OMAHA, Neb. -- Blue-chip featherweight prospect Shakur Stevenson, a 2016 U.S. Olympic silver medalist, has been asking for Top Rank to step up his competition. He got his wish and looked sensational on Saturday night at the CHI Health Center.
Stevenson scored three knockdowns in a spectacular first-round knockout performance against battle-tested veteran Viorel Simion in the co-feature of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card headlined by the Terence Crawford-Jose Benavidez Jr. welterweight title fight.
The fight, contracted as a junior lightweight bout to accommodate for Simion taking it on short notice, was Stevenson's first scheduled for 10 rounds and he needed only a round to get rid of Simion. The 2004 Romanian Olympian simply could not deal with the speed and power of Stevenson's right hook.
"My granddad told me the right hook would be there, and I capitalized on it," Stevenson said. "I didn't think it would be one round, I ain't gonna lie. But I saw opening and I took. I was accurate tonight. I put on a show and it's going to get better and better. I did more than what I expected to do."
Stevenson, a 21-year-old southpaw from Newark, New Jersey, took on Simion when original opponent Duarn Vue withdrew last week after suffering an eye injury, but he was considered an upgrade in opponent. Simion's only losses had come by decision to former featherweight world titlist Lee Selby in 2013 and former junior featherweight world titleholder Scott Quigg in 2017, but Stevenson plowed through him.
"From the moment we made the match everybody was like [Simion] is a world-class fighter," Top Rank president Todd duBoef said. "Stevenson has been asking us for bigger names. We delivered a fight like that for him. Even though we had a pull-out, this was by far his best opponent. He was a very seasoned guy, a top amateur."
Stevenson (9-0, 5 KOs) floored Simion (21-3, 9 KOs), 36, boxing for the first time since the loss to Quigg in April 2017, with a right hook early on and he was badly hurt. Soon thereafter, Stevenson dropped him for the second time with a flurry of punches and then clobbered him again with a right hook to drop him yet again. Simion beat the count, but he was in rough shape, and referee Curtis Thrasher waved off the fight at 3 minutes of the first round.
"[Simion] said he'd been training already for another fight so [the layoff] is no excuse for him," Stevenson said. "I told Top Rank to test me. They tested me. Now I'll tell them I want better opponents. I feel I'm ready for top opposition. I want Lee Shelby next. I feel like I've been calling him out forever."
Adames destroys Conley
Junior middleweight up-and-comer Carlos Adames scored three knockdowns in a one-sided, second-round destruction of Josh Conley.
In his second fight since signing with Top Rank earlier this year, Adames (15-0, 12 KOs), 24, a Dominican Republic native who was 240-22 in a standout amateur career, looked strong and powerful as he took it to Conley from the outset.
Late in the first round, Adames, who was moving up to junior middleweight, nailed Conley with a left-right combination, landing to each side of his body, for a knockdown. In the second round, he drove him to the mat again with a brutal left hand, pounding his chest as referee Celestino Ruiz administered the count. Later in the round, he put Conley down again with an onslaught of punches. He beat the count but was in no shape to go on and Ruiz waved off the fight at 2 minutes, 17 seconds.
"I feel very good in the 154-pound division," Adames said through a translator. "I trained hard for this fight, and I did what I had to do. I took out a good opponent in two rounds. I know I'm ready for bigger fights. I want to give a world title to my country. I want to face the best and represent the Dominican Republic with great pride."
Adames came to the attention of Top Rank officials after serving as one of Crawford's sparring partners in 2017.
Conley (14-3-1, 9 KOs), 26, of San Bernardino, California, was fighting for the first time since junior middleweight contender Julian "J Rock" Williams knocked him out in the seventh round in June 2017.
More undercard results
Former junior welterweight world titlist Mike Alvarado scored two heavy knockdowns in a brutal second-round knockout of Robbie Cannon in a welterweight fight.
Alvarado (40-4, 27 KOs), 38, of Denver, won his sixth fight in a row following three straight losses between 2013 and 2015 to Ruslan Provodnikov, Juan Manuel Marquez and Brandon Rios in their third fight.
Alvarado blasted Cannon (16-14-3, 7 KOs), 33, of Festus, Missouri, with a right hand to knock him down in the second round. He beat the count but looked shaky and was soon down again for good as Alvarado cracked him with another huge right hand. Cannon went down flat on his back as referee Brandon Pfannensteil waved off the fight at 41 seconds.
"It was great to be on this stage again. I felt really comfortable in there with my reconstructed team. I did it again. I'm back," Alvarado said. "I'm ready for the top level again. It took me some time to get here, but I'm back."
Omaha light heavyweight Steve Nelson (12-0, 10 KOs), 30, one of Crawford's stablemates, hammered Oscar Riojas (17-11-1, 6 KOs), 34, of Mexico, in a fourth-round knockout victory. Nelson dominated the fight before dropping Riojas twice in the fourth round. He continued to pound him along the ropes until referee Tom Anderson stepped in and waved off the fight at 2 minutes, 50 seconds.
"I felt good showing up for the hometown fans," Nelson said. "My coach [Brian McIntyre] and I were talking. I had to stop fooling around and get him out of there."
Junior lightweight Mikaela Mayer (8-0, 4 KOs), 28, a 2016 U.S. Olympian from Los Angeles, pounded out a shutout decision against Vanessa Bradford (4-1-2, 0 KOs), 34, of Edmonton, Canada, to win a vacant regional belt. Mayer won 80-71 on all three scorecards.
With her Olympic teammate, two-time gold medalist and reigning unified middleweight titleholder Claressa Shields cheering her on at ringside, Mayer, dominated the shorter Bradford. She continually stepped in with a stiff jab, hurt her with a right hand in the first round and rocked her with a left hook early in the fifth round. In the seventh round, Mayer connected with a clean right hand to the head that dropped Bradford.
"I felt great going eight rounds for the first time," Mayer said. "I felt like I could go 15 in there tonight. Ten rounds will be no problem."
Lightweight Ismail "Sharp Shooter" Muwendo (20-1, 12 KOs), 30, of Minneapolis, who is part of Crawford's training camp, was nearly knocked down in the third round but recovered for a lopsided decision win over Andre Wilson (15-12-1, 12 KOs), 35, of Saint Joseph, Missouri. Muwendo won 59-55 on all three scorecards.
Seattle junior lightweight Jose Valenzuela (2-0, 0 KOs), 19, dropped Hugo Rodriguez (1-1, 1 KO), 26, of Mexico, twice and laid a beating on him in a one-sided decision, 40-33, 40-33, 40-35. Valenzuela, who is trained by Jose Benavidez Sr., scored knockdowns in the first and second rounds and pounded Rodriguez for the entire fight.
Welterweight Keeshawn Williams (4-0-1, 1 KO), 21, of Washington, D.C., who is trained by Barry Hunter, won a clear unanimous decision over Ramel Snegur (2-3-1, 1 KO), 22, of Portland, Oregon. The judges had it 40-36, 40-36 and 39-37.