Can Stevenson defeat Herring? Is Pedraza back in title contention? How about young Zayas?


LAS VEGAS — Shakur Stevenson said his shutout victory over Jeremiah Nakathila wasn’t good enough by his standards but that he is confident he has more than enough to beat WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring.

Moments after his win, Stevenson was asked about Herring, shown on the screen, and he didn’t hesitate: “Jamel can’t beat me.”

Herring should be next for Stevenson. Top Rank already has it written up for Stevenson-Herring in the late fall or early winter with Madison Square Garden as the preferred location, Top Rank’s Carl Moretti told ESPN.

It’s not the Oscar Valdez fight that Stevenson has called for, but he seems to finally be accepting that he will need to go through Herring to get to Valdez.

“[That fight] looks like a massacre. I’ve been in there with Jamel and he’s not as a good as I am,” Stevenson said. “Jamel goes in there in certain fights and he’s losing rounds. You have not yet to see me lose rounds in fights. I control fights. I feel like I’m the best defensive fighter in boxing. Jamel can’t beat me.”

Early odds in that fight should heavily favor Stevenson. He’s right. He has always made it look easy while Herring has had plenty bouts in which he’s struggled. My view is that Stevenson would win that bout by a comfortable unanimous decision.

But one thing to watch is that Herring’s longer length and experience in top-level fights could be a tough combination of tools than most of the fighters Stevenson has faced thus far haven’t possessed.

But if Stevenson is the future star of boxing that we think he is, he should handle Herring.

“If I got to box, I’m going to beat him. If I got to step to him, I’m going to beat him,” Stevenson said. “Jamel can’t fight. Jamel is a B level fighter. It’s a whole different category.”

Is Pedraza back? Does he deserve a shot at a 140-pound title?

Jose Pedraza’s TKO win over Julian Rodriguez taught us that he’s still a top contender at 140. He belongs in the conversation, but he probably needs another win or two before he gets a title shot.

Pedraza’s intelligence, jab and movement allowed him to shut Rodriguez’s eyes, but he’s often faltered when he faces proven top contenders. Let’s see him beat a Regis Prograis, Jose Ramirez or a rematch with Jose Zepeda before we put him against undisputed champion Josh Taylor.

But the “Sniper” deserves to be in the conversation. He proved that tonight.

How close is Xander Zayas to stardom, and perhaps even a title shot?

Xander Zayas is the real deal, and his highlight third-round TKO over Larry Fryers was just another example of that. But let’s slow the train a bit on title opportunities.

Top Rank is doing a good job developing Zayas, making sure that he’s staying active on ESPN+ platforms to build his persona and let him grow. I’d like them to continue this plan for the next year, and then allow him to take the next step after another five or six fights of this caliber.

Zayas doesn’t have super middleweight Edgar Berlanga’s knockout power, but he has just as much personality, and the skill that could help him become the next Puerto Rican star. Top Rank is already planning to have Berlanga and Zayas on next year’s a fight card at Madison Square Garden during the same weekend as the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York. It’s a great idea, as those two appear to be the next two top fighters to represent Puerto Rico and its proud history in boxing.

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