NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Shakur Stevenson keeps his Olympic silver medal in his room, not so much as a reminder of the experience, but as motivation that second place is never good enough.
“I don’t really care for it that much because it’s silver,” he said. “I care about only gold medals. And that ain’t the gold. It’s cool now but when I got it, I wanted to throw it away.”
Stevenson had second thoughts about trashing his sterling souvenir from the 2016 Rio Games, the 22-year-old Newark, New Jersey native deciding it was best to hold on to the medal and add it to his collection of awards and accolades expected to come his way.
He’s again willing to leave the United States to go after his prize.
“I don’t mind going over to England and fighting Josh Warrington,” he said.
Stevenson (12-0, 7 KOs) remained in the hunt for a featherweight title shot when he made quick work of Alberto Guevara with a third-round knockout in front of thousands of his hometown fans Saturday night at the Prudential Center. Guevara, who accepted the fight on late notice, never put up a fight and was floored three times in the main event of the Top Rank card.
“He was real scared. He had every right to be,” Stevenson said.
A bit of hyperbole, yes, but the 126-pound Stevenson has plowed through the competition in the early stages of his career, scoring five KOs in his last seven fights.
“Top Rank, you all have to give me better competition. I want the IBF and WBO (belts),” he said inside the ring.
He won this time in front of a raucous crowd of 5,150 fans and had his supporters pointing phones toward the big screens to film his ring entrance. Ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. was about drowned out by applause during his introduction of Stevenson as “making his hometown return, as he proudly represents Newark, New Jersey.” Stevenson smiled and titled his neck toward the videboard above the ring to catch the reaction from proud fans.
“Soon as I heard them saying the other guy’s name, everyone was booing,” he said, smiling.
Stevenson celebrated inside a locker room packed with friends and family buzzing over the victory. He couldn’t keep track of all the ticket requests and promised the crowd he would return home to fight again with more at stake.
Stevenson’s mother, Malikah, named him after Tupac Shakur, the rapper and social activist who died nine months before her first son was born. Stevenson’s grandfather began teaching him how to box at age 5, and he has barely lost since he won his first fight at 8. Stevenson mostly avoided trouble on Newark’s tough streets, and his grandfather’s steady influence kept him devoted to his sport. He returned to Newark after the Olympics and was feted with a parade in his honor. Stevenson was joined by his parents and other members of his family in the celebration and hailed as the pride of the city.
His reputation took a hit last July when he was arrested following a brawl inside a Miami parking garage. He was sentenced to one year of probation and 50 hours of community service for an altercation that started while Stevenson was celebrating his 21st birthday with friends.
Stevenson said he’s learned from the experience.
“I definitely changed a lot outside the ring,” Stevenson said. “I matured a little bit. I got a lot smarter outside the ring. I’m getting better and better throughout life. That’s really a big focus for me.”
Up next, a possible title fight with Warrington at the end of the year, his potential fourth fight of 2019.
“We didn’t get through the hard part yet,” Stevenson said.