Shakur Stevenson vs. Artem Harutyunyan fight prediction, odds, undercard, start time, expert picks, preview



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Whether it’s justified or not in boxing’s arbitrary court of public opinion, Shakur Stevenson enters the final bout of his Top Rank deal on Saturday without the same fanfare and hype he so recently held. 

Stevenson (21-0, 10 KOs) returns to his hometown of Newark, New Jersey, to defend his WBC lightweight title against Artem Harutyunyan (12-1, 7 KOs) inside the Prudential Center. But if you are only as good in boxing as your last performance, fans and experts alike can’t seem to forgive the talented southpaw for the results of his most recent performance. 

It’s not enough that the 27-year-old Stevenson, who captured the silver medal at the 2016 Olympics, has won titles in three divisions while cementing himself among the pound-for-pound best in the sport. When Stevenson was propped up last November by Top Rank and ESPN to headline an important fight card during the same week as Formula 1’s long-awaited debut on the Las Vegas strip, he failed to deliver on any of the expectations for excitement or entertainment. 

Competing in a vacant title bout after former undisputed 135-pound champion Devin Haney moved up in weight, Stevenson entered with an undisclosed hand injury and proceeded to cautiously box circles around the hard-hitting Edwin De Los Santos in a masterclass that saw him set a CompuBox divisional record for fewest punches landed by his opponent.   

It was just cripplingly boring to watch and the result came at a poor time for Stevenson, who had talked a lot of trash heading in about his plans to knock out De Los Santos while looking to establish himself on the same level as the big-name contemporaries in and around his weight division, including the likes of Gervonta “Tank” Davis, Ryan Garcia, Haney, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez Jr. 

“Boxing turned on me but, at the end of the day, I’m a one-man army so I ain’t tripping,” Stevenson told CBS Sports last week. “I’ll go against the world and what is going to happen? They are not going to be able to stop me.”

Stevenson, who has been listed as astronomically high as a -3500 betting favorite, is expected to mop up on Harutyunyan, a shifty defensive fighter who somehow received this title shot despite coming directly off of a loss he suffered against Frank Martin last July. It was a fight, ironically, where the 33-year-old Harutyunyan, a native of Armenia who fights out of Germany, was heavily criticized for avoiding exchanges, similar to Stevenson. 

“It’s a great opportunity. I had a great training camp, and I’m well prepared. I’m ready for this fight,” Harutyunyan said at the final press conference. “I know Shakur Stevenson is a good fighter. He is a world champion. We both fought at the Olympic games. He is a silver medalist, and I’m a bronze medalist. Now we’re fighting for the world championship.”

Yet, there’s so much at stake for Stevenson in terms of the future of his career that it’s somewhat easy to suggest he will be extra motivated to push the pace and go for the finish considering free agency is right around the corner.   

“Anything is possible,” Stevenson said. It’s a business, at the end of the day. If business makes sense, [would I re-sign with Top Rank]? Yes. But I do know my worth. If I am re-signing with Top Rank, my worth will be on full display in the contracts.”

Although he is known as more of a slick and technical boxer, Stevenson has actually been much more offensive of late than his performance against De Los Santos suggests. In fact, last April, Stevenson went out of his way to walk down and finish Shuichiro Yoshino after the Japanese fighter chastised his punching power publicly. That performance came directly after a pair of 130-pound title wins over Oscar Valdez and Robson Conceicao, both of which showcased everything that makes Stevenson so great. 

So, the question becomes whether any of the criticism lobbed at Stevenson is warranted or whether people were just overreacting about an injury-plagued bad night at the office?  

“I think it’s definitely unfair that I have such an unfair standard just because of how good I am,” Stevenson said. “People don’t realize the way that they talk, they are just telling me how good I am because of this unfair standard. I could look great 4-5 times out but then you have one off night where the standard is so high, people think that’s who I am. And on my off night, I was fighting with just one hand. 

