His record indicated that he’d maybe have a “punchers’ chance” against Shakur Stevenson, the 23 year old New Jersey native who is maybe the best defender in all of boxing. You saw after two minutes or so on Saturday evening from the Virgin Hotel in Vegas and on ESPN that Jeremiah Nakathila would need to get lucky for his power to register on the chin of the Top Rank pugilist-specialist.
Despite that, Shakur stayed extremely risk averse for the duration of the contest, and most of the time would throw one and be done. After he said he didn’t love his performance, called the foe awkward and said that’s why he didn’t open up more.
The judges called it 120-107, times three, and there were other unofficial judges who weren’t as impressed.
Tim Bradley took Shakur to task after, saying that he actually had trouble staying awake during the fight. Props to Tim for not pulling punches, it needed to be said, explicitly, because this pattern is persistent, and it’s frustrating because Stevenson is capable of so much more. Bradley said he had trouble staying awake in the last round and after Shakur spoke to Bernardo Osuna after getting his hand raised.
It looks like Shakur will step in with Jamel Herring next, who talked to Osuna after. “At the end of the day a win’s a win,” the polite pugilist stated. Yes, he thought Shakur could have stopped the loser, but that he didn’t take offense that Shakur thinks he’s be easy work.
Nakathila, from Namibia, entered at 21-1, with 17 KOs, and rated No. 2 by the WBO at junior lightweight. He looked happy to be there and loose all week and before the fight started. Stevenson, now living in Texas, entered at 15-0, and he walked to the ring with pal Terence Crawford.
The lefty Shakur assessed Naka in the first, and took time seeing what he had to contend with. Then he ripped a left hand that may have convinced Naka that his fightweek talk about how he’d be savaging Shakur wasn’t likely to play out. The underdog landed maybe two punches in the first, at most, and then missed his stool as he went back after the first.
In the second, Nakathila’s glove hit the canvas, but it was called a slip. A clean punch caused the fall, but ref thought they tangled feet or legs. The underdog didn’t look wickedly out of his depth, but neither did he look to be a threat to pull the upset. In the third, Shakur kept on mostly throwing one at a time. Nakathila jabbed more than before, and went at Shakur more insistenty, but he didn’t win the round.
In the fourth, it was more of the same, not a fan friendly start. Stevenson landed 19 punches after three rounds. A right hook, timed expertly, sent Nakathila to the mat at the very end of the round. The 2016 Olympian waited….waited…waited more, and then pulled the trigger, as Nakathila tried to squeeze off a round. Apparently, Nakathila had not been to the mat before.
In round five, we saw Shakur choose to put two and three together more often. Shakur threw one at a time to start the sixth, but he was loading up just a bit more. And Nakathila loaded up too, with a right hand that he wanted to land and detonate in the last minute. Nope, the defensive mastery of Stevenson stayed in place. In round seven, Shakur kept his laser focus, stayed settled and watched for that right opening before letting it rip.
In the eighth, we heard Bud Crawford say that Shakur was doing really well. “I’d like to see him let his hands go a little bit more,” Bud said, but he was still impressed with the kid. Nakathila swung wildly and Shakur stayed smart and won another round.
In round nine, same stuff, different round. To the tenth–same. Shakur would wing one power shot, then back off. Then do the same again. His aversion to risk was at the same level after seeing ten rounds of Nakathila, which wasn’t making the watchers who wanted more a bit frustrating. Mark Kriegel messaged Joe Tessitore during the round and said that unless Shakur open it up, he risks being called a boring fighter. He’s right. Shakur doesn’t have to care, Ward said he didn’t care when people threw that at him, but if he wants to get to the superstar level, he needs to change his mode.
Tim Bradley to start the 11th said it’s true, this sort of outing isn’t fan friendly, and it won’t do anything to build the rep. In the 12th, Shakur waited, watched, threw one and then was done. He didn’t decide to try and close the show and send ’em hope happy.
Ward in the post-fight said that Shakur would learn from this. Hoping so; Shakur threw a paltry 304 punches and his foe went 28-305, proving that his bark was way more fearful than his bite.
It was a severely forgettable fight, and that’s now three of his last four fights that Stevenson has gone the distance with boxers who he is much more talented than. Against Joet Gonzalez, Toka Kahn Clary and now Nakathila, too many of the rounds looked like a carbon copy of the last.
Jose Pedraza (29-3) got a stoppage win over Julian Rodriguez in the semifinal, a junior welter scrap. After the eighth round, Rodriguez told his corner that he couldn’t see well out of his left eye, so the plug got pulled.
Rodriguez, 21-0 entering, started fast, but the 32 year old Puerto Rican boxer, who’s been in plenty of big stage bouts, didn’t get even slightly ruffled. He started to get his jab untracked, mixed in body work, and looked like he knew how it would play out.
“My experience was too much for him,” Pedraza said after. “I was hungrier than him, and he was just another obstacle in my journey to become a three-division world champion. That is my goal. I want all the big names at 140 pounds. With this performance, I sent a message to those big names. The ‘Sniper’ is on the hunt. I want to make history for Puerto Rico. As the fight went on, I could see him weakening, and I took advantage.”
The 26 year old Rodriguez was a pound over at the weigh in, and Pedraza said he’d make him pay for the temerity. The New Jersey boxer sounded ready to rock during a fight week chat, but it appears that he underestimated the skill set of the vet.