Shakur Stevenson had far too much skill in his locker for Jeremiah Nakathila, dropping the Namibian outsider in the fourth before cruising to a landslide points victory to earn the WBO Interim super-featherweight title at the Virgin Hotels resort in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
All three judges scored 120-107 for the unbeaten New Jersey southpaw.
Afterwards, Stevenson (16-0, 8 KOs) was critical of his own performance, but the win paves the way for a likely bout with fellow American and reigning WBO champion Jamel Herring later this year. However, Stevenson has expressed a preference to face WBC title holder Oscar Valdez, all three fighters are promoted by Top Rank.
“To be honest, I didn’t really like my performance,” admitted Stevenson. “I felt I could’ve performed a lot better, but it was an awkward fighter. You had an awkward fighter throwing hard punches, and he knows how to grab and get away. He was a real awkward fighter. That’s all.
“I tried to [stop him] a little bit, but I started getting hit with some solid shots. I ain’t really like it, but next time I’m going to work on moving my head a little bit more and step it up a little more.
“If I had the choice, I’d take Oscar Valdez, but if I had to beat up Jamel [Herring] to get to it, I’ll do that, too.”
Truth be told, it was an underwhelming display by the skilful Stevenson who believes he is the sport’s next superstar. His talent is undeniable, but a lack of pop in his punches may not prove a magnet to more casual fans. There was a distinct absence of drama, but Stevenson won on auto-pilot to earn that all important ‘W’.
Stevenson appeared to have earned a knockdown in the second via a right uppercut but referee Celestino Ruiz incorrectly ruled a slip. Two rounds later, a right hook floored Nakathila (21-2, 17 KOs) and the knockdown was counted.
The New Jersey southpaw continued to dominate, but wasn’t able to crack the resistance of the Namibian in the remaining rounds. The bout was hindered as a spectacle by referee Ruiz’s frequent interventions in an unsightly affair.
Nakathila was down again from a right hook in the final round, but referee Ruiz ruled it a slip. Stevenson moves on to better opponents and, hopefully, better performances.
In the chief support, two-weight world champion Jose Pedraza (29-3, 14 KOs) knew too much for previously unbeaten Julian Rodriguez (21-1, 14 KOs), earning an eighth-round retirement victory after the younger man could no longer see out of an injured left eye.
At the time of the stoppage, Pedraza had forged a 77-75 lead on all three judges’ cards. Puerto Rican southpaw Pedraza had peppered New Jersey’s Rodriguez with a seamless jab and hurtful hooks, reddening the American’s features and knocking the stuffing right out of him. It was a harsh lesson for the 26-year old, but propels Pedraza back into the world title picture.
“My experience was too much for him. 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,” said Pedraza, 32.
“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.”
Main images: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.