Top super featherweight contender Jeremiah Nakathila and his team have had strange feelings these days.
The hard-hitting Namibian, who has represented the World Boxing Organization in nine of his past ten professional boxing contests, has been rated in the top 3 by the Puerto Rican-based sanctioning organization for over 18 months but his desired world title shot still looks to be far away.
The 130-pound version of the WBO championship title has happened to hit the news section regularly over the last couple of weeks by multiple reasons. It all started with champion Jamel Herring who tested positive for coronavirus that resulted in a postponement of his voluntary defense against Jonathan Oquendo twice in a row.
Later in the summer, the now former WBO featherweight belt-holder Shakur Stevenson decided to move up to 130 pounds, and thanks to a special rule by the sanctioning body, he automatically became the new mandatory challenger of Herring, thus pushing Nakathila (19-1, 15 KOs) out of the picture regarding a world title shot.
It has now been official the rescheduled Herring-Oquendo matchup will take place on September 5th in the Bubble in Las Vegas. What further shocked the Namibian team is a potential return for Herring later in 2020 against former two-division champion Carl Frampton that both fighters as well as their promoter, Bob Arum has been mentioning.
According to the rules of the WBO, “each WBO World Champion shall defend his title at intervals not greater than nine (9) months counting from the date of the acquisition thereof or from the last compulsory defense, as the case may be, in a twelve (12) round fight, against the Mandatory Challenger”.
Herring had had his last mandatory defense on November 9th, 2019 against Lamont Roach Jr that means technically his nine-month period in between mandatory defenses ended in early August. Even the Oquendo fight will only be a voluntary defense but now Top Rank plans to secure his protégé one more of those against Frampton possibly in December.
“I have never heard of back to back voluntary unless the WBO has special rules for Herring,” said Nakathila’s promoter, Nestor Tobias to BoxingScene.com recently.
“According to the WBO rules a champion can only do one voluntary and that should be done within a given time. That time has already or is about to lapse but we understand the current issues with Covid-19. In our view once Herring fights Oquendo he must face the mandatory challenger otherwise they will be making a mockery of the rules.”
The Namibian promoter has reached out to the WBO on multiple occasions regarding the matter.
“We are constantly engaging the WBO and the response, as expected, was that Stevenson moved up as a champion, just like [Oscar] Valdez moved up [back in 2019] and that is why they had to give him automatic mandatory status. We are still of the view that the WBO has the right to manage such situations better.”
If Herring was allowed to face Frampton after Oquendo, the WBO would then sanction him to face current mandatory challenger Shakur Stevenson next sometime in the spring of next year. As chances to get a shot at the title as a voluntary challenger are usually slim to none for African fighters, Nakathila could easily sit out not only 2020 but the greater part of 2021 as well before an eventual world title opportunity. By that time, the Namibian would sit as a top-5 rated contender by the WBO for well over three years.
“And if another champion decides to move up it means Nakathila would have to wait another two years and so will everybody in the division which is not fair. In such cases, you would expect the WBO World Championship Committee to improvise,” stated a highly disappointed Tobias, who thinks sanctioning the Herring-Frampton fight would ask serious questions about the organization.
“I don’t think the WBO can ever allow that because that would mean special rules for some boxers and then we can just as well forget about their rules and their credibility as a sanctioning body.”
Team Nakathila have been waiting for an official response from the WBO regarding the matter.
You can reach Tamas Pradarics at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @TomiPradarics.