What next for Walters?
John A. MacDonald
In the aftermath of the anti-climactic ‘Fight for Eternity’ between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao HBO has provided a much-needed tonic by showcasing some of boxing’s premier punchers.
In subsequent broadcasts; Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin and Roman Gonzalez have all showcased their heavy hands on the network. While the trio all won and impressed to varying degrees, most importantly they brought excitement – producing the kind of power-punching displays that get people talking.
Saturday night presented Nicholas Walters, 26-0 (21 KOs), with his moment in the spotlight. The 29-year-old Jamaican rose to prominence last year with stoppage victories over Vic Darchinyan and Nonito Donaire, the latter earning him the WBA 'Super' world featherweight title. Whilst those performances were impressive, they posed more questions than answers. The ageing pair of Darchinyan and Donaire were excellent names for the Jamaican’s record but both men had ascended through the weights from 112lbs – where each won their first world title.
How would Walters fair when those physical advantages were taken away from him? Old amateur foe Miguel Marriaga was supposed to provide the answers. Whilst not as recognisable as the men ‘The Axeman’ defeated in 2014, the Colombian represented what many felt would be Walters toughest test to date.
Bringing a 20-0 (18 KOs) slate and a standing as a natural featherweight, Marriaga also held the knowledge that he was the last man to defeat Walters. At the 2008 Americas Olympic Qualifier, five-time Colombian national champion Marriaga outpointed his opponent 14-9 although Walters claimed to have little recollection of the encounter.
“I don’t remember the fight and I don’t remember the guy,” Walters said ahead of the contest.
So the stage was set for Walters; gain revenge over an old foe from the amateur ranks, excel in doing so and secure a Fall unification with Top Rank stable-mate and WBO champion Vasyl Lomachenko. Simple.
Unfortunately for Top Rank, the narrative crumbled on Friday afternoon as Walters weighed in at 127.4lbs – 1.4lbs above the division limit. The Jamaican returned to the scales 90 minutes later but was only 0.4 of a pound lighter. That troublesome pound cost Walters his title and $40,000 of his purse. $40,000 for a pound, I like that exchange rate – as I suppose Marriaga did, too.
On Saturday at the Madison Square Garden Theater, the weight discrepancy was considerably greater than a solitary pound. Walters, a freak of genetics, stands at 5ft 7ins with a 73ins reach (6 inches longer than that of lineal middleweight champion Miguel Cotto). With broad, muscular shoulders allied with his height – it’s a mystery as to how Walters ever made 126lbs in the first place.
With his title lost on the scales, a potential unification with Lomachenko had apparently passed Walters by, but there was still the opportunity to cement his status as one of the most exciting fighters in the sport. Sadly, the fireworks never came. Perhaps wary of each other’s punch power, the early stages of the contest were overly tactical and cagey.
The contest threatened to come to life in the fourth as Marriaga backed Walters to the ropes with an overhand right which resulted in some lively exchanges. This wasn’t enough to please the predominantly Puerto Rican support (in attendance to watch their countryman Felix Verdejo) who had little interest in watching an engaging chess-match between a Panama-based Jamaican and a Colombian. They made their discontent known immediately through loud boos before haemorrhaging from the venue as the bout wore on.
In the second half, Walters’ physical size and greater repertoire slowly wore down his opponent who was offering less and less resistance with each passing round. A right hand which appeared to land around the shoulder of Marriaga sent him to the canvas in the ninth for a flash knockdown – providing the highlight of the fight as Walters cruised to a dominant, if uneventful, decision with wide scores of 118-109, 119-108 and 117-110.
Two knockout artists with history had appeared the perfect recipe for a fire-fight. It may not have delivered but Walters showed there is more variety to his game than many give him credit for; a rapier-like jab, good body work, fast reflexes – even if he is still susceptible to an overhand right.
What does the future hold for Walters? Even without a title on the line, a fight with Lomachenko remains likely – assuming the Jamaican’s body can withstand the rigours of making 126lbs, or a near catchweight, one last time.
If an immediate move to super-featherweight is on the cards, expect Walters to take on the winner of the mooted rematch between hardened warriors Roman Martinez and Orlando Salido for the WBO 130lbs crown. Both are rarely in a bad fight and, mixed with Walters’ power, expect fireworks. A sure thing can’t fail twice…right?