Jeremiah Nakathila calmly promised Thursday to produce a huge upset Saturday night.
The unknown Namibian contender is very confident in his power, so much that he believes he’ll knock out Shakur Stevenson in their 12-round, 130-pound championship match. ESPN will televise their fight for the WBO interim junior lightweight title as the main event of a doubleheader from Virgin Hotels Las Vegas (10 p.m. EDT).
“All I know is I can knock out anybody in this 130-pound [division],” Nakathila said during a press conference Thursday. “I can destroy anybody in the 130-pound [division]. So, just come Saturday night, you’re gonna see Shakur, how I’m going to destroy him.”
Nakathila has won 10 straight bouts by knockout since he lost a 12-round majority decision to Evgeny Chuprakov (then 16-0) in Ekaterinburg, Russia, Chuprakov’s hometown. Stevenson, however, is by far the best opponent of Nakathila’s seven-year pro career.
The 31-year-old Nakathila knows Stevenson’s credentials, yet he isn’t the least bit intimidated by the former WBO featherweight champion and Olympic silver medalist.
“Just come Saturday night,” Nakathila said, “I’m gonna show this boy how it’s done.”
The 23-year-old Stevenson (15-0, 8 KOs) is listed by the William Hill sports book as a 50-1 favorite to defeat Nakathila (21-1, 17 KOs). Promoter Bob Arum understands why the odds are so wide, but he has learned during nearly 60 years in boxing to never overlook boxers from Africa.
“I wanna tell everybody out here, because I’ve had tremendous experience, obviously, in boxing, over my career,” Arum said. “And the one thing I’ve learned is never underestimate an African fighter. Because even though it’s a big continent and there’s a lot of different countries, I remember when guys like the great Azumah Nelson, Ike Quartey, John ‘The Beast’ Mugabi, when they came over, little-known guys, and they gave everybody a run for their money. And a number of them became champions, and gave the marquee guy a lot to handle.
“For example, I remember when I did Ike Quartey against Oscar De La Hoya. A lot of people thought at the end of that fight that Quartey had pulled it out. Oscar got the decision. But African fighters come with a lot of strength, and Jeremiah, I think, will epitomize that. Now, he’s in with a very, very tough task, probably the best young fighter in the world in Shakur Stevenson. But he’s gonna give it a go, and I think it’ll be a very, very exciting fight.”
Before Stevenson encounters Nakathila, ESPN will air a 10-round junior welterweight bout between Puerto Rico’s Jose Pedraza (28-3, 13 KOs) and Julian Rodriguez (21-0, 14 KOs), of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.