LAS VEGAS – If East Coast fight fans weren’t already asleep when the Shakur Stevenson-Edwin De Los Santos fight finally started at 12:08 a.m. ET early Friday morning, the epically cautious southpaws did little throughout their 12-round, 135-pound championship match to help keep them awake.
The unbeaten Stevenson defeated De Los Santos by unanimous decision, but neither fighter did much to entertain the dissatisfied fans that attended a rare boxing card on a Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena or those that watched it on ESPN. Judges Tim Cheatham (116-112), David Sutherland (115-113) and Steve Weisfeld (116-112) all scored their utterly unremarkable bout for Stevenson, who won the previously vacant WBC lightweight title.
Stevenson defended himself well during the main event of a 10-bout card, but he was reluctant to engage with De Los Santos, who had knocked out 82 percent of his opponents entering their fight. De Los Santos didn’t alter his strategy, either, when he had to have realized that he was losing close rounds.
Stevenson, a native of Newark, New Jersey, improved to 21-0 (10 KOs). Brooklyn’s De Los Santos slipped to 16-2 (14 KOs).
Stevenson, 26, became a world champion in a third weight class by defeating De Los Santos. The 2016 Olympic silver medalist previously held the WBO featherweight title and was a unified champ in the 130-pound division, within which owned the WBC super featherweight and WBO junior lightweight crowns.
The WBC lightweight championship became available because the Mexico City-based sanctioning organization designated Devin Haney as its 135-pound champion in recess. Haney (30-0, 15 KOs), of Henderson, Nevada, was boxing’s undisputed lightweight champion, but he has moved up to the 140-pound division for his next fight – a shot at WBC super lightweight champ Regis Prograis (29-1, 24 KOs) on December 9 at Chase Center in San Francisco.
De Los Santos, 24, lost for just the second time as a pro. William Foster III (16-1, 10 KOs, 1 NC) previously beat the Santo Domingo native by split decision in an eight-round contest Showtime televised in January 2022 as part of its prospect series, “ShoBox: The New Generation.”
By the time the 12th round began, it was painfully obvious Stevenson and De Los Santos would go the distance. Stevenson tied up De Los Santos multiple times during those final three minutes
Stevenson caught De Los Santos with a right hook less than 20 seconds into the 11th round. Stevenson caught De Los Santos with another right hook with about 1:45 on the clock in the 11th round.
Stevenson stung De Los Santos with a straight left about 1:20 into the 10th round. He drilled De Los Santos with a right hook later in the 10th round.
Dock called De Los Santos and Stevenson together with 33 seconds left in the ninth round and warned them for not listening to his commands. Stevenson countered De Los Santos with a right hook that backed De Los Santos into the ropes a little more than 40 seconds into the ninth round.
De Los Santos connected with a right hook to Stevenson’s head, which knocked him off balance 25 seconds into the ninth round.
The understandable boos became increasingly louder during the final minute of the eighth round.
Dock warned Stevenson for punching De Los Santos when he called for a break about 50 seconds into the eighth round.
Stevenson landed another jab with just under a minute to go in the seventh round. That was one of the few punches Stevenson connected with in those three minutes, but De Los Santos couldn’t get any offense going in that round.
Stevenson’s stiff jab landed with a little more than 10 seconds to go in the sixth round. Stevenson’s right hook connected a little less than a minute into the sixth round.
The crowd booed loudly as the fifth round drew to a close because neither fighter did much during those three minutes.
De Los Santos mocked Stevenson by going into a running motion a minute into the fifth round. Dock broke them apart as they wrestled for position 30 seconds into the fifth round.
Stevenson’s right hand partially connected as they became untangled with about 1:20 on the clock in the fourth round. Stevenson landed a jab almost 30 seconds into the fourth round.
De Los Santos and Stevenson wrestled into Stevenson’s corner with just over 30 seconds to go in the third round, which made the mundane second round look like a slugfest. The crowd expressed its collective displeasure again early in the third round, when Stevenson and De Los Santos didn’t throw many punches.
A jab by De Los Santos backed Stevenson into the ropes a little less than 50 seconds into the second round. The restless crowd began booing later in the second round because the fight lacked action.
Stevenson tried to tie up De Los Santos in an exchange, but he partially landed a right hook as De Los Santos slid out of it with just under a minute to go in the first round. Otherwise, both boxers were cautious in what amounted to feeling each other out in the opening three minutes of their fight.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.