Shakur Stevenson always has dreamed of being a world champion boxer. He just never though he’d have to beat up his girlfriend’s brother to do it.
Stevenson, the Newark native who won a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, will meet Joet Gonzalez for the vacant WBO featherweight championship Saturday night in Reno, Nev. ESPN+ will stream the main card.
Stevenson has dated Gonzalez’s younger sister, Jajaira, since they became friends when both were amateur boxers. Big brother didn’t exactly like the union, recently calling Stevenson “disrespectful.”
Three days before he turned pro in 2017, Stevenson tried to address their differences by requesting a sparring session with Joet and his brother, Jousce, in California. There are various versions of what took place, but suffice to say, the differences weren’t resolved. When their matchup was announced, it didn’t take long for Stevenson’s first world title fight to get personal.
“The media and the public found out because he was running his mouth,” Gonzalez said recently. “Now he doesn’t want to talk about it. So yes, it’s personal. It’s personal because of the things he’s done and the things he has said. He’ll pay for it Saturday night.”
Stevenson has tried to keep it professional during fight week, saying his primary goal is to win his first world championship and ease the sting of not winning a gold medal in Rio.
“All this has to do with is me and him and we’re fighting for the world title,” Stevenson said. “I’m glad I’m in the position that I’m in. I can’t wait to put on a show on Saturday.”
Stevenson (12-0, 7 KOs) and Gonzalez (23-0, 14 KOs) took very different paths to get to reach this destination. Gonzalez, 26, turned pro in 2012 and has fought primarily on small cards against nondescript opponents. Stevenson, 22, signed with Top Rank immediately after the Olympics and has been one of its marquee attractions. Winning his first world championship is just the next step in what could be a legendary career if Stevenson remains focused and hungry.
“I think it’s going to be an amazing feeling,” Stevenson told The Post. “It’s the moment I’ve been waiting for my whole life. This is going to be an amazing night and I can’t wait.”
Gonzalez thinks his experience gives him an edge because he has more knockouts than Stevenson has pro fights. But Stevenson believes his amateur pedigree and a tough fight with Christopher Diaz last April in which he earned a 10-round unanimous decision has him ready to win a belt.
“Chris Diaz was a very strong fighter,” Stevenson said. “A lot stronger than what Joet is. He was coming for me. He made me step up my game. But I made it an easy fight.”
Top Rank has Stevenson targeted for greatness. He is one of the stars — along with Terence Crawford and Vasily Lomachenko — the promotional company is counting on to attract ESPN+ viewers and subscribers.
“He was born for this moment,” Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said of Stevenson, who proudly represents #973. “Hopefully, it’s the start of bigger things. From not winning the gold to winning the world title. He’s special.”
It might seem a bit rushed to have Stevenson fight an unbeaten opponent for a world title in just his 13th pro fight. But Moretti is confident Stevenson is ready.
“Would I have liked to have a couple more [fights]? Sure,” Moretti said. “But when you have this kind of talent you’re confident he can handle it. The stuff that’s inside of him will come out.”