Shakur Stevenson’s promoter touted the undefeated, 23-year-old southpaw as the best young boxer in the sport during a press conference Thursday in Las Vegas.
Jeremiah Nakathila respectfully disagrees with Bob Arum’s assessment of the former WBO featherweight champion. Nakathila told BoxingScene.com that he considers the heavily favored Stevenson an ordinary opponent.
Namibia’s Nakathila (21-1, 17 KOs) and Stevenson (15-0, 8 KOs) will fight for the WBO interim junior lightweight title in a 12-round main event ESPN will televise from The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas (10 p.m. EDT; 7 p.m. PDT).
“For me, he’s a good fighter for those he fought,” Nakathila told BoxingScene.com. “I’m going to prove I’m a better fighter come Saturday night. For me, there’s nothing that shows me that he’s a good fighter. He’s just a normal boxer, like any other boxer. For me, that’s how it is.”
Nakathila takes a 10-fight knockout streak into this bout, but Stevenson undoubtedly is better than anyone Nakathila has faced during his seven-year pro career. The last undefeated fighter Nakathila boxed, Evgeny Chuprakov (then 16-0), beat him by majority decision in their 12-rounder in Ekaterinburg, Russia, Chuprakov’s hometown, in November 2016.
Nakathila nevertheless is confident entering the biggest fight of his career.
“I feel like I’m much better than any boxer, than anyone at 130 pounds,” Nakathila said. “I feel he’s underestimating me for making other fights before he fought me. I feel like he’s underestimating me.”
Stevenson, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist from Newark, New Jersey, has discussed boxing WBO champ Jamel Herring (23-2, 11 KOs) and WBC champ Oscar Valdez (29-0, 23 KOs) later this year during the buildup toward this fight. The unbeaten Stevenson repeatedly has said he isn’t overlooking the unproven Nakathila.
The confident Nakathila believes Stevenson, who is listed by the William Hill sports book as a 50-1 favorite, doesn’t want to fight him.
“I feel like they’ve been avoiding me,” Nakathila said. “But we got the chance now, and I’m gonna prove myself.”
The WBO ranks Stevenson number one among its 130-pound contenders for Herring’s title. Nakathila is ranked second by the WBO, but he is not ranked in the top 15 by the IBF, WBA or WBC.
“For me, you know, it’s a big opportunity,” Nakathila said. “I’ve been training my whole life to have a fight of this magnitude, and I got it. So therefore, come Saturday night, I’m ready.”
Prior to airing the main event between Stevenson and Nakathila, ESPN will broadcast a 10-round junior welterweight battle in which Puerto Rico’s Jose Pedraza (28-3, 13 KOs), a two-weight world champion, will oppose 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.