By Allan Fox: Andre Ward says he wasn’t bored watching super featherweight contender Shakur Stevenson (16-0, 8 KOs) outbox the overmatched Jeremiah Nakathilia recently in his one-sided 12 round unanimous decision win last month on June 12th.
Although Ward would have liked to have seen Stevenson score a knockout over Nakathalia, he doesn’t fault him for failing to do so. The boxing public felt differently about the way the 24-year-old Stevenson fought.
They felt he was fighting safety-first, and they were bored by his performance against Nakathilia. Ward thinks it’s fine for fighters to play to their strengths.
So if they’re a boxer like Stevenson, they should focus on fighting that way other than doing something out of character for them.
However, with the tremendous amount of hype that Stevenson has about his career, he should be fighting at a higher level than he is.
Devin Haney is in the same boat as Shakur, failing to entertain the fans, particularly in his last fight against Jorge Linares.
Haney was hurt against Linares late in the contest, and he faded down the stretch.
In the last four rounds of the fight, Haney was hurt repeatedly by shots from Linares.
In fact, Haney was so badly hurt he was forced to spoil from the ninth round on, holding nonstop to keep from getting knocked out. Haney won the fight, but it wasn’t a shutout.
Linares fought him closely and deserved to win most of the second-half rounds.
Ward wasn’t bored by Shakur Stevenson’s last fight
“I think you got to play to your strengths. What’s you’re identity as a fighter,” said Andre Ward to Fighthype about how a fighter can please his fans.
“If you’re a boxer first, then be that boxer because fast-forwarding to the end of their careers, you want to preserve your body and your brain, and you want to be able to talk right and walk right and do what you need to do.
“So, I’m retired, and I can talk about it. I know that, and I always had that in mind. My coach is old school, so that’s what he always taught me.
“He was like, ‘Look, we got to do what we got to do,’ and I was pound-for-pound one of the toughest fighters during my era.
“I didn’t have a problem with fighting anybody, and I got straight to it. But at the same time, it’s a high-stakes game of chess. I’m not going to be foolish either.
“The beauty of a guy like Devin Haney or Shakur Stevenson is that you can have an off night and still pitch a shutout.
“A guy that can just fight, he can have an off night, and that means he took a lot of punishment, and he probably didn’t win.
“You’re not going to please everybody, and if I got to get into a knockdown, drag-out just for you to be pleased, that’s probably not a fight that I’m going to get into.
“It don’t mean I’m not tough and that I can’t rumble. It just means that I’m going to do it on my terms.
“But here’s the thing about Haney and Stevenson. They’re still young. We’re so quick to crown a guy when they don’t deserve it or jump off the wagon and say, ‘They’re not that.’ It’s just one fight.
“Even in Shakur’s fight [with Jeremiah Nakathilia]. The only thing that Shakur could have done is stop that guy, but it wasn’t boring to me.
“I understand what I was looking at. We make the mistake in boxing where we just assume everybody is entertained by the same thing,” said Ward.
When you get a fighter mainly focused on their defense like Shakur Stevenson, they’re not going to become superstars.
It’s fine for Stevenson to fight the way he does because he’ll likely preserve his career. But with that said, he won’t become a star.
Shakur should have stopped Nakathilia
“Loma is adamant about staying at 135, and these guys at 135 got to fight,” said Ward about Lomachenko.
“It’s probably one of the most talented divisions with a lot of talking but not a lot of fights being made.
“I’ve been around on the ground talking to fans, and I’ve been doing that for years, even when I was active.
“Fans are not always entertained by what we think they’re entertained by. Like me, I appreciate a slugfest. I appreciate two guys going toe-to-toe with not a lot of defense.
“But because I’ve been through it, it’s a spectacle, and I appreciate it, but I’m not necessarily entertained by it. I always get interrupted by a war with the reality of what I see these guys going through, thinking, ‘Like, man, this ain’t good.’
“For me, and I can’t speak for the people to the right or to the left, but for me, it’s not necessarily entertaining. I appreciate it, I understand it, and I know what they’re going to through to give us that kind of show,” Ward said.
Stevenson should have put his foot down on the accelerator and gotten Nakathilia out of there. The reason Shakur didn’t go after Nakathilia is that he tasted his power, and he decided he didn’t want to take any chances.
Ward enjoys pure boxing
“But for me, the way I was raised, entertainment for me is a guy getting dismantled,” said Ward. “A guy whose best strength just got neutralized, and there’s nothing he can do about it.
“Then all of his weaknesses, you exploit them. That’s entertainment to me. So we got to be very careful when we start making blanket statements about what’s entertaining and what’s not.
“I was very entertained about what Shakur did [against Nakathilia], but because you have so much skill, because you have so much ability, you got to be able to recognize certain guys that don’t deserve to be in there with you, and Nakathilia was that guy.
