“Hands down the busiest week Las Vegas has ever seen,” was how Top Rank’s Mark Shunock described Sin City in the days before the Formula One grand prix. By the weekend he may be proved true – it regardless seems unlikely – but on Tuesday of fight week, even ProBox TV has seen the strip considerably busier.
The grand prix unquestionably represents the hottest ticket in town, and if it proves more entertaining than Shakur Stevenson then (Shunock’s excluded) those tickets will justify much of the hype.
ProBox TV first spoke to Stevenson in the hours after Guillermo Rigondeaux quit against Vasyl Lomachenko at Madison Square Garden in 2017. He was in the lobby of Manhattan’s Stewart Hotel, rather innocently playing a game with some friends.
Aged 26 he has since evolved into an individual with zero desire to pretend to be anything other than who he is. There is no agenda or spin when he speaks – just, unapologetically, his truth, which with his dryness and unique lexicon often combines to comical effect.
When his opponent Edwin de los Santos, 24, was first speaking Stevenson sat wearing noise cancelling headphones but occasionally smiled at whatever he was listening to and made no attempts to hide the extent to which his attention was elsewhere. When Shunock then sought to get him to sell Thursday’s fight he responded, and clearly meant what he said, with: “I really don’t care about y’all. I ain’t paying you mind.”
If his honesty isn’t what Top Rank would have hoped for during a week in which the T-Mobile Arena may not even by half-full by the opening bell of Thursday’s fight for the vacant WBC lightweight title, it was refreshing from an individual from a culture so often built on deceit.
When a reporter questioned Stevenson about Devin Haney, his PR assistant Julie Goldsticker attempted to intervene and insisted that questions should surround only Thursday’s fight. However Stevenson, skin evidently thicker than most, then said: “No, I’ll answer all the questions. I don’t give a fuck.”
ProBox TV can only assume Shunock had decided well in advance that he would conclude Tuesday’s press conference with the words “It might be F1 week, but the real race, the real fireworks happen right here on Thursday night”, because Stevenson had promised no such thing (not that he was making Shunock’s job easy).
Shunock’s Top Rank colleague Gabriel Rivas – once of Golden Boy Promotions – arguably earlier saved the show. When Emmanuel Navarette and Robson Conceicao spoke, respectively, in Spanish and Portuguese, he translated their words into English, and translated the questions they were being asked into their native tongues so that they could respond – all with considerable speed. Unlike almost every other individual involved in boxing he also chose to remain out of view, instead of insisting on sitting on stage, where he could been the centre of attention.
Those who have worked with Rivas will know that he is far from guided by his ego. Those there on Tuesday will also remember how strange it often was to hear his loud voice speaking via a microphone without being able to see where he was.