Like It Never Left: Shakur Stevenson KO6 Felix Caraballo

Mismatches, propagandistic commentary and weirdly long time lags between bouts: Boxing is back, baby! The return of live boxing to the United States would normally be a cause for celebration, and we should be pleased, but as with most things in life, our expectations should be tempered by reality. 

Wednesday night at the Bubble, MGM Grand in Las Vegas, highly touted featherweight Shakur Stevenson (14-0, 8 KO) outclassed and out-punched opponent Felix Caraballo en route to a 6th round stoppage in the main event of a card televised on ESPN. Stevenson was able to hurt Caraballo whenever he wanted, and a 1st round body shot knock down was a sign of things to come. Stevenson cruised throughout, peppering his movement with quick combinations and nasty body work. One thing of note, and it might be because of the level of competition, is that Stevenson retains an extremely wide stance and often stops, completely setting his feet before punching. 

Slightly glitchy technique aside, this was easy work for Stevenson. Early in the 6th round, referee Tony Weeks ruled that a Stevenson punch on the bottom of the beltline was too low, giving Caraballo a chance to catch his breath before being stopped for good.  That stoppage took place less than a minute later when Stevenson spiked a short left hook into Caraballo’s ribs, dropping his hapless opponent into a heap. Weeks waived the bout off at 1:31 of round 6. 

The card opened with two-time Olympic gold medalist Cuban featherweight Robeisy Ramirez turning novice Yeuri Andujar into a pile of wet laundry two minutes into the 1st round with an overhand left that only a novice couldn’t avoid. Ramirez, you may remember (I didn’t) lost his pro debut by split decision, which prompted ESPN to put up an odd graphic showing notable fighters who’d lost their debut as if to suggest Ramirez would surely come back to have a hall of fame worthy career.  Heavyweights Guido Vianello and Jared Anderson did their parts by stopping overmatched foes in one and three rounds respectively. 

Normally this is where a Gary Russell Jr. reference would be made about watching a fight with no fans in the arena, but it didn’t quite have that feel. The quality of the fights and the atmosphere reminded more of the afternoon bouts of a big card that’s main event doesn’t start until midnight. If you’ve never gone early to a card, the only people in the arena are the fighters, commission members, family, and whoever drew the short straw and had to cover them.  You’ll see mismatches as prospects are built, and oftentimes the A-side will be more interested in getting in rounds and working on things than being entertaining. Not the sort of thing you expect to see on ESPN in prime time. 

We’ve long since past the point where we can consider any broadcast crew neutral, but ESPN’s coverage last night was used car salesman-level cringe. Apparently, augury is listed in several places on Joe Tessitore’s resume, as he beat the audience over the head with how great Stevenson is guaranteed to be. It’s a cheap tactic, and anyone who watched Floyd Mayweather as a prospect can tell you that the comparison is invidious. The only moment of genuine emotion belonged to Timothy Bradley, and if you haven’t watched, it’s worth your time.