Boxing

Number one contender Michael Conlan in frame for title shot as Shakur Stevenson vacates WBO featherweight title

Number one contender Michael Conlan could be in the frame for a world title shot after Shakur Stevenson vacates his WBO featherweight title
Andy Watters

SHAKUR Stevenson has moved off Michael Conlan’s radar and onto Carl Frampton’s after he announced his intention to switch from featherweight up to super-featherweight.

The unbeaten 2016 Olympic silver medalist still holds the WBO featherweight title, and was zeroing in on a unification clash with former Frampton foe Josh Warrington before the ‘Leeds Warrior’ switched his sights to an alternative unification match against WBA secondary featherweight champion Can Xu.

His decision to vacate his featherweight title could open the door for Conlan – ranked number one contender with the WBO – to fight for the belt later this year.

“I’ll fight at 130 in my next fight,” said Stevenson.

“I was staying to fight Warrington depending on how long the wait is, but it doesn’t seem like that’s what he wants. “He’s talking about fighting Cn Xu and they’ve already got a deal set-up.

“If that’s what he wants to do, then I’ll jump straight up to 130 because I don’t have a choice. After all, that’s the fight I was chasing.

“I’m a top guy. All the fans kept talking about Warrington and myself. I don’t have any choice but to go up to 130.”

Stevenson now wants to take on former Conlan training partner Oscar Valdez. Conlan, who would have met Stevenson at the Rio Olympics were it not for his ‘loss’ to Vladimir Nikitin in a controversial quarter-final, and Valdez were stablemates at Manny Robles’ gym in Los Angeles before Conlan decided to switch to London-based trainer Adam Booth.

“We got unfinished business,” said Stevenson on Valdez.

“He [Valdez] don’t got no belt. That would just warm me up for the other champions at 130. But he doesn’t got no belt, but I’m still willing to fight him early. I think it would be a big fight for the fans anyway.”

Before any Valdez match, it looks likely that Top Rank Boxing promoter Bob Arum will be pairing Valdez up against WBC super-featherweight champion Miguel Berchelt.

Meanwhile, Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis is another name on Stevenson’s to-do list.

“If Tank doesn’t get the (Leo) Santa Cruz fight, that’s the fight I want at 130,” said Shakur.

“That’s a fight that I want bad. If Tank doesn’t get the Santa Cruz fight, then maybe Bob [Arum] and Al [Haymon] can work together again and create some kind of Shakur versus Santa Cruz and make it a big fight. I’ll go to LA, where all his Mexican fans are. I’ll go beat him up.”

ANTO Cacace signed a lucrative deal with Frank Warren’s Queensbury Promotions in March and was looking forward to a busy year which included fighting in Belfast for the first time in five years when the COVID-19 pandemic ripped his plans to shreds.

Cacace, who beat Sam Bowen to win the British super-featherweight title in November, was scheduled to box on April 25 and was then looking forward to defending his belt on the Carl Frampton-Jamel Herring bill (June 13).

There was also talk of him appearing on the Feile an Phobail card at Falls Park in August which might still happen but with the world in lockdown, ‘the Apache’ is now concentrating on keeping himself and his young family healthy as well as trying to stay in some sort of shape.

“They were talking about a 10-rounder at the end of the month and the Frampton bill could have against been the likes of Zelfa Barrett (Commonwealth champion) but he made that surprise move to Matchroom,” said Cacace (18-1).

“That was the main man I wanted, him or else Archie Sharp (WBO European champ) but he didn’t want the fight. As far as I know he’s hoping to get a world title shot.

“The deal with Warren is on hold too. I haven’t fought in Belfast in recent years and that deal was all about me being on these big events in Belfast but they’re all up in the air now.

“It looks like none of it is going to happen now.

“Judging by what they’re saying is going to happen with the Coronavirus, there’s not going to be any boxing, we could be talking about being out for the full year here.

After years of near-misses and being side-stepped by rivals, beating Bowen represented the breakthrough Cacace had spent his entire career working towards. Now, aged 31, he simply doesn’t know what the future holds.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” he said.

“I’m 31, I’m getting no younger. I’m holding the British belt but I don’t know what is going to happen. It has really affected me so far and the longer it keeps going the more it’s going to keep affecting me.

“Everyone’s career is stalled and it’s about earnings as well. But what do you do? Everything is up in the air for everybody and I feel sorry for everyone. It’s not easy, especially if you have a family and kids.

“I’m hoping and praying it all clears up over the next few months, not just for myself, for everyone.”

Nine weeks ago Cacace celebrated the birth of his third child, a baby girl. He says his “hands are well and truly full” at home but he hopes to get a punch bag off a friend to try and stay in some sort of shape.

“I’m trying to get out and do a wee bit of running here and there,” he said.

“It’s hard to get motivated with the way things are; finances and everything else. I’m trying to keep plugging away.

“You can see people struggling to deal with this. Even sitting in the house, not being able to get out and do things is tough. You take a lot of things for granted whenever you can leave the house and run about and do whatever you want.

“I’m just trying to get by here. I’m trying to get the odd run in but I’m by no means fit. I don’t have anything at the house and I’ve been speaking to Michael Hawkins, he’s trying to get me a bag so I can do a bit out the back.

“You miss it, you miss hitting the bag and letting a bit of frustration out. With all the gyms being shut, it’s a nightmare. I haven’t got my missus to hold the pad for me yet but that could be on the cards! She’s looking to do a wee bit of training as well.”

There have been discussions about bills being held behind closed doors. TV companies and boxing promoters with empty schedules could try and make it work but Cacace feels it’s unlikely.

“Personally I don’t see it happening, not really,” he said.

“It doesn’t make financial sense for promoters and I can’t see it happening, I genuinely can’t but it could do. You never know, it depends on what promoters want to do.”

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