Shakur Stevenson (15-0, 8 KOs) attempt to win a belt in a second division this week end against Namibia’s Jeremiah Nakathila (21-1, 17 KOs). Stevenson won a silver medal at the Rio Olympics when he was 19 and turned pro the next year. He went 13-0 as a featherweight and took the vacant WBO belt in 2019. He didn’t spend any time establishing as a top fighter at the weight and immediately moved up to super feather and after a couple of wins finds himself fighting for the interim WBO title.
His opponent Nakathila spent the vast majority of his career in Namibia, only leaving for a fight in south Africa and a loss in Russia. He is a great puncher with a nasty right hand but is completely untested outside of his loss to Evgeny Chuprakov, in which he showed to be completely lost defensively against an opponent good enough to stand up to him. With his punch, Nakathila could conceivably carve a niche as a curtain jerker action fighter in the States, but the American southpaw should be a cut or two above technically and outclass him for a wide decision win. If everything goes according to plan Stevenson should end the night a two weight “world champion” but while he undoubtedly has the potential to be a great fighter he still has a lot to prove and hopefully match ups with real top fighters aren’t too far in the future.
But the really interesting fight of the card is the co-main event, an excellent match up of a veteran former titlist in José Pedraza (28-3, 13 KOs) and rising prospect Julian Rodriguez (21-0, 14 KOs). Pedraza is a former IBF superfeatherweight champion and WBO lightweight champion. He fought then top pound for pound fighter Vasyl Lomachenko and gave a good account of himself and even took a couple of rounds from him. His move up to superlightweight was off to a rough start with a decision loss to Jose Zepeda but he’s scored two decent wins since.
Rodriguez turned pro in 2013 after a solid national amateur career and has looked very good in his career so far. He’s an excellent offensive fighter with good power, always punching in combinations and a great eye for finding holes in an opponent guard. His competition hasn’t been great but he’s done what he’s supposed to against this caliber of fighter, knocking out most and dominating the rest. At 26, he looks to be entering his prime and ready for a step up in competition. Pedraza’s experience, craft and versatility should be an excellent test for him. Pedraza has very good defense, notably his head movement, and is as comfortable in a southpaw stance as he is fighting orthodox. His relative lack of power might hurt him a bit in this fight but he should present Rodriguez with problems he hasn’t faced before. I’ will go with the prospect in this one but this is a very well matched fight that should deliver very interesting action on Saturday night.
18-year-old prospect Xander Zayas (8-0, 6 KOs) will open the card against Larry Fryers (11-3, 4 KOs). Zayas is still in the experience building phase of his career and just started fighting opposition with winning records so you shouldn’t expect a step up just yet. But the young Puerto Rican has shown potential so far, he can punch, has solid technique and has been pretty composed with his strike selection when looking for the finish. It is still early days but Zayas is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Stevenson vs Nakathila airs on ESPN on Saturday, June 12th at 10:00pm ET / 7:00pm PT.
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