Shakur Stevenson chats with Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole ahead of Saturday's unification fight against Oscar Valdez in Las Vegas. The undefeated super featherweight champion says Valdez is the big-name fight that will have his career "skyrocketing" and looks forward to the paydays a big performance Saturday will bring.
KEVIN IOLE: Hey, everybody. I am Kevin Iole. Welcome to Yahoo Sports. There is a huge fight on Saturday, a unification fight, as always, good news in boxing. There's actually a couple of them on either coast. There's going to be some good ones going on. Women on the East Coast and on the West Coast, we have a fight that I have been looking forward to seeing for a long time.
And I know my next guest has wanted this fight for a while. Shakur Stevenson is going to fight WBZ super-featherweight champion, Óscar Valdez. A fight he's wanted for a while, we got it now at the MGM Grand on Saturday on ESPN. Shakur, how are you doing, my man?
SHAKUR STEVENSON: I feel good. I'm in shape and I'm ready to fight.
KEVIN IOLE: Coming off a huge win over Jamel Herring, not that it was that big a shock that you won the fight, but I think how you dominated him was. But to me, I think this is the fight that can really take you to the next level. I've been saying for a while, you're the guy in boxing that could be the next pound-for-pound king, the guy that could be the next dominant one. And you need that foil, and I think Oscar Valdez might be that guy for you. Do you see it that way?
SHAKUR STEVENSON: Yeah, I agree with that. I feel like Valdez is an undefeated fighter. He's a great fighter. I don't take nothing away from Valdez. I know that he's going to come 100% trying to win. So I definitely see my career skyrocketing if I go in there and do what I got to do, and that's what I plan on doing.
KEVIN IOLE: He's got a 77% knockout ratio, I think 23 knockouts in 30 fights. Some people who maybe don't know boxing will look at your knockout ratio and say, well, you can't punch. But I think when a guy is attacking you, isn't that a warning to them because now, you're going to be able to get those counters off, and you're a very accurate puncher. Do you feel like guys that attack you are kind of the ones you're better against?
SHAKUR STEVENSON: I'm not sure. I don't know. I just disagree with that. Certain fights you have nights where you get the guy there and certain fights you don't. Óscar Valdez has never faced the Shakur Stevenson. He's never been in the ring with nobody like me.
It's a code that he has to crack. That's in his brain right now. He knows he's got to crack the code, and I think that's very hard to do so. I'm not thinking about who pushed or hard is or who got the better knock out ratio, I'm thinking about the code that he got a crack. I got to go in there and be me, and let's see if he can crack that code.
KEVIN IOLE: I mentioned in my betting column, I compared this to Mayweather and Corrales. And then going into that fight, everybody was talking about Corrales being the better puncher, and Mayweather went out there. And I kind of see from, my standpoint, I see you doing that same thing, breaking him down, landing. You're punching accuracy is so good, and that's something that seems like you have always been that way. Do you feel like that's something that you're not getting credit for, how accurate of a puncher you are and how good you set your shots up?
SHAKUR STEVENSON: Yeah, I definitely don't get credit for that. A lot of people, even if they say I ain't got no power, I'll be stopping these guys and hurting these guys. And you don't ever really just see nobody walking through me. Like you don't see fighters going in and try to walk me down. And then by the third, fourth round, they kind of hesitate, and they standing on the outside trying to figure out what's going on. So I definitely don't feel like I get the credit I deserve when it comes down to that because these fighters be feeling what be going on in the ring.
KEVIN IOLE: Where Stevenson is right now, the number nine ranked pound-for-pound fighter in Yahoo Sports. I don't know where anybody else has you ranked. Does it bother you that sometimes people don't give you that? Like it seems to me, like coming out of the Olympics, you had that huge platform winning the silver medal. A lot of times, when guys win in the Olympics, that vaults them and they become these huge superstars. It's taken you a while to get that recognition. Why do you think that is?
