Shakur Stevenson can be boxing's next superstar - Bob Arum

Omnisport

Shakur Stevenson has top billing as elite boxing returns in the United States this week – something his promoter Bob Arum believes the undefeated 22-year-old had better get used to.

Stevenson collected a silver medal in the bantamweight division at the 2016 Olympic Games and has made a seamless transition to the professional ranks.

A unanimous decision victory over Joet Gonzalez last time out secured the WBO featherweight title in just his 13th fight.

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In Tuesday's behind-closed-doors event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Stevenson faces Felix Caraballo at super-featherweight – and multi-division dominance is very much part of the future, according to Arum.

"We certainly believe that Shakur has the ability and the personality to be the next big superstar in boxing," he told Stats Perform News.

"He is dedicated to the sport of boxing, he's extraordinarily talented, he resonates with the public. He has this big smile and I really believe the sky is the limit for Shakur.

Stevenson served as the main sparring partner for Vasyl Lomachenko before the Ukrainian master's 2017 victory over Guillermo Rigondeaux.

A meeting underneath the lights would certainly whet the appetite of boxing fans and Lomachenko could step back down to his more natural 130-pound division after his planned meeting with fellow lightweight world champion Teofimo Lopez later this year.

However, even though both men box under Arum's Top Rank banner, the promoter believes Stevenson's youth and capacity to move through the weight classes might mean he and Lomachenko do not cross paths.

"I have no idea when or if that fight can take place. I know that Shakur, when he started with us he was a kid," he said.

"Now, as a man, he is growing bigger and that happens. These fighters grow out of their weight category because they start at a relatively young age.

"Stevenson's fighting at 130 but who knows if next year he hasn't passed 130 and is already fighting at 135 and 140.

"Take one step at a time, let's get this show on the road – everybody look at Shakur Stevenson."

Arum estimates providing such a grand stage for Stevenson in these unusual times could set him back up to $30,000.

All fighters and their teams are being hosted by Top Rank at the MGM Grand, with the casino's convention centre serving as a bubble where all participants eat three times a day.

Extensive COVID-19 testing has been carried out – Stevenson's fellow 2016 US Olympian Mikaela Mayer was pulled out of her fight on the card after returning a positive result over the weekend - and will continue after Monday's weigh-in.

Despite the short-term losses, Arum feels the step into the unknown is necessary to get a sport from which he has earned a living for more than half a century back on its feet.

"What's been totally unique is we waded into a field that we had no experience in," he explained.

"Nobody in boxing had experience with COVID testing, going into a bubble, making sure that the participants are protected.

"Also we had to work on the protocols with the Nevada commission and their medical staff. These are areas that we had no expertise in.

"But Todd duBoef and Brad Jacobs [president and chief operating officer of Top Rank respectively] learned on the fly and we're able to hopefully do these events for the next couple of months, without spectators and doing them safely for everybody involved."

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