Shakur Stevenson’s first world title win came amid a feud so personal he tried to prevent the fight from happening.
In 2019, the young American star was ordered by the WBO to face Joet Gonzalez for their vacant featherweight crown, but there was one problem – Stevenson was dating Gonzalez’s sister, Jajaira.
The relationship began when the pair were both teenage amateurs, with the Gonzalez fighting family featuring both male and female boxers.
Joet showed some promise as a youngster and turned professional years prior at the age of 18.
Meanwhile his sister Jajaira was seen as arguably the more talented and so remained on track for a potential Olympic run.
This is where she met Stevenson, who often attended the same amateur competitions as her and shared the same goal of representing Team USA at the Rio 2016 games.
Jajaira won two national championships and then took the gold medal at the Youth Olympics in 2014.
The only other American to win gold at these games? Stevenson, of course.
As a result, they were both favourites to earn Rio 2016 spots until it all came crashing down for Jajaira in December 2015 when she suffered a heartbreaking defeat to Mikaela Mayer at the Olympic trials and so narrowly missed out on her place.
“That’s when me and her started clicking,” Stevenson recalled to ESPN.
“She started venting to me and somehow she ended up crying. I was hugging her and then me and her just started texting a lot, started talking every day and we just went from there.”
Jajaira moved away from her family to join the army (and the army boxing team) at their Colorado Springs camp, which just so happened to be very close to the USA Olympic base where Stevenson was training.
He secured his spot for the Rio 2016 Olympics and began seriously dating Jajaira a few months before the games.
News of this relationship caused uproar back at the Gonzalez family home, as father Jose Gonzalez had always told his daughter she would not be allowed to date until the age of 27 as he wanted her to focus on her boxing career.
Jajaira initially didn’t tell her father as a result and he only found out through social media, which did not help to ease the bitter feeling.
Jose recalled to ESPN: “She said he was a friend. Maybe she was afraid to get me mad… But she lied to me.”
Regardless, the relationship only strengthened as Stevenson suffered a heartbreaking defeat of his own in the Rio Olympic final and took home a silver medal, rather than the gold he desired.
He next turned professional and continued to date Jajaira. Their relationship was over three years deep when he was ordered to fight for his first world title in 2019 – against her brother Joet.
Joet sided with his father in the relationship arguments and said of Stevenson: “I never liked him since the amateurs. Fake-ass handshake… Loud, obnoxious, disrespectful… The way he dresses, half his ass showing. I mean, you think that looks cute? Pick up your pants.”
He added when speaking to ESPN: “I know my sister’s not been happy for those three years. And I know for a fact Shakur does not love her.”
These comments baffled Stevenson who reacted: “He don’t know a thing about me. He can’t say I don’t love her, he sounds stupid.”
Despite this, Stevenson had promised Jajaira – who was at this point estranged from Joet – that he wouldn’t fight her brother and asked his promoters Top Rank to find a solution.
When Oscar Valdez vacated his WBO featherweight world title though, the sanctioning body insisted upon #1 ranked Stevenson (12-0) to face #2 ranked Gonzalez (23-0) for the belt.
Joet reacted by telling the TalkBox Podcast: “I think I’ll stop him, to be honest… My personal opinion, I think he is all hype.”
Once these comments were made, there was no turning back as far as Stevenson was concerned.
He tweeted in reply: “He just mad [his] little sis love me. His feelings are gonna get him hurt though.”
The fight was made for October 26, 2019 with the WBO featherweight world title perhaps the least important thing at stake.
To his credit, Stevenson chose the high road and never used Jajaira’s name as a stick with which to beat Joet during the pre-fight trash talk.
Jajaira made her feelings clear and chose her side as she tweeted: “Shakur really is my best friend. If there’s one person I know who won’t ever turn their back on me, it’s him!”
By the time the fight itself came around, tensions were at boiling point.
Jose Gonzalez gave an ESPN interview in which he said of his daughter: “She texts every day. She just says she loves me. She misses me.”
When asked if he replies, he answered: “No, because of what happened… She’s my daughter but she chooses that way. So she’s got to stay there.
“Sometimes you’ve got to [make] hard decisions. I choose Joet.”
As far as picking the winner was concerned, Joet was ultimately the wrong choice.
Stevenson comfortably outboxed him for a dominant unanimous decision victory with all three judges scoring the contest 119-109 in his favour.
The new champion again did his best to keep things respectful in the post-fight interview as he said: “Joet’s a tough motherf***er. It’s nothing but respect for Joet, I ain’t got nothing to be mad about with him.
“If he wanna be cool, I’ll be cool with him. It was personal for him, but it’s business for me.”
Asked if he had a message for the Gonzalez family, Stevenson responded passionately: “I just wanna tell them at the end of the day, this is business. They wanted to fight me. I didn’t really wanna fight them. But can you please talk to your daughter?
“That’s all I’ve got to say. Please talk to your daughter and your sister. Jajaira I love you.”
Sadly, Joet did not exactly welcome this olive branch in his post-fight interview.
“I’m down,” he admitted, “My first world title fight I lost. Obviously it was personal, but it’s fine you live and you learn. I’ve got my family and they’ll pick me back up.”
“I don’t know how he can say he has no hard feelings, no disrespect, but the whole time he was disrespecting my family. Now the fight’s over, it doesn’t go away just like that. Only time will tell and he has to show us respect.”
Just a few months later though, in early 2020, the situation was no longer a problem as Shakur and Jajaira broke up – the reason for which was never made public.
Fast forward to the present day and the American boxing star is now engaged to female rapper Michelle Ragston (aka Young Lyric), who he proposed to in the ring after beating Oscar Valdez last year.
The pair have a daughter together Leilani, born December 2021.
Thankfully none of her brothers are boxers.
- Shakur Stevenson once fought for world title against his girlfriend’s brother and beat him amid personal feud
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