SHAKUR STEVENSON: I mean, I guess it got to do with the big, big fights, the names, and I feel like with Valdez, he was the perfect person to skyrocket my career. So at the end of the day, I see myself as a top level fighter in the sport. But after this fight, I think the whole world should see me as the same thing.
KEVIN IOLE: You were sitting ringside when Óscar Valdez fought Miguel Berchelt, and he stopped him with that incredible hook. I ran over and talked to you almost immediately when that was over, and I saw the look on you and your manager, James Prince's, face, and it was kind of interesting. But tell me what you thought of Valdez's performance against Berchelt because that was his biggest fight up to that point, and specifically, what you thought of the ending of the fight.
SHAKUR STEVENSON: I thought it was a great performance as long as he wasn't cheating. After that fight, he got caught for cheating the very next fight with Robson. And I just feel like he may have could've been cheating. We never know.
So it all comes down to that. If he wasn't cheating, it was a great performance. But if he was, it was a cheating performance. And I don't feel like that's going to be in to play come this fight. I think VADA tested me the most VADA ever came this fight, and I believe they did the same thing with Valdez.
KEVIN IOLE: You're sure he's clean. But I mean, I know Floyd used to say this all the time, I'll beat him whether they cheat or they don't cheat, right? I mean, don't you have that same attitude, like, hey, you know what, I'm better than they are. Cheating, putting stuff in your body doesn't help you.
SHAKUR STEVENSON: I love Floyd. I'm a big Floyd fan, but he said that, but didn't fight Pacquiao out because Pacquiao wouldn't take the test. So he might have said that, but at the end of the day, we both know nobody wants to get in the ring with a cheater. We want a fair fight. Everybody wants fair and square. If you're a fighter, you want a fair fight. Nobody wants cheating in front of them.
I think that's something hard to deal with. I love Floyd, but I got to be real. It took him a long time to fight Pacquiao, and it's because Pacquiao was accused of cheating, basically. So I agree with him. I understood why the fight took so long.
KEVIN IOLE: Sure. I would ask you this, Shakur. I mentioned before, I think you're one of the guys that could be the successor to Canelo, or Bud Crawford, whoever you want to say is the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world. I think you have that ability, and you've had that for a long time.
Does that put pressure on you to live up to expectations? People are out there expecting a lot of big things from you, and do you think that when you hear that-- you think of the pound-for-pound guy like Canelo's doing now, carrying the sport, fighting all these big fights. Does that put pressure on you and make it difficult to focus on what you need to do?
SHAKUR STEVENSON: No, I think pressure either busts pipes or it makes diamonds. I don't look at anything like, oh, I got a lot of pressure on me. Long as you do what you're supposed to do in training camp and everything, I feel like you should you're supposed to go in the ring and do what you've been doing in camp. Go do what you've been doing. Don't get out there and freeze up just because there's a lot of people.
I try to tell myself, I don't see them. I don't even see them. I smile, keep it moving. Once we get in the ring, all I see is the person in front of me. So I try to tell myself this is another day in the office.
I try not to think about anything that puts pressure on me. I don't want-- I don't care for it. I'm not putting pressure on myself. It's fight time. You're in a fight. You been boxing your whole life. You got to go do what you've been doing your whole life. I don't care who's out there. It's basically you and the person in that ring. He's trying to kill you, and you're trying to hurt him.
KEVIN IOLE: The NFL draft, is this week, and a lot of the big NFL stars are going to be in town, and I know those guys like fights. So I wonder, number one, any friends of yours who play in the NFL that are going to come support you at the fight. And what will it be like? You're going to get a chance to fight in front of some of the other best athletes in the world, right, to show how good you are in front of guys that may come to the fight.
SHAKUR STEVENSON: It's definitely good having them NFL people come check the fight out and just performing in front of amazing athletes also. But I don't really know too many NFL people that I could say I'd know coming to the fight.
