Photos by Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
By normal standards, Nicholas Walters is not a big man. Even assuming he walks around at approximately 140 pounds, he is fully 50 pounds lighter than the average American male (and a good 12 pounds below the average in his native, and decidedly less obese, Jamaica).
But, like any professional prizefighter, Walters is not judged by normal standards. Relative to other denizens of the featherweight division – of which he was, when he woke up this morning, a world title holder – he is something of a freak of nature. His height is the same, and his reach six inches longer, than middleweight champion Miguel Cotto, for example. His lean but muscular frame looks as if it belongs to a man several weight classes higher than the one he occupies.
So when word began to circulate late Friday morning that the man from Montego Bay might be struggling to make weight for his title defense on Saturday against Colombia’s Miguel Marriaga, the reaction wasn’t one of total surprise. Even so, when he stepped on the scale at Friday’s weigh-in and measured 127.4 pounds, nearly a pound and half above the weight limit, it was enough to raise a few eyebrows. But whereas some fighters seem content to miss weight, pay a fine and move on, Walters looked as if he had given every possible ounce of sweat to get as low as he could, and had nothing to spare.
When he stepped on the same scale 90 minutes later, he had managed to lose only four-tenths of a pound; it was clear that anything else was beyond him, and as a result he will forfeit his title. His weight struggles do not auger well for the prospect of a clash with featherweight superstar Vasyl Lomachenko later in the year; more immediately, they shorten the odds of an upset on Saturday night.
Walters fronted up fully after missing weight the second time; he placed the blame on his own shoulders and apologized to his fans, but promised Saturday’s main event would be a war as planned. It might be more of one than he’d anticipated; Marriaga is no slouch, and while his victory over Walters as an amateur seven years ago does not mean much, the fact that his key punch is a vicious left hook, with which he’ll be depleting Walters’ presumably depleted body, quite possibly does.
There was no drama when it came to the co-feature, both Ivan Najera and touted prospect Felix Verdejo weighing in comfortably inside the lightweight limit. For Verdejo, heavily hyped as the next big Boricua boxing sensation, the combination of his HBO debut and a place in Sunday’s Puerto Rican Day Parade promises to be a massive coming-out party. As much as Najera threatens to spoil the festivities, the smart money is on Verdejo opening the show in style.
Ivan Najera 131.5 lbs
Felix Verdejo 133 lbs.
Miguel Marriaga 125.2 lbs.
Nicholas Walters 127.4 lbs. (Later re-weighed at 127 lbs.)
Walters loses his featherweight title. Marriaga can win the belt by defeating Walters; however, if Walters beats Marriaga, the title remains vacant.