By Jim Calfa: Tim Bradley is leaning in the direction of WBO super featherweight champion Shakur Stevenson (17-0, 9 KOs) to beat WBC champ Oscar Valdez this Saturday night in their main event fight on ESPN+.
Bradley feels that Shakur, 24, has the advantage in the ring smarts, and his hand speed & foot speed will be a problem for Valdez. Also, the size advantage of the 5’7″ Stevenson over the 5’5 1/2″ will play in his favor.
Shakur is big enough to be campaigning as a lightweight, but he’s choosing to meltdown and fight against smaller guys like Valdez at super-featherweight.
It’s a smart thing for Stevenson to do because he beat guys on size alone, and he doesn’t need to worry about the power of some of the killers at 135.
If Shakur moves up in weight to lightweight, he would need to pitch a virtual 12-round shutout without getting hit at all to guarantee he doesn’t get starched by the likes of Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis or Ryan Garcia.
At 130, Shakur is safe and doesn’t need to worry about getting hit by a guy that has one-punch power.
Tim picking Stevenson to win
“It’s a really good fight. Valdez, you can never count him out, he’s a winner,” said Tim Bradley to Fight Hub TV on this Saturday night’s Oscar Valdez vs. Shakur Stevenson unification match on ESPN+.
“Shakur, the same thing, he’s a winner. We’ve never really seen him in the ring with a guy that’s pretty darn smart,” Bradley continued.
“He’s a two-time Olympian, a guy that has punching power with both hands, a guy that is trained by Eddy Reynoso and has kind of evolved into a boxer/puncher instead of this slugger.
“He [Valdez] showed great legs and grit in his fight with [Miguel] Berchelt. I think it was a perfect style match-up for him to look impressive.
“He had a guy that was coming straight in, straight forward, that I thought was going to be able to overpower him, but he used great defensive movement to set up his offense, starting with that beautiful jab. He has a strong jab.
“It should be an entertaining fight. I would personally favor Shakur because he’s a lot smarter,” said Bradley.
Valdez has the kind of power that can give Stevenson fits if he’s able to land enough shots on him.
We’ve seen Stevenson show bravery against non-punchers, but when he’s in against fighters that can punch, he’s very negative, ready to run at the first hint of danger.
You got to believe Stevenson will be ready to reverse gear all night on Saturday if Oscar even looks like he’s thinking of throwing anything because he doesn’t seem to have any faith in his chin or his ability to duck or block shots.
Stevenson’s defense is his legs. That’s why when he gets older in his early to mid-30s, his career will be over in the same way Roy Jones Jr’s career bottomed out.
When a fighter that relies on his legs for his defenses loses his mobility, that’s it for them. Stevenson won’t have to worry about that for a long time, and he’ll be incredibly wealthy by the time he’s shot.
How Valdez can beat Shakur
It’s going to take a guy that’s smarter than him to beat him or a guy that’s just reckless that kind of fights off timing to give him fits,” said Bradley on the type of fighter that can beat Stevenson.
“Yeah, you’re catching my drift,” said Bradley when told that a fighter like Emmanuel Navarrete could give Stevenson problems with his style of fighting.
“Just off rhythm, kind of awkward, and has got some punching power that is going to get his respect, and that isn’t going to allow him to be comfortable with what he’s doing and keep him in that T-position.
“When I say, ‘T-position,’ that means squared up in your chest. So the only way you can go is left or right. Keep you squared up against the ropes, that’s a T-right there. You can either go left or right.
“So, anybody that can get him [Shakur] in that position squared up against the ropes, any southpaw, you’re going to have an advantage. It doesn’t matter which way he moves, you got this hand [left] or this hand [right] to work.
Oscar will need to close the gap quickly
“On the outside, you’ve got to be able to play with him, play his game on the outside too if you’re going to beat Shakur,” said Tim.
You can’t get picked off easily, you’ve got to make it difficult for him to hit you, you’ve got to have good legs, you’ve got to have good quickness to close the gap on him when he makes mistakes because he does make mistakes, we all do.
“No one is perfect, and you better be gritty as hell because the kid is so competitive. He’s going to turn it up, and you better be ready to turn it up with him. Anytime he tries to turn it up, you’ve got to turn it up with him.
“It’s going to take a smart warrior to beat a guy like Stevenson. Valdez maybe that guy, I don’t know. I don’t think so.
“He’s a little shorter guy, but you can never count Valdez out. He’s a tremendous warrior, a tremendous fighter, and I respect him. When they do fight, may the best man win,” said Bradley.