WBO No. 2 ranked super featherweight Jeremiah Nakathila has been hoping for a mandatory shot at the world title for a long time, yet the depth of his patience might get tested again.
The hard-hitting Namibian contender and his team were shocked to read a piece on BoxingScene.com this past Sunday about the statement of the World Boxing Organization regarding the next mandatory challenger of super featherweight world champion Jamel Herring in Shakur Stevenson.
The unbeaten Stevenson vacated his WBO featherweight crown just days ago as he stated it had been a struggle to cut down on weight to make the 126-pound limit on the scale. According to a rule by the Puerto Rican-based sanctioning organization, reigning WBO world champions have the right to jump to a new division and automatically get a chance to challenge the ruler of such weight class.
Problem is, Nakathila (19-1, 15 KOs), who is the reigning WBO Global titlist at 130 pounds, had to go through the exact same situation last summer after then-WBO featherweight champ Oscar Valdez decided to jump up to super featherweight. Valdez, who later decided to follow the WBC title in his new division, has been the No. 1 rated contender by the WBO on its latest ranking.
The Namibian has been ranked No. 2 since early 2019. Since then, there have been no less than three names that changed position ahead of him at No. 1. Those were Lamont Roach Jr, Valdez, and now Stevenson.
“It is what it is, but it is really not fair on Nakathila who has been waiting for his title shot opportunity and ranked by the WBO for the last few years,” said Nestor Tobias, who is promoting Nakathila, to BoxingScene.com.
“Yes, we understand that champions moving up need to become mandatory challengers but we did this when Valdez moved up who is now currently ranked number 1, and now it is Stevenson and we have to make way for him again. Quite frankly it’s demotivating and we hope that the WBO sees it the way we do and does justice to Nakathila because if this trend continues he will never be able to fight for the title because every new champion will have to do a voluntary defense first then mandatory and that sets you two years back which is a very long time.”
Tobias is now trying to convince the World Boxing Organization to give credit to his fighter who has participated in nine title fights under the flagship of the sanctioning body in the last four years.
“We have an excellent relationship with the WBO, and they have always been very fair with our fighters because they know we bring quality fighters to the table. We have written to the WBO to consider this situation and are now awaiting a reply from them.”
Reigning champion Herring (21-2, 10 KOs), who is promoted by Top Rank just like Stevenson and Valdez, tested positive for coronavirus and thus had to postpone his voluntary world title defense for the second straight time against Jonathan Oquendo earlier this week. The return of Herring is currently unclear and largely depends on his full recovery from the virus.
Tobias, who raised several athletes to professional world championship titles in the past, is perfectly aware of how tough it could be to get justice from a tiny African country in a sport that is driven by powerful and billion-dollar promotional companies.
“The WBO has always been good to us, but we cannot run away from the fact that any sanctioning body will give preferential treatment to promoters with much bigger pockets and that is a fact in boxing in general. That is why the key criteria to be classified a world-class fighter includes access to TV rights because that’s where the money comes from. Nakathila complies with every criteria, he has fought some of the best in the division, he fought ranked opponents and continental champions and yes the sad fact is we don’t have massive TV rights and cannot compete with big promoters like Top Rank and the likes but we have quality that never disappoints.”
The WBO has last updated its rankings on March 8 and that is subject to change as soon as the rating committee can come together following this ongoing pandemic. Team Nakathila is hoping to receive positive news from the sanctioning organization.
You can reach Tamas Pradarics at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @TomiPradarics.