The majority of fight fans and media outside of the beltway area are likely unfamiliar with welterweight James “Keep’em Sleeping” Stevenson.
Best described as a boxer-puncher, the 31-year-old Baltimorean is 21-0 with 14 wins by knockout. Most of his bouts took place in Maryland but he’s long set his sights on leaving the Old Line State for bigger fights.
Unfortunately, Stevenson’s goal of making it to the next level was sidetracked by multiple tragedies.
In 2011 during a routine jog to prepare for a fight, a stray dog viciously attacked him, requiring Stevenson to get more than 20 stitches. Shortly thereafter, his father James “Woody” Stevenson Sr. passed away as did his mother-in-law. Stevenson’s promising career was put on hold as he had to console both sides of his family and provide additional financial assistance by working more hours at his day job.
“I love boxing to death but that was a very difficult time in my life,” said the soft-spoken Stevenson. “I had to help keep my family together and it was very hard on me, especially because of how close I was to my father. We had a great relationship and losing him was devastating.”
Stevenson resurfaced in September 2012 with a first round knockout and won five more bouts after the unexpected layoff, but still lacked a signature win.
Tomorrow evening, he’ll have the opportunity to go from prospect to contender when he battles fellow unbeaten Sammy Vasquez for the USBA title in the main event of a Fox Sports 1 card live from the CONSOL Energy Arena in Pittsburgh, PA.
Vasquez, 15-0 (11 KO’s), does have a few notable advantages that are difficult to overlook. In addition to having a large fan base in the Pittsburgh area, he’s three years Stevenson’s junior, fought better competition and scored an impressive first round knockout on ShoBox in April. Stevenson however is not looking at Vasquez any differently than he did his first 21 foes.
“He’s jut another guy to me. He breathes just like I do and puts on his boxing shoes one at a time. The guys I’ve seen him fight aren’t on my level, so to be honest I think he’s taking a big step up too!”