From London to Reno, four unbeaten boxers seek breakthroughs
The battle between Shakur Stevenson and Joet Gonzalez is tailor made for the tabloids or an episode of “Family Feud,” but it will be settled in a boxing ring.
Stevenson (12-0, 7 knockouts), a 2016 Olympics silver medalist for the United States, will take on Gonzalez (23-0, 14 KOs), who is born, raised and lives in Glendora, for the vacant World Boxing Organization featherweight title Saturday at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center on ESPN Plus.
A faceoff between two decorated fighters should be marketable enough, but the fight between Stevenson and Gonzalez will be personal. Stevenson dates Gonzalez’s sister Jajaira, also a boxer, and their relationship has created a years-long beef within the Gonzalez clan.
Stevenson and Gonzalez have shown severe dislike for each other publicly and thus divided the family — Jajaira and Joet have not spoken in three years and their father Jose, who trains Joet, has a fractured relationship with his daughter.
“It fuels me because I was never one to put this out there,” Joet Gonzalez said. “The media, the public, they found out because of him. Just running his mouth. And now when they ask him about it, he don’t want to talk about it. So, it’s personal. It’s personal, just the things he’s done, the things he’s said, and he’ll pay for that on Saturday night.”
Stevenson and Jajaira met six years ago in Reno when they were both 16, traveling the amateur boxing circuit. By 2016, they were officially a couple.
The southpaw Stevenson is arguably one of boxing’s can’t-miss prospects, and is looking to become the first fighter from the 2016 Summer Games to win a world title.
Gonzalez, 26, and Stevenson, 22, have sparred with each other in the past, but now, a real fight will break loose.
“It’s personal for him. I’m not going in the ring with a personal mind-set,” said Stevenson. “I’m not sleeping on him. If I’m being honest, I always said Joet was good.”
Canelo Alvarez will step up two divisions and challenge Sergey Kovalev for the WBO light heavyweight title on Nov. 2 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas as he looks to further cement his legacy and win a championship in a fourth weight class.
Across the pond at the O2 Arena in London, Regis Prograis takes on Scottish slugger Josh Taylor in a super-lightweight unification bout. The fight will mark the finals of the World Boxing Super Series, where the winner will take home the Ali Trophy, and, separately, the vacant 140-pound Ring Magazine title.
Prograis (24-0, 20 KOs), the World Boxing Assn. belt holder, lives and trains in Santa Monica, but will travel overseas looking to get one step closer to being an undisputed champion.
“We are here for the belts, the trophy, the money. But the main thing for me is to prove that I’m the best,” said Prograis. “For me to be here is the opportunity of a lifetime and this is about personal legacy right now.”
The 28-year-old Taylor (23-0, 14 KOs), the International Boxing Federation title-holder, has more than just a home-field advantage in the affair. He also holds a two-inch height and 2½-inch reach advantage, as well as two years in youth against Prograis.
“I’m fully confident going into this fight. I’m bigger than him, stronger, quicker and punch just as hard — I can beat him in every department,” said Taylor. “I believe myself and Regis are No. 1 and No. 2 in the division — we’re the two guys to beat. We will prove this on Oct. 26 and I feel like this is my time to shine.”
The winner of the match will be in line to face Fresno-based boxer Jose Ramirez (25-0, 17 KOs), the WBC and WBO champion, in another unification fight in 2020 to crown the undisputed champion in the 140-pound weight class.
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