NEWARK, New Jersey – Shakur Stevenson walked out of the ring six years ago in Brazil unimpressed by Robson Conceicao.
Stevenson and Conceicao met a few rounds before the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. They competed in a separate weight class, but boxed each other as they prepared to make deep runs in different divisions.
Conceicao from Brazil won lightweight gold in his home country. Stevenson settled for silver because she lost a close decision to Cuba’s Robeisy Ramirez in the bantamweight final.
“I was a little bit surprised because I had faced him before the Olympics,” Stevenson told BoxingScene.com. “I had faced him in Brazil, and I didn’t think he was that good. He surprised me by winning the Olympic gold medal.”
Conceicao and Stevenson never fought again. The stakes will be much higher when they finally share a ring again on Friday night, as ESPN’s 12-round main event will air from the Prudential Center in Stevenson’s hometown of Newark.
The WBC and WBO 130-pound championships will only be on the line for Conceicao after Stevenson failed to make weight on Thursday, forcing him to vacate both titles.
“Shakur has been saying it like the fight was something he took great advantage of, but it wasn’t,” Conceicao told BoxingScene.com through a translator. “It was just a normal sparring session, light sparring. I take every fight as an opportunity to learn and grow. This Friday, I’m just determined to show you how much better I am.”
Although Conceicao was a gold medalist in 2016, he and Stevenson have taken disparate paths as professionals.
Stevenson (18-0, 9 KOs) was only 24 years old when he became a two-weight world champion and is commonly considered one of the top 10 fighters, pound for pound, in the sport. Conceicao, 33 (17-1, 8 KOs), lost a unanimous decision to Oscar Valdez in his only world title fight, a 12-round bout last September 10 at Casino Del Sol in Tucson, Arizona.
The southpaw Stevenson decisively defeated Valdez (30-1, 23 KOs) in his last fight to add the WBC super featherweight title to his WBO junior lightweight crown.
However, Conceicao finds Stevenson envious of his latest amateur achievement.
“It could be a little jealousy,” Conceicao said. “I won the gold and he didn’t. So now he thinks he’s the best. I feel a little jealous.
Conceicao claims he will surprise Stevenson again on Friday night by winning two world titles in a fight in which Stevenson will enter as a 30-1 favorite, according to Caesars Sportsbook.
“It just goes to show that training is a thing,” Conceicao said of surprising Stevenson by winning a gold medal. “For me, that was a normal training. One thing is that he is just training and another thing is that he is really fighting. And that’s what’s going to happen to him. He doesn’t expect it and that’s why I’m going to be the champion on Friday night.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.