Shakur Stevenson can ‘pick apart’ Oscar Valdez if he avoids being dragged into a dogfight in their unification showdown, says super-featherweight rival Archie Sharp.
WBC champion Valdez and WBO king Stevenson put their titles and their undefeated records on the line in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Former Olympian Stevenson is a superstar in the making, already a two-weight world champion at 24 having declared himself the future of the sport. From his amateur days, comparisons have been drawn with the great Floyd Mayweather, with the legendary American himself naming the young fighter the heir to his throne.
In Valdez, he faces perhaps the biggest puncher in the 130lbs division having scored 23 knockouts in his 30 career wins. The 30-year-old Mexican, part of the Eddy Reynoso camp alongside pound-for-pound no1 Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, exhibited that power in his stunning win over Miguel Berchelt last year, sending his opponent face-first into the canvas after uncorking a huge left hook.
Sharp will be a very interested observer on Saturday with the Welling fighter the no1 contender for Stevenson’s WBO title.
And while he is interested to see how Stevenson reacts to being roughed up by a ferocious operator in Valdez, Sharp believes the American’s superior skill will shine through.
‘I am edging towards Shakur, I think his natural boxing ability and natural skills will see him edge it,’ Sharp told Metro.co.uk.
‘I think Valdez will be a lot more cautious this time around, Shakur is a very good counter puncher. If he comes in and leaves his chin open that will be when Shakur can pick him apart.
‘But then no one has seen Shakur pushed into a dogfight at that level. That is what will be interesting. Every time he has fought so far, Shakur has had it his own way and he looked like a million dollars. He has boxed well.
‘But it will be interesting to see what happens if he gets a cut, gets roughed up or loses a few rounds. We will see how good he is when he’s not having it all his own way.’
He continued: ‘Everything so far has been a neat, clean performance. No cuts, no head clashes, no nothing. Sparring is sparring and I’m sure he has done hundreds of rounds. But when you have got 8oz gloves on and you’re being roughed up, it is a different world than it is behind closed doors.’
Sharp, also undefeated in his 21 fights, hopes to fight the winner of Valdez vs Stevenson having relentlessly called for his shot at world title gold over the last 18 months. While Valdez’s come-forward style is something he feels he has dealt with since the early days of his career, Sharp insists his unorthodox style would give Stevenson plenty to think about.
‘With Valdez, the majority of the time he comes out with his power and wants to rush out there and sit on his opponent. I have had that myself since I was a young kid and I am sure Shakur has had that a lot too.
‘Style-wise, you would see a good fight between me and Shakur. I am unorthodox, that is not the style Shakur wants to be against. He wants people to come rushing in. He likes to say he and his team know the game plan, trying to throw the opposition off. But if people come to try and box Shakur, he has got to use his brain a little more and adapt.’
Sharp hopes to be named challenger for the WBO title later this year, although he is aware the winner of Valdez vs Stevenson could push for more unification glory against Roger Gutierrez or Kenichi Ogawa, who hold the WBA and IBF titles respectively.
After an injury setback in December, Sharp is hoping for an interim WBO title fight to come his way this summer that he hopes will lock him in for that mandatory title shot, be it against Stevenson or Valdez.
‘I have been screaming their names for a while now, it is now about me getting my shot,’ Sharp said. ‘I want to try and push the WBO to make the interim title fight happen.
‘We have to get a good opponent to validate that fight. A good name, someone on the world title fringe themselves or who has been a world champion themselves. That is the level of fighter I want and that I have been asking for a while now.
‘It has been frustrating, sitting and waiting for my shot. It is similar to the situation Jack Catterall had waiting for his shot against Josh Taylor, that is kind of where I am at right now. We just have to trust the process. I just want to fight the best fighters but unfortunately it is never that simple.
‘I have known fighters in the past who have been in this position and taken their eye of the ball and unfortunately never got their shot. So I have to keep on the right path.’
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