By Benjamin Block
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Taking everything in stride, he’s boxing’s Pollyanna.
Shakur Stevenson battered Oscar Mendoza into a second-round stoppage Saturday night inside a raucous Theater at Madison Square Garden. It was the biggest card of the southpaw’s young professional career.
The 20-year-old featherweight was the table setter for the ESPN telecast, which co-featured possible distant future title-fight contenders Michael Conlan of Ireland and Vasyl Lomachenko of Ukraine.
It was Stevenson’s fourth win in as many pro fights. Yet equally as important as it was for him — a young fighter with heavy expectations — to maintain his pristine win-loss record, it was even more vital that the Newark native scored his second technical knockout.
Before the contest, Stevenson’s detractors — which there aren’t many — began chirping about how continuing to win fights would be fine but that Stevenson needed to start executing more power along the way.
We’re clearly in an age in which empty opinions are eclipsing quality analysis — and they’ll never go away entirely — but this specific chatter touched a nerve with Stevenson. He acknowledged that it got to him when he spoke after disposing of Mendoza.
“There’s been a lot of talk this week about me holding. I don’t hold. I’m a fighter,” Stevenson said succinctly and defiantly.
There was no doubt about that, either, as CompuBox, the longtime statistics tracker for all major boxing events, recorded that Stevenson landed 52 punches to Mendoza’s four. There was no holding by Stevenson. In fact, many said he “let his hands go,” which is a high compliment for any boxer to receive. It’s a term long used to describe a fighter who is aggressive and free and holds nothing back.
Also, being on the undercard of the headlining two-time gold medalist Lomachenko, who stunningly made Guillermo Rigondeaux quit after six rounds, was huge for Stevenson. It allowed him to spend valuable prefight time with the Ukranian, who many in the boxing community value as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.
“Sparring with Vasyl Lomachenko was great work for this fight,” Stevenson said. “He’s one the best fighters in the world.”
In May, following his first-round KO of Carlos Suarez in the main arena at the Garden, Stevenson…