Named after Tupac and having lived on Muhammad Ali Boulevard, Shakur Stevenson was just destined to be a superstar.

Willie ‘Wali’ Moses was a boxing coach in Newark but he wasn’t just a boxing coach he was also Shakur’s grandfather.

“I was five years old. I asked him one day if I could start boxing with him. That’s where it all began.”

From the age of five up to this very day it is Wali’s tutelage that has guided Stevenson to where he is today. A highly successful amateur career in which a Olympic silver medal was captured and now undefeated in three professional bouts.

Rio 2016, Shakur was aiming to be the first American male boxer to obtain the gold medal since his idol Andre Ward. In Rio the world saw this young man secure a place on the podium. In Rio the world saw this young man distraught he didn’t get the gold medal. Shakur explains it’s “made me hungrier to succeed in the pros.” Shakur mentions the word “hungrier” throughout our conversation regarding the Olympics, this telephone call has shown me the mindset of a champion.

The favourite for the gold medal going into Rio was the Irishman Mick Conlan. A touted fight between the Irishman and the American was the ‘fantasy fight’ of the Olympic Games not just for the fight fans but for Shakur too.

“It’s the fight I wanted in the Olympics. He was robbed in his last fight and that robbed me of the fight I wanted. I believe I would’ve beaten him in the Olympics. I believe I beat him in the pros. I believe I could beat him next week. I don’t think it needs to be for a title if it is (a title fight) down the line, then the belt is a bonus.”

Post Olympic Games, Stevenson signed a managerial deal with his childhood hero, undefeated light-heavyweight champion Andre Ward. It is clear their relationship is a close one as Shakur tells me to go with “‘Dre’s” management offer was a no-brainer.

Ward and the rest of the management outfit are doing their job right. Matching Shakur well so far in his career but also getting him exposure. As a boxer you need to invest in yourself as a brand and what better stage to do that by performing on the undercard to some of the best fighters in the world. Gilberto Ramirez, Terence Crawford, Julius Indongo and December 9th add Vasyl Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux. “One day I hope to be at their level headlining big shows.”

December 9th the boy from Newark will lock horns with Oscar Mendoza.

New opposition means new homework. Extensive research into previous fights to study a fighter, their fight styles and a search for chinks in a mans armour but it’s not every day your opponent trains in the same gym.

I know he is a tough man. We are actually training in the same gym. Yeah I’ve seen him in there but no I don’t watch him sparring, on the bags or pads and he don’t watch me spar.”

FightTalk.net wishes Shakur all the best for December 9th and the future in his career.

Written by James Lupton.