ATLANTA – Jamel Herring doesn’t fight anything like Jeremiah Nakathila.
Herring is an active, skillful southpaw, whereas the limited Nakathila is a pure puncher who is overly reliant on landing right hands. That said, Herring noted Nakathila’s mistakes during the Namibian contender’s 12-round, unanimous-decision defeat to Stevenson on June 12 in Las Vegas.
Herring sat ringside at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas the night a defensive-minded Stevenson mostly kept his distance and shut out Nakathila by the same margin on all three scorecards, 120-107. Displeased fans criticized Stevenson for not engaging Nakathila (21-2, 17 KOs), particularly after Nakathila landed a right hand that got Stevenson’s attention late in the sixth round.
Though Stevenson’s reluctance was largely responsible for the lack of action in their forgettable fight for the WBO interim junior lightweight title, Nakathila’s inability to cut off the ring and overall inactivity contributed to the one-sided nature of his defeat. Herring is well aware that he’ll have to be much more active and aggressive versus Stevenson to pull off what would be considered a significant upset Saturday night in a main event ESPN will air from State Farm Arena (10:30 p.m. EDT).
“You’ve gotta make him uncomfortable,” Herring said. “Like the last fight, when he got him [in the sixth round], Shakur felt uncomfortable, and then he got on the move. But the thing is, with his last opponent, if you look at it, [Nakathila] only waited until the last 15 seconds of the rounds to make a mark and press. With Shakur, you’ve gotta fight from start to finish [in each round]. You can’t wait till the last 30 seconds of the round.”
The 35-year-old Herring (23-2, 11 KOs) and his training team, headed by Brian McIntyre and Jacqui “Red” Spikes, are very familiar with Stevenson (16-0, 8 KOs) because the junior lightweights have trained for fights at the same times in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Cincinnati’s Herring obviously views his team’s familiarity with Stevenson as an advantage, but he’ll have to implement tactics during their fight for Herring’s WBO junior lightweight championship that others have failed to execute versus Stevenson, who is commonly considered one of the best defensive fighters in boxing.
The 24-year-old Stevenson, of Newark, New Jersey, is listed by Caesars Sportsbook as a 9-1 favorite, despite that Herring will make the fourth defense of a WBO belt he won from Japan’s Masayuki Ito (27-3-1, 15 KOs) in May 2019. Stevenson, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist, is 3-0 in junior lightweight bouts since he gave up his WBO featherweight title to move up from the 126-pound division to 130 pounds.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.