“What don’t break you make you stronger and I feel like they have been helping me up my game and step up in training to work harder. I appreciate all of the negative comments. I appreciate all of the people who doubt me and don’t believe in me. I’m going to wake everybody up when I get my opportunity.”

For the record, Stevenson promises to walk down and “beat up” Harutyunyan in a showcase of why he’s at a different level. But it’s interesting to think about the idea of whether Stevenson not looking spectacular last time out might actually help him land big fights moving forward. 

Given Stevenson’s uncertainty as to whether he will re-sign with Top Rank, the promotion appears more suited to match Lomachenko with Davis rather than Stevenson, which Hall of Fame chairman Bob Arum has publicly stated is his goal for the fall. But Davis had previously not spoken about Stevenson much until his last fight where suddenly all Team Davis can talk about is how willing they are to fight him and how easy they expect the inevitable knockout to be. 

The change in tone from Davis is something Stevenson has noticed. But one thing he won’t go as far as saying is that he’s auditioning this weekend for a shot at jumping the queue in the “Tank” sweepstakes. 

“Honestly, no, I’m not auditioning because if I was auditioning, I would go in there and make the fight real hard,” Stevenson said. “I would make it the hardest fight of my life and I know for a fact that other people would want to fight me. I’m not auditioning for shit, I’m just going out there to be myself and when the opportunity comes, I’ll be ready. I’m one of the best fighters in the world and I truly believe in my skills and who I am as a person. I’m not auditioning, I’m good.”

But if you ask Stevenson which fight, among the many big names potentially available to him, that he wants most, he didn’t hesitate to answer.

“It’s ‘Tank,’ it’s ‘Tank,'” Stevenson said “That’s the guy who everybody says could beat me. That’s the guy who everyone says I don’t have a chance against. It’s ‘Tank.'”

The undercard features some top prospects looking to build their careers, possibly into a future showdown with Stevenson. O’Shaquie Foster is set to defend his WBC junior lightweight title against veteran Robson Conecao in the co-feature. And Keyshawn Davis is set for another feature opportunity against Miquel Madueno. 

“It’s always special sharing a card with my brother Shakur,” Davis said. “We’ve been doing this since we were kids. We’ve been talking about this since we were amateurs. Brick City loves me. It’s my third time coming here, so I expect the fans to embrace me again as I make that ring entrance.
 
“I just need to do the same thing I’ve been doing. I just need to go out there, have fun and perform. He has a style that I’ve seen so many times, especially in the amateurs. When you travel overseas, you fight a lot of guys like that. Now that we are going 10 rounds, I can take my time and dissect this kid. I’m going to go in there and have fun and do what I do.”

Let’s take a closer look at the complete fight card with the latest odds before getting to a prediction and expert pick on the main event.

Fight card, odds

  • Shakur Stevenson (c) -3500 vs. Artem Harutyunyan +1350, WBC lightweight title
  • O’Shaquie Foster (c) -235 vs. Robson Conceição +190, WBC junior lightweight title
  • Keyshawn Davis -2800 vs. Miguel Madueño +1200, lightweights
  • Abdullah Mason -4000 vs. Luis Lebron +1450, lightweights

Viewing information

  • Date: July 6 | Location: Prudential Center — Newark, New Jersey
  • Start time: 8:30 p.m. ET
  • How to watch: ESPN

Prediction

When he’s healthy and dialed in, Stevenson is among the hardest moving targets in the entire sport to pin down and hurt, let alone look good against. And the fact that he can operate within punching distance without paying the price speaks to how next-level his potential truly is. 

From the standpoint of a potential upset, Harutyunyan is simply not on Stevenson’s level. The question becomes will Stevenson make it a priority to walk him down and finish him, while looking to repair his image in the public eye. 

Given his future as a free agent, there seems to be enough motivation for Stevenson to do just that. 

Pick: Stevenson via TKO7





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