Boxing returns to Vegas: Shakur Stevenson stops Felix Caraballo at MGM Grand

Shakur Stevenson v Felix Carabello
Shakur Stevenson (right) is undefeated in 14 bouts

Boxing was back in Las Vegas for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak but behind closed doors - and not as we know it.

At a deserted MGM Grand, undefeated American Shakur Stevenson stopped Felix Caraballo in the sixth round.

But as 22-year-old Stevenson, the WBO featherweight world champion, delivered a brutal body blow to his Puerto Rican opponent in a 10-round non-title bout, only a handful of people were there to see it.

Before the action, a 10-bell salute sounded in honour of those who have died during the global pandemic.

The traditional ring walks were not met by cheers and jeers, and there was no crowd noise to drown out the winces of pain, while the sound of punches landing were crystal clear.

Stevenson injured his knee in the fifth round, but then stopped Carabello, 26, to extend his professional record to 14 wins out of 14.

"Everything about this fight week was different. After my last fight was cancelled, I was happy to showcase my skills for all of the boxing fans," Stevenson said afterwards.

"Losing the weight was different. Training in the gym was different. I couldn't be around anybody.

"Even when fighting and there was no crowd, was different. I would catch him with mean shots and there would be no 'Ooohs' or 'Aaahs.'."

Following the fight, Stevenson wore a Black Lives Matter T-shirt in support of the anti-racism movement.

"My people right now, they're protesting and there's a lot going on in our community, a lot of people trying to stand up for what's right," he said.

"Now that the fight is over, I'll go out there and protest. Mask up, gloved up, I'll go out there and help my people out."

Jared Anderson and Shakur Stevenson
Stevenson (right) poses with heavyweight Jared Anderson, who won his bout on the undercard

'By 2021 we should be back to some kind of normal'

Promoter Bob Arum said he incurred $300,000 (£235,000) of costs in order to deliver the fight night, as he was unable to sell tickets.

His Top Rank organisation had to create dining areas for quarantined fighters, private rings where they could each spar, and also offer testing and accommodation.

Arum believes holding boxing behind closed doors is a "temporary" solution and this week he told BBC Sport he would "close up shop" if things could not one day go back to how they once were.

Arum, 88, said: "I think by 2021 we will be back to some kind of normal but do I know that for a fact? No."

The same venue will be used again on Thursday for another Top Rank event.

The undercard included a win for American heavyweight Jared Anderson, who was taken past the first round for the first time by Johnnie Langston, but finally wore his compatriot down in the third round with a flurry of punches.

Promoter Bob Arum
Promoter Bob Arum, inside the MGM Grand, was the "furthest away from the ring that I can remember"
Cleaners sanitise the ring at the MGM Grand
Cleaners sanitise the ring at the MGM Grand Conference Center in between bouts
MGM Grand
A near-deserted MGM Grand, where no spectators were permitted under coronavirus health and safety restrictions

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