC and WBO junior lightweight belts on Thursday after he weighed 131.6 pounds, more than 1½ pounds over the division limit. Conceicao (17-2, 8 KOs) weighed 129.6 pounds and was eligible to win the two belts.
Those titles are now vacant, and the top two available contenders in each organization’s rankings will vie for the belts in the future.
Since Conceicao made weight, he would have earned his $200,000 purse even if the fight didn’t take place. Instead, Stevenson paid Conceicao a $150,000 financial penalty from his $3 million purse, sources tell ESPN, part of a side agreement to allow the fight to proceed.
“Respect to him,” Stevenson said, “but everybody want that kind of paycheck.”
The title bid was Conceicao’s second following a September 2021 decision defeat to Oscar Valdez. Conceicao was at a competitive disadvantage in that bout, too; Valdez tested positive for a banned substance weeks before the fight.
The decision loss to Valdez was disputed, but the defeat to Stevenson was anything but.
In a homecoming bout, Stevenson displayed all the tools that made him a two-division champion and a pound-for-pound fighter at age 25. His southpaw jab, one of the sport’s best, set the tempo and opened Conceicao’s guard for a stinging left hand that inflicted plenty of damage.
Conceicao, a 33-year-old Brazilian, dug to the body with effective right hands early on, but Stevenson’s shots were more precise and compact.
Stevenson’s sharp punches disrupted Conceicao’s rhythm, a predictable attack that featured bundles of looping right hands that he set up with a jab. The Olympic gold medalist loaded up on the power shots, and many met their mark, but few seemed to land clean nor have any effect on Stevenson.
The challenger found more success in Round 3 with some flush left hands delivered from awkward angles, but the attack never sustained long enough to build any momentum.
Stevenson broke through in the closing moments of Round 4 with the knockdown, which appeared to shift the trajectory of the fight for good.
Shakur connected with a powerful left cross with 20 seconds left in Round 6 that stunned Conceicao, before he walked him down to deliver a damaging hook in the waning seconds.
Conceicao bounced back in Round 8 on the strength of a series of flush right hands — the first round he won on one scorecard — but Stevenson’s pressure was beginning to take its toll.
Usually, Stevenson elects to box from the outside, but he was aggressive on this night, particularly down the stretch. He was deducted one point in Round 9 for tossing Conceicao to the mat; Stevenson complained his opponent was leaning on his neck.
He began to land with more regularity over the final three rounds as Conceicao absorbed the punishment, but he was never in serious danger of being stopped.
“He real awkward and he real tough, so he know how to survive,” Stevenson said. “I was trying to fight. I wanted to stand there and beat him up. And he was grabbing and holding.”
The victory was Stevenson’s second of 2022 after an April decision rout of Valdez that also featured a knockdown. That win added a second title to Stevenson’s collection after an October 2021 TKO of Jamel Herring grabbed him his first 130-pound title.
Now, those titles are history after Stevenson’s mishap on Thursday, an event the fighter conceded he was embarrassed by.
“I’m tough, even through my hard times I still find a way to push through,” said Stevenson, ESPN’s No. 1 junior lightweight. Conceicaco was rated No. 8 following a dominant victory over Xavier Martinez in January.
Stevenson added: “I learned that I’m real tough.”
He’ll have plenty of opportunity to put it all in the past as he begins his campaign at lightweight, a division that features far more talent than the divisions Stevenson competed in.
“Everybody at 135 [pounds] gotta get it,” he said. “We gotta fight the champ. Me and Devin [Haney], we can lock it in after he fights [George] Kambosos [on Oct. 15]. I’ll fight [Vasiliy] Lomachenko, too.”