Shakur Stevenson would much rather challenge Jamel Herring for the WBO junior lightweight title Saturday night.
The former WBO featherweight champion expects to encounter Herring next for his 130-pound championship. First, however, he must get past an opponent he considers dangerous in Jeremiah Nakathila.
Namibia’s Nakathila (21-1, 17 KOs) has fought a very low level of opposition, but Stevenson (15-0, 8 KOs) noted his unproven opponent’s size and strength in assessing what type of challenge he’ll present in a main event ESPN will televise Saturday night from Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.
“He’s like 5-10,” Stevenson told BoxingScene.com. “He’s real strong. I don’t think he real skillful, but like I said, when you 5-10 and you got power, I don’t think that’ll make an easy fight for anybody.”
Stevenson, 23, and Nakathila, 31, will fight for the WBO’s interim junior lightweight championship. Stevenson is ranked number one by the WBO in the 130-pound division and Nakathila is ranked second.
“I knew about him because I was watching the rankings,” Stevenson said. “I kept seeing his name right behind mine. I knew something about him. I just didn’t expect me and him to be fighting each other.”
The 2016 Olympic silver medalist thought he would box Herring next, but this would’ve been too quick of a turnaround for Herring (23-2, 11 KOs) after his sixth-round stoppage of Northern Ireland’s Carl Frampton (28-3, 16 KOs) on April 3 at Caesars Bluewaters Dubai.
“I was supposed to be fighting Jamel next,” Stevenson said. “Everything happened kinda quick. … I’m cool right now. I’m just waiting on my big moment, to get in a big fight. I’m just sitting back and handling business, as I should be.”
Assuming Stevenson conquers Nakathila, the Newark, New Jersey, native anticipates facing Herring at some point in the fall.
“I think he gonna fight me,” Stevenson said. “I seen him in the gym [recently]. The way he was talking, he was talking like he was willing to fight. I don’t think he’s not gonna fight me. I don’t think he’s gonna have too much of a choice. His only choice is gonna be to fight me, and I think I’ll probably be like the last fight of his career.”
The William Hill sports book lists Stevenson as a 50-1 favorite over Nakathila. The Stevenson-Nakathila fight will headline an ESPN doubleheader scheduled to start at 10 p.m. EDT on Saturday night.
In the 10-round co-feature, Jose Pedraza (28-3, 13 KOs), a two-division champion from Puerto Rico, is set to battle Julian Rodriguez (21-0, 14 KOs), of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, in a 10-round junior welterweight bout.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.