Shakur Stevenson, a silver medalist for the U.S. boxing team in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, pulled a surprise on Thursday and signed a promotional deal with Top Rank.
Stevenson also announced that light heavyweight champion Andre Ward, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist, will serve as his co-manager along with James Prince and Josh Dubin.
“Top Rank creates superstars, so I’m going with one of the best,” Stevenson told Yahoo Sports. “Look at what they’ve done: Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto. That’s what I want to do.”
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum compared Stevenson to another Hall of Famer that he once promoted, Sugar Ray Leonard.
Arum, who said Stevenson’s debut would come in April, was the 2016 Olympian that Top Rank coveted the most.
“I think this kid will be the next big superstar, the next big American superstar, and that’s why so many people were chasing him,” Arum said. “He’s that good. Our people haven’t been as high on a guy we have signed in quite a while. He’s only 19 and he’s mind-boggling as a fighter and he has a wonderful personality and a great smile.
“And whatever his punching ability is now, remember, he’s just 19 and not a man yet. Believe me, he’ll punch really hard. We really believe he’ll be a big puncher and he’s a real fast kid and he has the star quality and the ability to be another Sugar Ray Leonard.”
Ward has served as an unofficial mentor to many young fighters since he’s been a pro, and said it made sense to get into the managerial business with Stevenson. They’ve had a long relationship, Ward said, and he’s provided advice to him for years.
Ward told Yahoo Sports Thursday that when he was coming up, many veterans, notably ex-middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins, shared advice with him. He said he wanted to similarly give back and help a young guy.
“Guys reached out to me throughout my career and talked to me about the good, the bad and the ugly regarding their careers,” Ward said. “They gave me a lot of nuggets and little insights here and there that made a big difference to me. Bernard is one example of a guy I pulled heavily from.
“A lot of fighters don’t talk about what they go through, but if you care about the next generation, you want to share that and give back. Shakur is a talented kid. He understands there are no guarantees, but he has the potential to be as big of a superstar as there is. He’s a good-looking kid with a great personality and a lot of boxing skills. It’s up to him to put it all together and do it, and I’m going to be here for him to try to help him.”
Ward, who is still an active fighter, was asked about his career. He said that if he chooses to fight again, he’ll only fight Sergey Kovalev, whom he defeated in November at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas by a close decision.
Ward said Prince, Dubin and promoter Roc Nation Sports were working on something, and he hoped he’d know his plans in a few weeks.