Shakur Stevenson proves to be too difficult a task for Jeremiah Nakathila to solve in ESPN main event at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas
Former two-division champion Jose Pedraza’s experience too much for Julian Rodriguez to overcome in the co-feature; Rodriguez retires before ninth round due to eye injury
LAS VEGAS (June 12, 2021) — Undefeated former 126-pound champion Shakur Stevenson simply made his 12-round main event fight against little known Jeremiah Nakathila academic.
Stevenson’s mastery of the sweet science’s golden rule to ‘hit and not get hit’ became evident shortly into the bout that aired live on ESPN from the theater inside Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. Nakathila’s 2-inch height advantage and 4½-inch reach advantage never factored into the fight’s outcome.
Stevenson (16-0, 8 KOs) rode his quickness, distance management and threat to counter punch to a clean sweep of all 12 rounds – plus a knockdown in the fourth round. The victory expectedly clears the way for the enforcement of the 23-year-old’s mandatory claim to a shot at Jamel Herring’s WBO title. In the short-term, the performance did little to raise the Olympic silver medalist’s profile to that of some of his young peers like Gervonta Davis and Teofimo Lopez. However, returning to championship is objective No. 1, and imperative to start lining up potential bouts against any of boxing’s next wave.
Nakathila dropped to dropped to 21-2, and ran into the same issue of being unable to regularly land any punches on one of boxing’s highly talented youngsters. His inability to close the distance and dole out any punishment was confirmed by three scorecards of 120-107 for a unanimous decision in Stevenson’s favor.
The opening round featured a lot of measuring, and the two fighters sorting out the two lead feet. With sparse punches landed in the frame, the southpaw Stevenson landed the best punch with a left hook.
Nakathila flashed his left jab increasingly in Round 2, but it was thrown with little conviction. The offense failed to pick up again, but Stevenson scored the better punches in the limited sample. Nakathila got off-balance after a right hook from Stevenson, but referee Celestino Ruiz waved off a knockdown. He ruled it a slip.
Stevenson showed his approval of another sweeping left hand early in Round 3. Nakathila finally closed the distance and got to Stevenson around the final minute of the round. The two fighters were shoulder to shoulder briefly without any significant punches being landed.
At almost 30 seconds into Round 4 Stevenson poked through Nakathila’s guard with another head-snapping punch. The former Super Featherweight champion scored a knockdown with a well-timed check right hook right at the 10-second warning. Nakathila beat the count and the action moved to the next round.
The 23-year-old Newark, New Jersey native increased the class advantage in the ensuing round – Stevenson was credited with landing a fight-high 14 punches. The 31-year-old Namibian continued to follow the lead of Stevenson. Whether the issue was skills, know-how or ability Nakathila managed to put very little together.
The script changed very little in Round 6. Nakathila tried to turn the affair into a fight at the end of the round. Stevenson adjusted to the wild outburst.
The action returned to the script as the second half of the bout rolled along. Stevenson picked apart his opponent with single punches. Nakathila continued measuring with his lead hand, while rarely liking any openings.
Stevenson had a small mouse underneath his right eye. Nakathila inched forward the final minute, after the Olympic silver medalist pressured him the first half.
The ninth round featured more back-and-forth. Amid the pick-up in action Ruiz continued to insert himself in the fight, halting the bout to sternly warn both fighters of an impending point-deduction for stepping the other’s foot.
Nakathila landed a glancing right hand near the end of the 10th round’s first minute. Stevenson seemed content to land single punches and punish Nakathila for his mistakes intermittently.
Nakathila landed another right hand early in the 11th round. Stevenson ran out of real estate briefly. They reset in the center of the ring shortly afterwards. A smattering of boos picked up as the action failed to truly build into any kind of frenzy with time running out in the fight. The bout coincided with crowd capacity returning to 100 percent since the country started re-opening.
The final championship round featured the familiar action. Nakathila threw several punches that missed the target widely. Stevenson remained alert, seemingly willing to accept an expected 12-0 sweep on the scorecards.
Jose Pedraza vs Julian Rodriguez
The ESPN opener, or co-feature bout, for Shakur Stevenson vs Jeremiah Nakathila lost some of its luster when undefeated Julian Rodriguez failed to make the 140-pound max weight for his bout versus former two-division champion Jose Pedraza.
With the recently crowned undisputed champion Josh Taylor firmly in control of all of the Junior Welterweight titles, the best option for Rodriguez’ world championship aspirations was to get a defeat against an opponent who previously held titles at Junior Lightweight and Lightweight.
Pedraza spent the first half of the fight proving that he wasn’t exactly comfortable settling into journeymen status. The former champion pulled away in the scoring behind his right jab. Rodriguez battled through swelling under both of his eyes from early on, and struggled to solve the veteran’s combination of ring IQ and volume.
Before the start of the ninth round Rodriguez succumbed to vision issues with his left eye, and the corner advised referee Kenny Bayless their fighter could not continue. Pedraza celebrated moving to 29-3 with his 14th knockout. Rodriguez falls back into the crowded field of young talent at 140 pounds after suffering his first defeat in 22 fights. But, failing to make weight, being easily outclassed and opting to retire during the break in between rounds will certainly take some effort to restore his good standing.
All photos by Mikey Williams/Top Rank