Rising featherweight star Shakur Stevenson made a triumphant homecoming as he blew out Alberto Guevara in a dominant third-round knockout performance Saturday night in Newark, New Jersey, to retain his regional belt and move to the precipice of a shot at a world title.
Fighting before a partisan crowd of 5,150 in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card at the Prudential Center, Stevenson put on a flawless performance, scoring two knockdowns in the second round before putting Guevara away in the third.
"There is only one way to describe tonight -- amazing," Stevenson said of his first professional fight in his hometown. "Seeing all of my family, friends and everybody from the city come out to support was incredible. We are going to do many more fights and even bigger. We are bringing big-time boxing back to Newark."
Stevenson is already in a mandatory position to fight for the 126-pound world title held by Mexico's Oscar Valdez, so he is expected to either fight Valdez by the end of the year or fight for a vacant belt if Valdez moves up to the junior lightweight division as he has talked about doing.
Stevenson would like to fight Top Rank stablemate Valdez for his title but also called out world titleholder Josh Warrington of England.
"I think it's that time," Stevenson said of fighting for a title. "I would love to go to England to fight Josh Warrington. We can do that in December. Let's get it."
Stevenson opened the fight as the aggressor against Guevara, who is a counterpuncher, and never slowed down. He landed body shots and long right jabs from his southpaw stance to take immediate control of the fight. Guevara had no answers for Stevenson's offense. In the second round, Stevenson landed a left hand and right to the body to knock Guevara to a knee with 30 seconds to go. A straight left hand dropped Guevara for the second time in the final seconds of the round.
Stevenson (12-0, 7 KOs), 22, a 2016 U.S. Olympic silver medalist, continued to dominate in the third round before landing a four-punch combination -- two shots to the body, followed by a right and left to the head -- that dropped Guevara on his back. He tried to get to his feet but could not beat the count from referee David Fields, who waved the fight over at 2 minutes, 37 seconds.
"That was a great performance that I put on for the city of Newark," Stevenson said. "I'm glad they came out to support me. Top Rank, you all gotta give me better competition. I want the IBF and WBO titles.
"I surprised myself today. I was going for the body a lot. He didn't look like he was in shape at the weigh-in, so I went to the body and finished him off to the head."
According to CompuBox, Stevenson landed 32 of 67 punches (48%), while Guevara connected with only 5 of 51 punches (10%).
Guevara, who took the fight on eight days' notice, was the third opponent for this date with Stevenson. He was originally slated to fight Hairon Socarras (22-0-3, 13 KOs), but Socarras dropped out over various unspecified issues and was replaced by Franklin Manzanilla (18-5, 17 KOs), a former junior featherweight world title challenger, who withdrew last week saying he had flu-like symptoms.
Guevara (27-5, 12 KOs), 28, of Mexico, a two-time bantamweight world title challenger who had been training and was close to the 126-pound weight limit, accepted the fight without hesitation. But he lost his second fight in a row, having been outpointed by former junior featherweight world titlist Hugo Ruiz in January.
Greer edges Potapov in eliminator
In the co-feature, bantamweight Joshua Greer Jr. escaped with a majority decision over Nikolai Potapov in a title eliminator that Potapov dominated for long stretches. The crowd booed the decision and ESPN analysts Andre Ward and Timothy Bradley Jr. both called it a terrible decision, but Greer (21-1-1, 12 KOs), 25, of Chicago, nonetheless moved a step closer to a shot at a world title.
One judge scored the fight 114-114, but the other two gave it to Greer by scores of 116-112 and 115-113.
"He's very awkward with the Russian style, but at the end of the day, this is the pros. I pulled it out," Greer said. "The booing didn't bother me. I know I won the fight. Every time I hit him to the body, I hurt him. I didn't get the knockout, but I got the win."
The fight began slowly, with each man looking to get inside, but eventually Potapov began picking off Greer's punches and countering him well. Greer got tagged repeatedly with right hands and showed no ability to adjust after getting clocked with the same punch over and over. A right hand from Greer shook Potapov in the final seconds of the fifth round, but it was a fleeting moment.
