ATLANTA – Jamel Herring noticed a dramatic change late in the sixth round of the Shakur Stevenson-Jeremiah Nakathila fight.
Herring sat ringside June 12 in Las Vegas, thus the WBO junior lightweight champion got a real feel for how the right hand Nakathila landed late during that round altered Stevenson’s strategy. Once Stevenson felt the Namibian boxer’s power, Herring sensed that he was wary of taking flush punches for the remainder of their 12-round fight for the WBO’s interim 130-pound championship.
“He got touched, he didn’t like it and he didn’t react too well to it,” Herring, who’ll face Stevenson on Saturday night in Atlanta, told BoxingScene.com. “I mean, he still won. He still cruised to a good victory, but you could tell when he got hit, his whole game plan changed up. It wasn’t entertaining.”
The left-handed Stevenson’s defensive approach to the remainder of that bout elicited criticism from those that expected more offensive output from the former WBO featherweight champion. An unapologetic Stevenson (16-0, 8 KOs) reminded those skeptics that winning trumps all else, no matter what they think of how the Newark, New Jersey, native handled the aggressive Nakathila (21-2, 17 KOs) in a main event ESPN televised from Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.
Stevenson scored a flash knockdown after landing a quick right hook late in the fourth round. Nakathila wasn’t badly hurt, but he never figured out how to cut off the ring and he lost all 12 rounds on each judge’s scorecard (120-107, 120-107, 120-107).
“Nakathila, he didn’t make the proper adjustments,” Herring said. “He didn’t take advantage of [landing a hard right hand]. You know, he kept following [Stevenson] in a circle the whole night. And it’s crazy because, you know, I was there in the arena, of course, and it went from a lot of cheers to boos because of the quality of the fight.”
Herring acknowledged that not all of the intense criticism directed toward Stevenson following that indisputable win was warranted. Cincinnati’s Herring did expect more from the 24-year-old Stevenson in that fight, though.
“He did what he had to do,” Herring said. “He got the job done. But I honestly expected more. I thought he obviously could’ve stopped his opponent. But I feel like, with Shakur, he’s OK with just, you know, winning the rounds with the bare minimum at times.”
Stevenson still is listed as a 10-1 favorite over Herring, according to Caesars Sportsbook. Herring (23-2, 11 KOs) will make the fourth defense of his WBO belt in another main event ESPN will air from State Farm Arena (10:30 p.m. EDT).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.