Undefeated American boxer Shakur Stevenson laboured to a unanimous-decision victory over Edwin De Los Santos of the Dominican Republic to claim the vacant WBC world lightweight crown, in a fight that had fans booing the lack of action.
The unbeaten 26-year-old improved to 21-0, with 10 knockouts after easing past De Los Santos via margins of 115-113, 116-112, 116-112 at the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, on Thursday evening.
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The win sealed Stevenson’s third world title at different weight classes after stints as featherweight and junior lightweight champion.
But it was a lacklustre showing from both fighters, and the crowd signalled its disapproval through the later rounds as boos echoed around the arena.
De Los Santos landed just 40 punches throughout the 12 rounds, according to the official Compubox statistics. It is the fewest number of punches ever recorded in a 12-round fight since the system was first introduced 38 years ago.
Stevenson acknowledged the uninspiring showing following the bout.
“I had a bad performance tonight, that’s all I’m focused on,” he said. “I wasn’t feeling too good. I’ll live it, it’s OK, I came here to get the victory and that’s all I wanted to do.”
Stevenson declined to say if injury or illness had hampered his performance, brushing off questions about his left hand, which he landed only 21 times during the contest.
“I ain’t got nothing to say about that – I’m not going to make excuses,” he said. “I just didn’t feel good before the fight.”
De Los Santos, who dropped to 16-2, kept Stevenson moving backward for much of the fight but found himself chasing and missing when opportunities presented themselves.
He accused Stevenson of negative tactics after his defeat.
“I came to fight, he came for a track meet,” De Los Santos said, a reference to the venue being mere steps away from Las Vegas Boulevard, where Formula One cars were buzzing by during a practice session on opening night of the F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix.
Qualifying for the race is Friday night and the race itself takes place on Saturday night.
“I came to fight tonight, and Shakur Stevenson decided not to fight. He was gifted the title but I am the champion of the people.”
And while the big question for Stevenson was who he’d fight next, he said he’d like to take “like two months” off since he’s been training the past seven months.
“I think that he has to go back and reassess … what changes he needs to make,” mentor and former champion Andre Ward said.
“He looked a bit flat tonight. He’ll determine what that reason is. He does need rest … he’s never not in the gym. He’s an elite fighter, and for elite fighters who are used to dominating, when you don’t have a dominating performance, it can almost feel like a loss.
That’s what he’s working through right now. But it’s also good for him, it’s sobering. It just reminds you that the game don’t always love you back.”