Shakur Stevenson vs. Artem Harutyunyan Breakdown

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On any other Saturday night throughout a given calendar year, combat sports promotions across the world would be competing for your viewership. This extended holiday weekend to commemorate the Fourth of July inside the United States sees MMA‘s top promotion, the UFC, take a hiatus after UFC 303 and International Fight Week happened the weekend of June 29.

Dana White‘s organization returns for three consecutive weekends of action beginning one week from Saturday with UFC Denver from Ball Arena (formerly known as Pepsi Center) on ESPN+ with a women’s flyweight main event between Rose Namajunas (12-6 MMA, 10-5 UFC) and Tracy Cortez (11-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC).

More on that card next week. This Saturday night belongs to the squared circle of boxing and Prudential Center holds an evening of championship action promoted by Bob Arum‘s Top Rank.

WBC Lightweight Gold at Stake in Top Rank Main Event

All told, absent any late adjustments, Saturday’s event features eight bouts. Highlighting the night is the second half of a WBC championship doubleheader in the main event of the evening.

Immediately following a battle for the WBC Junior Lightweight (Super Featherweight) Championship in the co-headliner, the top of the bill sees a contest for the WBC Lightweight Championship. Incumbent champion Shakur Stevenson (21-0, 10 KOs) faces challenger and No. 7 contender Artem Harutyunyan (12-1, 7 KOs), formerly the WBC International Lightweight Champion.

It’ll be an advertised 12 rounds at three minutes per round to close out the show.

Fighter Comparison and Betting Odds

Heading into the main event of the evening on Saturday night, challenger Artem Harutyunyan stands as the taller combatant at 5-foot-8, compared to the 5-foot-7 frame of champion Shakur Stevenson. The champ owns a 0.4-inch reach advantage (68.1 inches to 67.7 inches) over the challenger.

Currently, the oddsmakers have Shakur Stevenson installed as a -2500 favorite on the money line, with Artem Harutyunyan countering as a+1400 underdog. If you plan on betting on this or any other fight happening this weekend, please wager responsibly.

Shakur Stevenson With Important “Home Game” Saturday Night

Champion Shakur Stevenson has yet to lose thus far in his boxing career. Last time out, he scored the 135-lb. title in the WBC with a unanimous decision victory over Edwin de Los Santos (16-2, 14 KOs) on Nov. 16 in Las Vegas during a rare Thursday night edition of Top Rank on ESPN.

In a recent episode ofΒ Big Fight WeekendΒ Boxing Podcast, the champ talked with Dan Rafael about a variety of topics, including the fight originating from New Jersey.

“It means everything to me,” Stevenson began. “I hope that everybody comes out to support. I know that my promotional company is not trying to promote the fight properly because I haven’t re-signed with them. I just pray that the same people [who have] been coming out for me keep coming out for me, and just show up and enjoy the show.”

Champ to Hit The Market After Defense

Outcome notwithstanding over the weekend, Stevenson’s initial defense of the WBC Lightweight Championship is the final fight on his current deal with Top Rank Boxing. In that same podcast episode, Stevenson discussed the possibility of being courted by rival promotions.

“Nah, I don’t really care for it,” he continued. “Honestly, the free agency and everything with it, that matters after the fight. Right now, we’ve got to stay focused on what’s ahead of us, and the main thing is coming in there prepared and ready to put on a performance.”

Stevenson is a man who’s focused heading into this weekend. Can he turn that focus into a successful defense of the title?

Harutyunyan Heads into Highest-Profile Fight This Weekend

In the other corner, challenger Artem Harutyunyan comes in having posted a record of 4-1 over his last five fights. Most recently, he saw a 12-fight winning streak to begin his career get snapped at the hands of Frank Martin (18-1, 12 KOs) by way of unanimous decision after 12 rounds on July 15 last year.

There’s no denying that Shakur Stevenson is Artem Harutyunyan’s toughest challenge yet in his 14-fight professional career inside the squared circle. It’s not every weekend that you get to see a No. 7 contender get a shot at the title. Even if Harutyunyan bested Martin slightly under a year ago, he was clearly headed for a bid at a championship in short order.

During the pre-fight press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Harutyunyan cut off the answer to a question posed of Stevenson to ask his opponent a question of his own.

“So I should wear my running shoes?”, the challenger pondered.

He’s already won one belt in his career. Only time will tell if the No. 7 contender walks out as the world champion.

Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction

This should be a fun contest to watch on Saturday night. Both guys can bring the heat.

Stevenson Can Work The Body

Shakur Stevenson has the proclivity to throw devastating punches. When the champ connects on a shot to the body, it could spell the end of a contest. One need look no further than his 2020 fight in an empty MGM Grand against Felix Caraballo.Β  During the pandemic, Top Rank converted a conference room at the MGM Grand into a makeshift arena with no live fans present.

Throughout the fight, Stevenson routinely landed punches to the body, none more devastating than the one landed in round six of a scheduled 10. After time was called due to a low blow, he landed two clean punches, the second one to the body, resulting in referee Tony Weeks calling it right then and there, Caraballo now crumpled on the center logo in the canvas.

Stevenson has to not only work the body again here, but he’s also got to turn up the volume with strikes. If he comes out of the gates swinging, this main event’s not going the contracted 12 rounds.

Artem Harutyunyan Can Land the Hook

In the other corner, Artem Harutyunyan has a mean left hook and he knows how to use it. Given that Shakur Stevenson’s gameplan is going to be predicated on volume, Harutyunyan might have to go to the left hook to turn the tide.

With under a minute to go in the fifth round of his fight for the WBC International Lightweight Championship in 2021 vs. Samuel Molina, after absorbing a slew of punches, he connected on that hook to send Molina to the mat . While Molina attempted to rise to his feet, the referee waved off the contest.

All it’ll take for the upset of the year is one hook square and true.

Final Thoughts

Even though this main event will take place 48 hours after Independence Day, this championship fight’s going to bring some fireworks.

Prediction: Shakur Stevenson by Sixth-Round TKO.Β 

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about combat sports since May of 2018, coming to MMASucka after stints at Overtime Heroics and Armchair All-Americans. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew is a charter member of the Youngstown Press Club. Prior to beginning his professional career, Drew was a sportswriter for YSU's student-run newspaper, The Jambar, where he supplied Press Box Perspective columns every week.