TV Picks of the Week: Shakur Stevenson, William Zepeda headline

While we await a potential unification bout between lightweights Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Vasiliy Lomachenko, there’s plenty else to keep an eye on in this young and talented division – including two notable fights this week.

On Saturday, in separate broadcasts, Shakur Stevenson will defend his WBC title against Artem Harutyunyan while undefeated contender William Zepeda will take on Giovanni Cabrera. A pair of 135-pound prospects, Keyshawn Davis and Abdullah Mason, will also be in action in separate bouts.

(We’d also be shirking our duties if we didn’t mention the June 7 junior bantamweight unification bout on Sunday in Japan between Kazuto Ioka and Fernando Martinez. Alas, that fight has not yet been picked up by a network or streaming service in the United States or United Kingdom. Like the rest of you, we’ll be looking for a good, safe live stream or a hero to promptly upload the footage to YouTube.)

Pick It, Part 1: Shakur Stevenson vs. Artem Harutyunyan

When to Watch: Saturday, July 6.

How to Watch: ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+. The preliminary broadcast begins at 6:10 p.m. ET on ESPN+. The main broadcast begins at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Why to Watch: Stevenson recently became a three-division world titleholder, joining the lightweight ranks in April 2023 and then winning the vacant WBC belt with a unanimous decision over Edwin De Los Santos.

This fight is meaningful for Stevenson for three reasons. First, he wants to be in the big fights against the other top 135-pounders. Second, he’s about to be a promotional free agent. And third, he needs to make up for something that can pose an obstacle for the other two reasons – Stevenson put forth a dreadful performance against De Los Santos.

We can add a fourth: He’ll be performing in front of his hometown crowd at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Stevenson (21-0, 10 KOs) came in with fanfare after he earned a silver medal in the 2016 Olympics as a bantamweight and then proceeded to pick up world titles in the pro ranks at featherweight and junior lightweight before doing the same at lightweight. The 27-year-old had dominant performances over the likes of Jamel Herring and Oscar Valdez. Now that he’s at 135, Stevenson will need to show that he’s worth watching, that he’s someone who can help fill arenas and sell pay-per-views.

Harutyunyan, meanwhile, doesn’t want to be a perpetual stepping stone to the stars. He, too, had a good amateur milestone. The 33-year-old was born in Armenia and represented Germany in the 2016 Olympics, capturing a bronze medal at junior welterweight. Harutyunyan suffered his first defeat in his last fight, dropping to 12-1 (7 KOs) following a close unanimous decision to Frank Martin almost a year ago.

Martin went on to fight Gervonta “Tank” Davis. That’s the kind of opportunity Stevenson wants as well, and a win over Harutyunyan would help get him there. Harutyunyan of course wants to have those fights himself. A loss to Stevenson would instead slot Harutyunyan as a B-side, a measuring stick, with the likelihood of diminishing paychecks.

Davis (WBA) is in negotiations with Vasiliy Lomachenko (IBF) for a unification bout. The other title belongs to Denys Berinchyk, who topped Emanuel Navarrete for the vacant WBO belt in May.

Stevenson-Harutyunyan isn’t the only title fight on the broadcast. In the co-feature slot, junior lightweight O’Shaquie Foster will defend his WBC belt against Robson Conceicao.

Foster (22-2, 12 KOs), is coming off a pair of close wins. He was far behind on the scorecards before stopping Eduardo Hernandez with mere seconds to go in the 12th round of their fight last October. And Foster similarly scored a pivotal knockdown in the 12th round of his February defense against Abraham Nova, picking up a split decision win.

This will be the fourth title try for Conceicao, the 2016 Olympic lightweight gold medalist who is 18-2-1 (9 KOs) as a pro. Conceicao dropped decisions to Valdez in 2021 and Stevenson in 2022, then had to settle for a draw against Navarrete last November. Conceicao returned in April with a seventh-round TKO of Jose Ivan Guardado Ortiz.

The main broadcast will also include Keyshawn Davis, the 2020 Olympic lightweight silver medalist whose last appearance was a TKO6 of Jose Pedraza in February. Davis (10-0, 7 KOs) will face Miguel Madueno (31-2, 28 KOs). Madueno’s defeats came at lightweight against former 130-pound titleholder Jezreel Corrales (UD12, 2022) and at junior welterweight against Steve Claggett (UD10, 2023).

And also on the broadcast, Abdullah Mason (13-0, 11 KOs) will face Luis Lebron, who is 20-5-1 (13 KOs) and was the second-best Lebron in the Lebron vs. Lebron matchup in 2022.