“There were to things that showed you that he didn’t deserve to be in there with you. He throws a punch and then falls over his feet.
“A guy with those kinds of legs doesn’t deserve to go 12 rounds with Shakur Stevenson. Shakur’s power is getting better; he’s getting stronger.
“Every time he touched Nakathilia, he got a reaction. You got to help your fighter understand those two things and say, ‘Son, listen. I know he’s got a right hand, but you already ate that right hand; he can’t do nothing to you. This is what I need you to do.’
“Shakur is smart enough. If you present it to him and give him a roadmap, he’ll figure it out. As an analyst now, I don’t overreact to things like that.
“I understand it. I look at it, ‘Okay, you’ve got things to work on,’ but here’s the thing. Some of the stuff that Haney, Shakur, and some of the other fighters are dealing with from a media standpoint, it’s good. You got to be able to shoulder that kind of heat.
“You want to be on the top of that pound-for-pound list, you want to be on that list, you want to be the one that dominant one in your division, not just a title-holder, you’re going to take some heat.
“You got to be able to know when it’s hating or ‘these guys just don’t like me. I can’t do no good.’ Maybe there’s a stereotype of what you shouldn’t do.
“You got to be able to tune that out too. All that stuff is good. I had to deal with it, Floyd had to deal with it, Bernard had to deal with it, Roy had to deal with it.
“All great fighters have to deal with it. So this is good for the [Haney and Stevenson] to learn to get through this stuff,” said Ward.
The boxing public has a much different view of what they considered an entertaining fighter compared to Andre Ward.
While Ward enjoys seeing Shakur Stevenson outbox his opponents, the fans see Shakur’s performances as dull.
Unfortunately, there aren’t enough Ward-like fans out there that appreciate watching Stevenson fight in a safety-first, survivalist manner for him to take his carer to the next level.
Stevenson is not like a young Floyd Mayweather Jr, as he says he s. He’s like the 44-year-old Mayweather that we saw against Logan Paul. So boring to watch.
Great fight possibilities at 135
“If I’m Loma as a competitor, I want the [Teofimo] Lopez get-back fight,” said Ward. “I want to get that, but I’m also taking aim at everyone else at 135, where I’m going to start collecting some belts because that’s how you’re going to redeem yourself.
“I hope all them at 135 starts mixing it up because I feel it’s time for that.
“I’d take any of them; [Ryan] Garcia, Haney, Loma, Davis, give me any of those fights. I just want to see them fight. There’s a lot of talk at 135, but not a lot of fights getting made, at least not against each other.
“I can’t say that right now,” said Ward when asked if there’s one guy at 135 that will stand out among the rest.
“You’ve got young guys coming up that are proven to the point and have potential that you want to see if they can realize that potential and actually do it.
“And then you’ve got some guys that are a little bit more established like Gervonta and Loma that are at 135, and you want to see if they can hold off the young guns,” said Ward.
It’s good to know that Devin Haney and Vasily Lomachenko are ready to take on anybody in the 135-lb division.
Unfortunately, you can’t say the same thing about Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis and Ryan Garcia. Those fighters are haven’t shown that they want to fight the best at lightweight.
To be sure, Ryan (21-0, 18 KOs) is great at talking up fights, but then he doesn’t push to make them happen. In Tank Davis’ case, his management at Mayweather Promotions is very selective in the types of opponents they match him against.
Haney toughed it out
“He did what he had to do, and it made for a good fight,” said Ward about Devin Haney’s fight last month against Jorge Linares.
“Linares is always going to be tough. Those are tough fights to take. I fought [Edison] Miranda.
“That’s a tough fight because you got a guy that is past his prime, still very dangerous, and still can punch, and they got everything to gain in the fight.
“You got to look spectacular with no mistakes, or you’re going to have people chirping. That element of people talking and not being satisfied.
“You know how it is, you in the media. That’s never going to go nowhere. I thought Devin fought a great fight, he walked Linares down, and he got caught by a great shot.
“But I think instead of people focusing on him getting caught with a shot, look at the answer that he had.
“He shook it off because he’s in great shape, and he closed the show. Boxing is weird like that. If you’re not tested, then there are headlines that you’re not tested.
“That’s the focal point; that’s the main conversation. Then when you get tested, you get people complaining that you got tested and say, ‘Oh, he’s not what we thought he was.’
“So you can’ overreact when you see a young fighter get tested. What did he do after he got buzzed? He took care of business,” said Ward.
Interestingly, Ward isn’t voicing the obvious about what Devin Haney’s performance against Jorge Linares showed.
Not only was Haney hurt by Linares, but he gassed out in the second half of the fight and needed to clinch his way to keep from getting stopped.
A better fighter would have taken advantage of Haney being hurt and tired and would have gone after him to finish the job.
Linares didn’t do that. He let Haney clinch him without fighting through his clinches during the championship rounds.