Top-Rank Promotions keeps on ticking.
Not only expertly maintaining their star-studded roster, but also sowing the
seeds for future successes, signing perhaps the two most coveted amateurs
out of the 2016 Rio Olympics, American featherweight Shakur Stevenson and
Irish super bantamweight Michael Conlan. Conlan endeared himself the world over
when he gave the judges the middle finger after losing his quarterfinal
match in Rio and then delivering a scathing interview about corruption
among judges in amateur boxing. Beyond his unique charm,
Conlan’s Irish roots make him a natural draw in New York. His pro debut in The
Theater in Madison Square Garden was packed with passionate Irish supporters. Stevenson only 19 took silver in the
bantamweight division in Rio, and now fights as a featherweight professionally.
The kid from Newark, New Jersey, turned pro against Edgar Brito at StubHub Center in Carson California. Understandably, the Southern California
crowd backed the Mexican American fighter, and Stevenson had a tougher time
than expected dealing with a rough and ready Brito
who seemed intent on giving the former Olympian a less than warm welcome to the
pro ranks. Of course, as tough as Brito was, there will be much tougher fights ahead for
Stevenson, who is still growing into adulthood. Tougher fights for Conlan as
well and people have already started wondering whether the two are on a
collision course. Top Rank has made their bones taking prospects and turning
them into superstars. But never before they had two guys beginning their
respective careers at virtually the exact same starting point,
virtually same weight, and with the exact same expectations.
If Stevenson doesn’t outgrow featherweight too quickly, an eventual
fight between the former Olympians seems a natural. Especially in New York, which
is both close to Stevenson’s native Newark and full of Irish fight fans.
Maybe then we’ll find out who the best prospect coming out of the 2016 Olympics
really is. Either way, Top Rank should have two reasons to be very proud.