The young phenom may be America's best chance at gold in men's boxing at this year's Olympics.
- Posted on Jul 18, 2016
Talking to Shakur Stevenson is a lot like watching him box.
The 19-year-old boxing phenom from New Jersey is direct, to the point and just a bit flashy. He can jab with a joke, and shuffle with a story but he also knows when it’s time to focus, something he’s been doing a lot of to prepare for the Olympic Games in Rio.
Stevenson – who is 17-0 in international competition and already holds the title of 2013 Junior Olympic Champion -- is the youngest boxer representing his country in Brazil. That distinction doesn’t make him nervous. He knows what he’s there to do.
“Win gold,” he tells Guideposts.org when asked what his ultimate goal in Rio is. “I’ve got a lot of tough competition waiting for me. I’ve got to prepare myself because I know everyone’s going to be coming for me.”
Fortunately, he’s been preparing for this since he was a child, when his grandfather, Wali Moses, first introduced him to the world of boxing.
As a toddler, Stevenson would spend hours watching fights on TV, mimicking jabs and punches in front of the screen. When he was just five years-old, his grandfather took him to a baseball game along with a group of boxers he trained at a local gym. Stevenson remembers meeting the older guys and immediately begging Moses to bring him to the gym the next day.
“I wanted to be like them,” the athlete explains. “He took me there the next day. I went in, saw everybody boxing, saw everybody training and sparring and I felt like I wanted to get in there and train and spar and do everything they did.”
The young boxer spent the next thirteen years training with his grandfather; lifting weights at the gym, eating strict diets during competition time, sprinting up and down steep hills – his least favorite kind of workout. He honed his body in order to excel at the sport he eventually fell in love with.
“It taught me how to stay disciplined,” Stevenson says. “It taught me how to stay focused.”
While the training kept him on track, he credits his mother with inspiring him, the oldest of his nine siblings, growing up in Newark, New Jersey. “Just seeing her struggle and get through it and still make a way,” Stevenson says. “She’s [an] inspiration to me.”
Now, with his first Olympics approaching, he hopes he can share the experience with the family who has sacrificed so much to help him achieve his dreams. Stevenson started a GoFundMe page, aiming to raise money to send his mother, grandfather and one of his brothers to Rio for the Games.
Whether they’re in the stands or cheering him on from home, Stevenson’s ready for the spotlight that’s sure to shine on him in just a few short weeks, but he won’t be distracted by it.
“I’ve been waiting on this since I was a little kid,” he explains. “Now it’s finally here. I just have to get it done.”