Will Mick Conlan v Shakur Stevenson ever happen?

Last night it was confirmed that Shakur Stevenson has signed up with Top Rank.

As has been pointed out innumerable times, the U.S. Olympic silver medalist is now a promotional stablemate of Ireland’s own Mick Conlan.

The pair were on course to meet in the Olympic semi finals last year in Rio, only for Conlan to be shockingly eliminated in the quarter finals following a hugely controversial defeat to Russian Vladimir Nikitin.

Pre-existing cuts exponentially worsened by Conlan then led to Nikitin withdrawing from his bout with Stevenson in the last four, handing the American a walkover route to the final. In the gold medal match he would be defeated by Cuban maestro Robeisy Ramirez, who defeated Conlan at the semi final stage in London four years previously.

As Conlan himself has noted, Stevenson’s decision certainly makes a meeting in the pros a lot easier to facilitate. A showdown of the Olympic medalists has been mooted by Top Rank chief Bob Arum, who believes it could be one of the biggest fights in boxing in five years time.

However, herein lies the problem – time.

While a Conlan-Stevenson showdown has the makings of being a massive fight it should be noted that the 19 year old Newark boxer will debut at featherweight (126lbs/57.2kg) and, given his young age, is expected to rise up through the weights relatively quickly. Indeed Stevenson himself believes that he may end up at light welterweight (140lbs/63.5kg)

25 year old Conlan, who debuts at the Theater at Madison Square Garden on St Patrick’s Day in a super bantamweight (122lbs/55.3kg) bout with Tim Ibarra, underwent a similar growth spurt himself. The Belfast man won Olympic bronze at flyweight (114.2lbs/52kg) aged 20, but would soon move to bantamweight (123.5lbs/56kg) as his frame developed.

While the Manny Robles-trained fighter has pledged to win world titles at three weights during his career [super bantam, feather, and super feather], the perfect time for a bout with Stevenson may unfortunately never come and the New Jersey wunderkid could be out of sight in terms of weight sooner rather than later.

That said, there is still hope for this potentially massive fight, one only needs to look at the example of Amir Khan.

The English fighter won a sensational silver, aged 17, at the 2004 Athens Olympics in the lightweight (132.3lbs/60kg) division. Turning pro the following year, Khan would box initially at lightweight (135lbs/61.2kg) in the pros and would move to light welter once a title opportunity against Andreas Kotelnik presented itself in 2009 when Khan was still only 22.

Should Stevenson develop similarly, the bout could happen, but the chances of the bout really are entirely dependent on how much, and how quick, the talented young American grows.

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie