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Shakur Stevenson faces Jeremiah Nakathila this Saturday, June 12th on Espn

Image: Shakur Stevenson faces Jeremiah Nakathila this Saturday, June 12th on Espn

By Brad Slotnick: Shakur Stevenson will be fighting this Saturday, June 12th, against Jeremiah Nakathila for the vacant interim WBO super featherweight title. Stevenson vs. Nakathila will be taking place in the main event at the Theater at Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas.

ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN+ will be showing the fight card starting at 10:00 p.m. ET.

This will be a tough test for the 23-year-old Stevenson (15-0, 8 KOs) in taking on a huge puncher in 31-year-old Nakathila (21-1, 17 KO), who made not be in his league in the skills department, but he’s got a lot more power.

Nakathilia, 31, is an eight-year pro from Namibia with one loss on his record to Evgeny Chuprakov earlier in 2016. He lost a narrow 12 round split decision to the well-schooled Russian Chuprakov.

Since then, Nakathalia has won his last 10 fights, albeit against lower-level competition.  That’s the whole problem.

Nakathalia hasn’t faced world-class comp since his loss to Chuprakov, and that guy wasn’t anywhere near Stevenson’s level.

Against Stevenson, Nakathalia will have a puncher’s chance, but that’s about it. He doesn’t have the pedigree to win this fight, and we saw what happened to him five years ago when he stepped it up against a better fighter.

For this fight, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist Stevenson may need to avoid standing in front of Nakathila throwing his light single shots the way he typically does.

Stevenson will need to focus more on his defense if he wants to get out of the match in one piece without getting clipped.

The former WBO featherweight champion Stevenson (15-0, 8 KOs) needs the WBO interim belt to put himself in a position to challenge WBO 130-lb champ Jamel Herring, for his belt.

Stevenson has picked up two wins over Toka Kahn Clary and Felix Caraballo since vacating his WBO 126-lb title and moving up to 130 last year in June. He still hasn’t gotten his feet wet in the division.

It’s surprisingly taken Stevenson this long to try and work his way into title contention. Top Rank could have matched Shakur up against Herring right away, but it might be too soon if they’d forced that fight.  That’s if Herring doesn’t take on WBC champion Osar Valdez first in a unification match. That’s a fight that Herring and Valdez both want.

In the co-feature bout, former two-division world champion Jose ‘Sniper’ Pedraza (28-3, 13 KOs) will be taking on Julian Rodriguez (21-0, 14 KOs) in a scheduled 10 round fight. Pedraza vs. Rodriguez will likely steal the show from the main event between Stevenson and Nakathalia. It’s a much better fight on paper.

“When I lost in that Olympics, it kind of turned me into an animal,” Stevenson said. “From that point on, I knew I was going to never feel that feeling again.

“I think that it’s very early for me still. I want the world to know that I was one of the best boxers ever to do it, so I gotta keep training, keep getting better.”

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