Top Rank on ESPN returns Tuesday, June 9, as WBO featherweight world champion Shakur ‘Fearless’ Stevenson (13-0, 7KOs) takes on Puerto Rican contender Felix ‘La Sombra’ Caraballo (13-1-2, 9KOs) in a 10-round super featherweight encounter at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Stevenson defeated his girlfriend's brother, Joet Gonzalez, last year in front of 2,828 fans at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center to become the first male Olympian from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games to become a world champion. He was due to defend his title for the first time against Miguel Marriaga on the annual St. Patrick's Day Garden Party featuring Michael Conlan and Belmar Preciado on Tuesday, March 17, but it became one of the first boxing events to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The talented 22-year-old goes into this bout with a perfect 13-0 record that includes seven knockouts along the way. This will be the American’s fifth fight since 2019, after coming off an October win over Joet Gonzalez. Stevenson stands at 5’8”, exactly the same height as his 14th opponent, and he possesses a southpaw style to his game and has a 68-inch reach.
As an amateur, Stevenson represented the United States at the 2016 Summer Olympics, winning a silver medal in the bantamweight division in the process. He won the USA Youth National Championships three years on the spin between 2013-2015. He holds wins over some of his generation's best fighters in the world, such as Liverpool's Peter McGrail, who is one of very few to have qualified for the next Olympics, whenever they may take place. He also holds a win over interim WBA World super bantamweight champion and world title contender Brandon Figueroa from Texas, currently unbeaten in 21 bouts.
He is a technically gifted boxer with an impressive defence, good movement, and doesn’t put himself in harm’s way much during a fight. Stevenson is mentally a sound fighter and carefully picks his shots rather than be all guns blazing where he rarely turns the fight into a brawl.
However, he doesn’t have the best power in his punches, but he does offer a strong right hook and back hand that he is fond of and utilises it to good effect in combinations where six knockouts have occurred in the third round or earlier.
Caraballo enters this fight with a 13-1-2 record that includes an impressive nine knockouts. He has already fought in 2020, coming off a January win over Sergio Lopez, so he will be in a good rhythm as well as ready for what will be the biggest fight of his career on June 9.
Making his pro debut way back in 2014, when Stevenson was just 14-years-old, Caraballo possesses an orthodox stance. At times, Caraballo can be claimed as a bit of a wild fighter who throws powerful combinations to the head and body equally, but his swings can be wide, leaving him open to counters.
Three of his victories during his five-fight winning streak have been stoppages where his effort is unquestionable. However, his efforts can become his biggest issue at times - sloppy in his attacks, which has led to previous defeats, the 26-year-old will have to be 100% focussed against a much more skilful opponent like Stevenson. This will be Caraballo’s first career fight outside of Puerto Rico and he can’t leave himself exposed, otherwise, he will be vulnerable to Stevenson’s aggressive combinations.
Stevenson should be the clear favourite to win this bout. He is a more polished and experienced boxer between the two, with an amateur pedigree that most boxers can only dream of. Also, he possesses better technique in defence, which will allow him to excel on the scorecards in the later rounds. Caraballo leaves himself too exposed and will try to exploit Stevenson in the later rounds, which will be his downfall.
There is no doubt this will be a gripping encounter because boxing is finally returning. Either way, Stevenson should win this fight comfortably either inside the distance, depending on how disciplined Carabello will be, or via a wide unanimous decision.