Shakur Stevenson could get closer to a title opportunity at junior lightweight if he defeats Jeremiah Nakathila for the WBO interim belt on Saturday (ESPN and ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET, with undercard at 6:30 on ESPN+).
Stevenson (15-0, 8 KOs), 23, of Newark, New Jersey, won the vacant WBO featherweight belt in 2019 before moving up in weight looking for better challenges. A win against Nakathila could earn Stevenson a shot at titleholders Jamel Herring and/or Oscar Valdez in his next fight, but Stevenson doesn’t want to look past the task at hand.
“I just feel like, when I’m at my best, it doesn’t matter who the opponent is,” Stevenson said at a news conference on Thursday. “It’s been like that my whole career, since I’ve been an amateur. You don’t know who you’re going to fight in the amateurs. You come up and you just gotta fight people.
“At the end of the day, I listen [to the hype], but you can’t get too hot. You still gotta complete the task. I try to stay in between. I don’t try to listen to everything I hear and go off that. I try to make sure I do what I’m supposed to do.”
Nakathila (21-1, 17 KOs), 31, of Namibia, has won 10 consecutive fights — all by stoppage — since suffering the only loss of his career in 2016. This is Nakathila’s first fight in the U.S. and only the third outside of his country, but he warned everybody to not look past him.
“Whoever underestimates me will be surprised come Saturday night,” Nakathila said. “All I know is I can knock anybody out in this 130-pound division. I can destroy anybody at 130 pounds. Come Saturday night, Shakur will see how I’m going to destroy him.”
In the co-main event, Jose Pedraza faces Julian Rodriguez in a junior welterweight battle. Pedraza (28-3, 13 KOs), 32, of Caguas, Puerto Rico, is a former junior lightweight and lightweight champion. His only losses came against Gervonta Davis, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Jose Zepeda. Rodriguez (21-0, 14 KOs), 26, of Hoboken, New Jersey, is taking a big step up in competition against Pedraza.
Also on the card, welterweight blue-chip prospect Xander Zayas (8-0, 6 KOs), 18 of San Juan, Puerto Rico, faces Ireland’s Larry Fryers (11-3, 4 KOs), 30, in a six-round battle.
Stay here for live undercard results and analysis.
Fight in progress: Jahi Tucker vs. Ysrael Barboza, 4 rounds, welterweights
Still to come:
Title fight: Shakur Stevenson vs. Jeremiah Nakathila, 12 rounds, for the vacant WBO interim junior lightweight title
Jose Pedraza vs. Julian Rodriguez, 10 rounds, junior welterweights
Tyler McCreary vs. Manuel Rey Rojas, eight rounds, junior lightweights
John Bauza vs. Christon Edwards, eight rounds, junior welterweights
Xander Zayas vs. Larry Fryers, six rounds, welterweights
Bryan Lua vs. Frevian Gonzalez, six rounds, junior lightweights
Troy Isley vs. LaQuan Evans, four rounds, middleweights
Kasir Goldston vs. Maurice Anthony, four rounds, welterweights