Pick It, Part 2: William Zepeda vs. Giovanni Cabrera

When to Watch: Saturday, July 6.

How to Watch: DAZN, 8 p.m. ET.

Why to Watch: Zepeda is ranked No. 1 by all four sanctioning bodies, which puts him in prime position to take on any of the titleholders.

In recent years, Mexico’s 28-year-old Zepeda has defeated the likes of former titleholders Rene Alvarado and Joseph Diaz, both by decision. He has scored knockouts over former contenders Jaime Arboleda and Mercito Gesta. And, most recently, he took out Maxi Hughes in four rounds in March. That brought Zepeda to 30-0 (26 KOs).

For this show, at the Toyota Arena in Ontario, California, Zepeda will face Cabrera, a 29-year-old from Chicago who is 22-1 (7 KOs).

Cabera took that loss in July 2023, dropping a split decision to Isaac Cruz in a match that wasn’t overly aesthetically pleasing. 

“William Zepeda is a good puncher. He’s got good defense. He throws a lot of punches. A very annoying kind of fighter to be against. He’s not a big, big power puncher, but he‘s got enough steam on his punches to hurt you, and the volume is pretty crazy,” Cabrera said in May. “I’m going to do my best to throw off his rhythm. There’s many ways: controlling distance, making them think I’m closer when I’m further away, changing speeds, changing levels. He’s going to have a lot to think about that maybe he hasn’t with other fighters.”

If Cabrera tries to play spoiler again, it will be on Zepeda to show that he can deal with an awkward opponent.

“I’ve done some sparring sessions with some guys that have the same style as Cabrera. The thing about Cabrera’s style is it’s a little awkward. Sometimes he throws punches from angles where you don’t expect them,” Zepeda told media members in a May interview. “We’re going to go out and do our job. ... I’ve worked too hard to be able to give somebody else the opportunity to take away what I’ve been able to get so far.”

The undercard includes a flyweight fight between Ricardo Sandoval (24-2, 17 KOs) and former junior flyweight titleholder Angel Acosta (24-4, 22 KOs).

More Fights to Watch

Tuesday, July 2: Mike Seals vs. Robert Burwell (Triller)

The broadcast begins at 8 p.m. ET.

This light heavyweight fight headlines at the Texas Troubadour Theatre in Nashville. Seals is 27-3 (21 KOs) and has won three straight since getting knocked out by Eleider Alvarez in 2020. This will be Seals’ first appearance since October 2022.

Burwell is 10-9 (3 KOs).

Saturday, July 6: Nate Diaz vs. Jorge Masvidal (Fanmio)

The preliminary broadcast begins at 7:30 p.m. ET. The pay-per-view begins at 9 p.m. ET.

Five years after they fought in the Octagon, these two mixed martial arts stars will have a boxing match.

Masvidal defeated Diaz in the UFC back in 2019, winning when the doctor stopped the fight after the third round due to a terrible cut over Diaz’s right eye. Now they’ll headline at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, under the Queensberry Rules.

Diaz, a 39-year-old from Stockton, California, is 0-1 in the boxing ring following a decision loss to Jake Paul last year. Masvidal, a 39-year-old from Miami, had one pro boxing match way back in 2005 and is 1-0 (0 KOs).

On the undercard, former middleweight titleholder Daniel Jacobs (37-4, 30 KOs) will return for the first time in nearly two and a half years, dating back to a February 2022 split decision loss to John Ryder. Jacobs will face Shane Mosley Jr. (21-4, 12 KOs), who’s riding a four-fight win streak since dropping a majority decision to Jason Quigley in 2021.

Saturday, July 6: Johnny Fisher vs. Alen Babic (DAZN) 

The preliminary broadcast begins at noon ET (5 p.m. BST). The main broadcast begins at 2 p.m. ET (7 p.m. BST).

Fisher is a heavyweight prospect from London who is essentially learning on the job after a very brief time in the amateurs – though he says time spent as a sparring partner for Joe Joyce helped out. The 25-year-old Fisher turned pro in 2021 and has gone 11-0 (10 KOs). He’s coming off a first-round win over Dmytro Bezus in February.

Babic is undersized enough as a heavyweight that he opted to compete at bridgerweight, only to be bombed out in 130 seconds by Lukas Rozanski in an April 2023 fight for the vacant WBC belt. A 33-year-old from Croatia, Babic returned this past March at heavyweight, stopping Steve Robinson in six rounds to move to 12-1 (11 KOs).

Fisher-Babic will headline at the Copper Box Arena in London.

Follow David Greisman on Twitter @FightingWords2. His book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” is available on Amazon.

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