Stevenson and Joyce shine, Mayweather still has it

A critical look at the past week in boxing

GOOD

Shakur Stevenson might be the best pure boxer in the world.

I say this primarily with defense in mind, although he has some elite offensive skills as well. Robson Conceicao landed just 60 punches (according to CompuBox) in Stevenson’s unanimous decision victory Friday in Newark, New Jersey.

That’s only five hits per round. Equally striking, the Brazilian, Olympic gold medalist in 2016, connected just 12% of his total shots thrown. This is Floyd Mayweather territory.

In other words, it’s almost impossible to hit this guy, which will make him hard to beat. That goes for the top fighters at 135 pounds, who Stevenson will fight after losing his 130-pound titles on the scale Friday.

Guess Haney? Vasily Lomachenko? Gervonta Davis (if he fights again at lightweight)? I’m not sure I would pick any of them to beat Stevenson, even though they’re all great fights.

What about Stevenson’s relative lack of punching power?

I think that could be a problem in terms of marketing. He’ll be more popular if he can find ways to stop his opponents, especially those who are clearly overwhelmed, like Conceicao. Fans love knockouts.

I doubt his limited power will hold him back in boxing terms though. Mayweather was not a big puncher, although he stopped many haters in the first half of his career. Same thing with Haney and Lomachenko.

Indeed, Stevenson’s skill set supersedes any single responsibility, if that is what it is. His combination of ability, anticipation, speed and reflexes is frightening.

And he’s only 25. He’s probably not even at his peak. Enjoy the ride.

WRONG

The only reason this article is rated as “bad” is that I wouldn’t pay more than $29.99 to watch a retired old fighter train.

That’s what thousands did yesterday (Sunday in Japan), when Mayweather, 45, and Japanese mixed martial artist Mikuru Asakura faced off in a three-round pay-per-view exhibition in Saitama, in Japan.

I get why some fans would want to see Mayweather in action, even in a meaningless display. I liken it to baseball games of old, where it can be fun to see your retired favorites back on the field of play.

And Mayweather brings a bonus: he can still fight at a fairly high level.

I don’t think he can compete with the top 147-pounders, guys like Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. Mayweather either, who made it clear he didn’t want to compromise his health at these shows.

However, he can still overpower non-boxers like Asakura, who was quickly overwhelmed and eventually knocked out in two rounds as he only has rudimentary boxing skills. Mayweather could beat a guy like that in his sleep.

One more thing: Just because I’m not interested in such events as a fan doesn’t mean I have a problem with Mayweather – or anyone else – attending them.

I am a capitalist. He has a product that a lot of people are interested in buying. As long as that is the case and Mayweather can perform at a reasonably high level, he will likely continue to do so. I would do the same.

He has already mentioned a second fight with Conor McGregor or a first with YouTuber Jake Paul. And Manny Pacquiao was a guest yesterday in Saitama, sparking speculation the former rivals could meet in what is sure to be a lucrative exhibition.

Bottom line: Mayweather isn’t going anywhere yet.

WORSE

The Crawford-Spence and Tyson Fury-Anthony Joshua fights should have been announced by now.

I know I know. These things take time. All parties involved must agree on every detail before contracts can be signed, which usually requires a lot of diligent work. And, yes, that’s how it’s always been in boxing.

It’s always frustrating.

The Crawford-Spence fight is arguably the best matchup possible in boxing, with two undefeated welterweights in the Top 5 pound for pound. It’s comparable to Oscar De La Hoya versus Felix Trinidad, maybe better from a boxing perspective.

That’s why reports that Crawford and Spence had agreed to terms raised fans’ hopes to such a degree.

Now, with nothing but silence and no final agreement in place, people are beginning to wonder if the talks are falling apart. It would be heartbreaking.

Fury-Joshua is a match no one expected, at least not now. After all, Joshua has lost back-to-back fights to Oleksandr Usyk, who for most of us would face Fury for the undisputed heavyweight championship.

The thing is, there’s demand for Fury-Joshua, a matchup that’s been in the works for years. It could be the greatest fight in British boxing history, Joshua’s losses or Joshua’s no losses. It’s a fun game.

Fury and Joshua agreed to a 60-40 revenue split in favor of Fury. One obstacle seems to be the TV/streaming platforms: Fury is aligned with BT Sports, Joshua with DAZN.

The leaders of these companies are due to meet on Monday, which is a good sign. They certainly won’t come to an agreement if they don’t talk.

Still, Fury is frustrated because the talks have dragged on. He has given Joshua’s side a deadline of Monday to complete a deal, which Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn says is unrealistic.

The fans want these fights. There’s a lot of money on the table for everyone involved in both. Realize them.

RABBIT DIES

Joe Joyce (15-0, 14 KOs) is not the fastest or most athletic heavyweight. And that doesn’t matter much, as he demonstrated in his knockout victory over the former titleholder. Joseph Parker (30-3, 21 KO) Saturday in England. Joyce is physically imposing at 6-foot-6, around 270 pounds, is well-conditioned, and has a good chin. He is also a solid and disciplined boxer who knows how to use his advantages against his opponents. He battled patiently behind his long-range jab and followed up with heavy punches that gradually wore Parker down before finishing the Kiwi off with an epic left hook in the 11e round. It was a solid performance. Can Joyce beat next tier heavyweights Fury, Usyk, Deontay Wilder and Joshua? I do not know. I believe the 37-year-old Londoner has the size, strength, punching power, durability and yes, the skills to rival anyone. … Amanda Serrano (43-2-1, 30 KOs) didn’t have much trouble with Sarah Mahfoud (11-1, 3 KOs) of Denmark on the Joyce-Parker card, winning a unanimous decision to unify three featherweight titles. One thing surprised me: Serrano seemed to fade in the stretch, which shouldn’t happen in 10 rounds of 2 minutes. Maybe she was too busy earlier in the fight. Maybe there was a factor we don’t know about. Overall, however, she put on another good performance. … Stevenson’s inability to gain weight for his fight against Conceicao was unprofessional. He admitted it. That said, I’ll take my word for it that he did his best to honor the contract he signed. The goal now should be to never let it happen again. Once is a mistake; twice is a pattern.

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