Robson Conceicao could have walked away from his fight against an overweight Shakur Stevenson on Thursday and still receive his entire purse.
Under New Jersey State Board of Athletic Control guidelines, Conceicao would have been entitled to his entire purse, $250,000, because he fulfilled his contractual obligation by making weight for his 12-round, 130-pound title fight. Friday night at the Prudential Center in Newark, Stevenson’s hometown. Most commissions in the United States do not ensure that a boxer receives his full purse if he withdraws from a fight because an opponent is overweight.
The Brazilian contender would also have remained in position to eventually fight for a world title because he is ranked number two by both the WBC and WBO in the 130-pound division. Like Stevenson, Conceicao is promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc.
BoxingScene.com has learned that Conceicao’s handlers negotiated a $3 million financial penalty from the purse from Stevenson that brought Conceicao’s compensation to more than $300,000. Stevenson also paid a $20,000 fine to the NJSACB for exceeding the contracted maximum for his homecoming bout.
The 25-year-old Stevenson officially weighed in at 131.6 pounds, nearly two pounds over the limit. He refused his right to return to the scale at or below contract weight within two hours of the original weigh-in because the undefeated fighter knew he couldn’t lose the extra pounds.
The WBC and WBO subsequently stripped Stevenson (18-0, 9 KOs) of the two 130-pound championships he hoped to defend in a main event that ESPN will televise from the NHL’s New Jersey Devils home arena.
Conceicao, 33, weighed in at 129.6 pounds on his first attempt Thursday. Conceicao can still win the surprisingly vacant WBC and WBO belts.
Although the two sides were expected to reach an agreement throughout Thursday, it took much longer than usual to finalize it once it became clear that Stevenson would not attempt to weigh in a second time. A second day of weigh-ins was not part of the deal that the Stevenson and Conceicao teams reached Thursday night.
Had an outraged Conceicao (17-1, 8 KOs) pulled out of their fight, Arum’s staff would have had to scramble to find a less formidable 11-hour replacement for the 2016 Olympic gold medalist from the eight-fight undercard. or rule out Stevenson. fight altogether. Had Stevenson fought Puerto Rico’s Henry Lebron (16-0, 11 KOs) or San Jose’s Andy Vences (23-3-1, 12 KOs), who will meet in an eight-round, 130-pound bout on the undercard , could have been approved as a 10-round non-title fight because Stevenson gave up his titles.
Either option would have ruined the show because the entire event has been built around Stevenson, who grew up in Newark until the 2016 Olympic silver medalist moved to Alexandria, Virginia as a teenager. A crowd that could approach 8,000 is expected at the Prudential Center for Stevenson’s first fight there in more than three years.
Stevenson, also a former WBO featherweight champion, admitted after failing to make weight for the first time in 19 professional fights that he must move up to the 135-pound lightweight limit for his next fight.
“I gave it my all,” Stevenson declared in a Tweet. “I’ve been pro my whole career and I’ve gained weight, but my body can’t do 130 anymore. My health has to come first. I will go up to 135 in my next fight.”
Despite his flop on the scale, Caesars Sportsbook listed Stevenson as a 20-1 heavy favorite Thursday night to beat Conceicao. ESPN will televise his fight as the main event of a doubleheader scheduled to begin at 10 pm ET.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.