KEVIN IOLE: All right. Well, how do you look at this? Is this your last fight at 130? If you win this, you go up, or have you even given that a thought yet?
SHAKUR STEVENSON: Right now, we focus on Valdez. We know Valdez in front of us. You can't look past Valdez and think about what's going on next. I would like to win all the belts at 130. I don't plan on moving up.
KEVIN IOLE: Oh, good.
SHAKUR STEVENSON: But I'm still focused on Valdez. Like Valdez is my main focus. Saturday, we got to get past Valdez for any of that to happen. Because if I lose the Valdez, we won't be talking about undisputed or anything like that. We'll be talking about, oh, Shakur lost.
KEVIN IOLE: How about money? Because this is going to be the gateway to you for, I would think, a lot of money. If you perform like I think you're going to perform, like a lot of people think you're going to perform, all of a sudden, you're going to be in a different tax bracket, right? You're going to be writing a bigger check to the IRS. That has to be motivating, and you guys seem to know what's out there, right?
SHAKUR STEVENSON: Yeah, that is a big motivation. I know for a fact that Top Rank, and I hope they see this interview, they're going to have to pay me a lot after this fight. I deserve a lot of money after this fight. I am the superstar of Top Rank. And I think with Tyson Fury retiring, calling quits, I feel like I'm the next big fighter, big superstar on that list. And I think I should be paid for that.
KEVIN IOLE: Todd duBoef, the president of Top Rank, I'm sorry, but I just got this guy a raise here, so we got to take care of him.
SHAKUR STEVENSON: I need that. I deserve it. I feel like after this fight, I deserve it. I feel like I'm a superstar. So let's just focus on Saturday, but they better be prepared after Saturday. That's all I'm gonna say.
KEVIN IOLE: I'll throw this out at you just to get your take on this. I covered Floyd from the beginning of his career till the end. And at the beginning of his career, he was considered, quote unquote, "not a draw," right? Couldn't sell tickets. Obviously, at the end of his career, he was the best draw of all time.
From your standpoint, do you feel like that's the next level you've got to get to? Like filling up the arenas, selling the-- you haven't been done the pay-per-view yet, but fill in the pay-per-views and that type of thing. Is that the next level for you to climb?
SHAKUR STEVENSON: Yeah, most definitely. I got to become a pay-per-view superstar in the sport. I got to fill out the arenas. I got to do whatever it takes to become that superstar, and fighting people like Valdez is a perfect way to do it. I feel like Valdez is a great fighter.
This is a big, big risk. This is a risk on my career on his career, and we are both taking the risk. So I think we deserve the respect for getting in that ring and doing what we're doing. But I'm a risk taker. Scared money don't make no money when it comes to me. So I ain't scared. Do you feel me? We're going to take that risk, man.
KEVIN IOLE: Well, let's wrap it up with this. As I mentioned earlier, I remember seeing you right after Valdez knocked out Berchelt. And you immediately said that was the fight wanted, right? But I know you doubted whether it was going to happen. When you finally heard, hey, Óscar's going to sign, Óscar's going to step up, what was your reaction?
SHAKUR STEVENSON: I couldn't believe it. I could not believe it. I got a call. I'm laying down their bed with my daughter, and I'm like, huh? Valdez is going to fight me? No way. I'll believe it when I see it. And then we got Bob Arum on the phone, and he kind of put the stamp on it. Like, yeah, you and Valdez is next, basically. I'm like, OK.
So once they said it was going to happen, I've been calling for it. I'm not the type of person that's going call for something just for the media or the fans. I'm like that at the end of the day, so it's going to be what it is. So I signed the contract. He signed the contract. Let's work.
KEVIN IOLE: Can't wait to say it on Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on ESPN. You'll get to see that young man, Shakur Stevenson, do his thing. I think he's going to do a great job. It's going to be a hell of a fight. Shakur, best of luck to you. Thank you for your time.
SHAKUR STEVENSON: Thank you.