Olympic boxer Shakur Stevenson hailed as hero in Newark celebration

By Marisa Iati | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on August 28, 2016

NEWARK — Just a kid from Newark – that's how a tongue-in-cheek Powerade commercial bills boxer Shakur Stevenson, who took home a silver medal in this year's Olympic games.

But in the Brick City on Sunday, Stevenson was celebrated as a hero.

"I appreciate everything you all did for me, all the support," Stevenson told a cheering crowd. "When I was in Rio, when I was fighting, I was thinking about Newark. I had the city on my back."

A crowd packed the steps of City Hall to watch a parade and ceremony in honor of the 19-year-old Olympian. Many donned shirts with phrases like "Shakur's Corner" and waved signs reading "Believe in Newark." 

Stevenson won silver in the bantamweight finals of the Olympics this month, coming second to Cuba's Robeisy Ramirez. 

Standing on a stage made to look like a boxing ring, politicians repeatedly praised Stevenson for putting Newark on the global map in a positive way. 

Mayor Ras Baraka called the young boxer "a gentleman in the ring" and said it's hard not to love him for his humility and respectfulness. 

"I just want to tell all these young people out here, if you all need somebody to look up to, Shakur Stevenson is somebody you should be focusing on," said Baraka, before leading the crowd in a chant of "Hands up, guns down."

Newark held its annual "24 Hours of Peace" event last weekend — a celebration that was interrupted by two shootings elsewhere in the city and four others over the next three days. 

City councilwoman-at-large Mildred Crump on Sunday said Stevenson's success on the world stage tells a different story about Newark.

"So often, we hear about the negative things that young men are doing in our community," Crump said. "But Shakur is doing something positive."

Weli Cooper was among hundreds of people who came out to support Newark's own. He and his family set up camp at the site of the ceremony three hours before it was set to begin to secure a prime spot.

Two of Cooper's kids are boxers, so he feels close to the sport — especially to athletes from New Jersey. He said the state's boxing community is a family.

"Boxing is big, but at the same time, it's small," Cooper said. "Everyone in the New Jersey boxing community knows each other."

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