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Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson aims to launch a rapid pro-boxing ascent on April 22 StubHub Center card

Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson aims to launch a rapid pro-boxing ascent on April 22 StubHub Center card
Shakur Stevenson battles Robeisy Ramirez of Cuba in the men's boxing bantamweight final during the Rio Olympics on Aug. 20, 2016. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

It hasn't taken Shakur Stevenson, 19, long to find the fast track to stardom.

The 2016 Olympic boxing silver medalist attended his introductory news conference as a pro Tuesday at the Manhattan Beach Marriott, conducted a slew of interviews and then was off for back-to-back sparring sessions with 2012 Olympian and unbeaten featherweight title contender Joseph Diaz Jr.

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Wednesday, he gets to spar with new super-bantamweight champion Jessie Magdaleno.

Featherweight Stevenson is set to make his pro debut April 22 at StubHub Center on a card that includes Magdaleno's first title defense, along with two other bouts featuring World Boxing Organization super-middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez and a main event between the Southland's Oscar Valdez, the WBO featherweight champion, and his mandatory challenger, Colombia's Miguel Marriaga.

Stevenson called his first news conference "amazing." During a photo op, he ducked under the three champions with their belts to flex his muscles with his silver medal dangling from his neck.

He said being surrounded by young talent in veteran promoter Bob Arum's Top Rank stable, which also counts junior-welterweight Terence Crawford and super-featherweight Vasyl Lomachenko as world champions, swayed Stevenson to join the company.

"That's my main reason for signing with them. I just looked at what they did for Floyd Mayweather Jr., Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto … they've built superstars," Stevenson said. "And at the end of the day, I want to leave the sport a superstar, a legend."

Although Valdez, Magdaleno and Ramirez train at The Rock facility in Carson, Stevenson will return to Virginia to train under his grandfather, Wali Moses, and an Olympic coach after recently aligning with a strength-and-conditioning coach.

Moses "trained me since I was 5 years old, and he got me to where I am today, so he's got to be a world-class trainer," Stevenson surmised.

"I'll be fighting a lot this year and next … I feel like I need to work on my power. Although I've got power now that nobody notices — I just hurt somebody in sparring — everyone tells me I need to work on my power, so I'm going to work on it. I know I've got it, but I can develop it in sparring. We'll be lifting weights and doing all the things it takes to get stronger."

He's counting on improved mental strength being reinforced by his co-manager, Andre Ward, the unbeaten light-heavyweight champion from Oakland.

"He's like my hero, funneling me in the right direction," Stevenson said. "I appreciate that man a lot, and to this day, he's still my hero. He's a man inside the ring and outside the ring. He's what I want to be like when I leave the sport. We speak frequently … I ask him crazy things, and about how many rounds I'm supposed to do in sparring during training camp … I call him up to learn.

"I don't care who they throw at me. I feel like I was made for this. I didn't come this far just to turn around. God wouldn't put me in any situation I can't handle."

Arum has been impressed, and as the 85-year-old has fortified his stable with nearly 10 new fighters since the Olympics — including a gold medalist from Brazil and Ireland's wildly popular Michael Conlan, who'll debut at Madison Square Garden on St. Patrick's Day — several in the sport are expecting a television deal to be announced shortly.

"We absolutely have a plan to exhibit these guys, but until it's signed and sealed and done, I'm not going to discuss it," Arum said.

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The promoter said he's enthused that his company is bringing aboard the young talent while he's assisted by his stepson, Todd duBoef, and executive Carl Moretti.

"The company is not an 85-year-old man," Arum said. "Carl and Todd will be around. They have young fighters now. Will all of them make it? No. But a good many of them will."

And, for Arum, the opportunity to handle Stevenson after losing his grip on Mayweather in 2006 is a chance to right one of his most glaring wrongs.

"We promoted Mayweather greatly, but we were never aware of the [urban] market like we should have [been], he said. The kids that Mayweather appealed to were different than the prior generation of black fighters we had [Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, etc.].

"Once we've seen how this generation could tap into this, we'll promote Shakur in that way. … I believe we can, I believe we know what we have to do, and hopefully we can do it. Saying it is a lot easier than doing it."

Stevenson vows to do his part. When asked if finishing second in the Olympics is an accomplishment or incentive to get better, he chose the latter.

"I'm glad you gave me that [thought of unfinished business], because I'm going to use [the medal] as that, now that you've said that," Stevenson said to a reporter. "I view it as an accomplishment because most of the people where I'm from, we don't get to do this kind of stuff, especially at 19 years old. There were guys [at the Olympics] medaling who were much older than I was.

"But I truly believe me coming up short was something to make me humble, keep me hungrier."

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