By the eighth round, Potapov (20-2-1, 11 KOs), 29, a Russia native fighting out of New York, had given Greer a bloody nose and appeared to be in control. Greer trainer John Pullman showed ample concern about how the fight was going after the ninth round when he told Greer that he needed to pick up the pace. Greer had a good 10th round and appeared to hurt Potapov with a left hook to the body. Pullman begged Greer for a big 12th round, and while he didn't deliver a big one, he won it on all three scorecards to gain the victory.
According to CompuBox, Greer landed 160 of 424 punches (38%) and Potapov connected with 139 of 638 (22%).
"We feel we got robbed, as do boxing fans," said Dmitriy Salita, Potapov's promoter. "ESPN and the media had Nikolai winning. We are going to appeal the decision. ESPN is a great platform for the sport of boxing. We are grateful for the opportunity and what is just. Nikolai won the fight."
With the win, Greer moved a step closer to a mandatory shot at the 118-pound world title held by Naoya Inoue, one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, who next will meet Nonito Donaire in the finals of the World Boxing Super Series tournament this fall. Potapov's only previous loss came when he quit after seven rounds against former world titlist Omar Narvaez in 2017.
More undercard results
• Junior welterweight Josue Vargas (14-1, 9 KOs), 21, a Puerto Rico native fighting out of the Bronx, New York, won his eighth fight in a row as he stopped Manuel Lopez (14-4-1, 7 KOs), 28, of Denver, at 2 minutes, 50 seconds of the seventh round of their scheduled eight-rounder. He was battering him with clean shots, including several uppercuts, when referee Sparkle Lee stepped in.
• Junior middleweight Vito Mielnicki Jr. (1-0, 1 KO), son of promoter Vito Mielnicki, became the first New Jersey boxer to turn pro at the age of 17 -- he was given a special exemption by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board -- and won by first-round knockout of Mississippi's Tamarcus Smith (2-3, 2 KOs), 24.
Mielnicki, who sold some 500 tickets, knocked Smith cold with a combination that concluded with a right hand at 1 minute, 16 seconds.
• Junior welterweight Julian Rodriguez (17-0, 11 KOs), 24, of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, returned from a nearly two-year layoff, caused mainly by injuries, to score a first-round knockout of Hevinson Herrera (24-18-1, 18 KOs), 34, of Colombia, who lost his third fight in a row.
Rodriguez, known as "Hammer Hands," needed only 59 seconds as he planted Herrera on the mat with a combination for the full count from referee Lee.
"I was very confident in my preparation, so I felt like I had to go in there and do what I had to do," Rodriguez said. "That's what [the fans] like about me. When they come here, they see a show."
• Junior welterweight John Bauza (13-0, 5 KOs), 21, of North Bergen, New Jersey, beat and battered the game Angel Sarinana (10-9-2, 4 KOs), 26, of Mexico, in a shutout decision victory. There was plenty of action, but Bauza won 80-72 on all three scorecards.
• Super middleweight Vijender Singh (11-0, 8 KOs), 33, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist from India and his country's only boxing medalist, returned from a 19-month layoff to score a fourth-round knockout of Mike Snider (13-6-3, 8 KOs), 38, of Flemington, West Virginia.
Singh nearly dropped Snider in the second round, and as he hammered him during the fourth round, referee Shada Murdaugh stopped it at 1 minute, 23 seconds.
"It was excellent getting back in the ring after a long time off. It's great to be here in the USA and to get the win. It was really exciting," Singh said. "It took me about four rounds to get back in the swing of things. I expected it to take two or three rounds, but it took me four. I felt good."
• Lightweight prospect Joseph Adorno (13-0, 11 KOs), 20, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, knocked out Adriano Ramirez (10-4, 6 KOs), 35, of the Dominican Republic, in the second round of their scheduled eight-rounder. Adorno sent Ramirez to the canvas with a left hook and then dropped him again with a follow-up combination, and referee Lee waved off the fight at 1 minute, 12 seconds.