Walters fights for fans, Marriaga for title, HBO Saturday 10 p.m.

Nicholas “Axeman” Walter fails to make weight, but he won’t fail to entertain fans on Saturday in New York.

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Nicholas Walters gave up his lightweight belt when he failed to make weight, but the show with Miguel Marriaga will go on Saturday. Photo: Top Rank
Nicholas Walters gave up his featherweight belt when he failed to make weight, but the show with Miguel Marriaga will go on Saturday. Photo: Top Rank

SAN DIEGO, June 12, 2015 – The scale dropped the axe on Jamaican Nicholas “Axe Man” Walters at his weigh-in Friday in New York. Walters (25-0, 21 KOs) failed to make the featherweight limit of 126 pounds. He weighed 127.4 pounds, and couldn’t drop below 127 pounds. “I’m coming off an eight-month layoff. I tried everything,” Walters said to Top Rank’s Crystina Poncher after the weigh-in.

Walters was stripped of his WBA title, but the bout with challenger Miguel Marriaga of Colombia (20-0, 18 KOs) continues as planned at Madison Square Garden in New York Saturday. The bout airs on HBO at 10 p.m. ET. Marriaga can take the belt if he defeats Walters; Walters cannot win it back.

Nicholas Walters won't be fighting for a title, but he'll be fighting to please fans and stay undefeated Saturday in New York. Photo: Will Hart, HBO
Nicholas Walters won’t be fighting for a title, but he’ll be fighting to please fans and stay undefeated Saturday in New York. Photo: Will Hart, HBO

Walters is on the tall side for a natural featherweight at 5-7; he looked much taller against former champion Nonito Donaire last October, whom Walter crushed in six hard rounds. Marriaga is also 5-7, and the pair were within a pound Friday. This should not present the same kind of mismatch fans saw last week between Miguel Cotto and the much larger Daniel Geale.

Whether Walters has simply outgrown the division but is sticking around due to the wealth of lightweight talent and big fights to be made, or couldn’t make the weight due to his long layoff, it’s hard to say. Even without the title on the line, Saturday’s bout featuring the charismatic Walters in the main event for the first time is sure to be fan pleasing.

Miguel Marriaga of Colombia hopes to pull off the upset and remain undefeated Saturday. Photo: Will Hart, HBO
Miguel Marriaga of Colombia hopes to pull off the upset and remain undefeated Saturday. Photo: Will Hart, HBO

Marriaga is an unknown to most American fans. South American boxers can be tough customers, but they suffer from a lack of top level competition. One recent example is Ecuador’s Erick Bone, who took a fight on just a few days’ notice against Shawn Porter and put on a competitive, spirited effort despite the loss.

Spicing up the matchup Saturday, Marriaga and Walters fought against each other as amateurs. Marriaga won the first time. Walters is heavily favored this time, saying that Marriaga may bring his A-game, but the Jamaican will bring his “A-plus game.”

Jamaican native Nicholas "AxeMan" Walters is a showman in the same vein as countryman Usain Bolt. Photo: HBO
Jamaican native Nicholas “AxeMan” Walters is a showman in the same vein as countryman Usain Bolt. Photo: HBO

Walters is a crowd-pleasing puncher and a showman in all the right ways. He has lived in trained in Panama since he was a teenager, and his Spanish is pitch perfect. He even won over the Filipino fans watching Walters beat Donaire. The question is why Walters didn’t ride the momentum of his win on the Gennady Golovkin/Marco Antonio Rubio undercard and get back in the ring sooner.

Top Rank Promotions has high hopes for Walters winning big Saturday and setting himself up for a bout with the sensational two time Olympic gold medalist and titleholder Vasyl Lomanchenko. After Walters failed to make weight, Bob Arum of Top Rank said in interviews he still hoped to make a Walters vs. Lomachenko bout next, perhaps at a catchweight. Oy vey, another catchweight.

Felix Verdejo (left) and Ivan Najera at the weigh-in Friday in New York. Photo: Will Hart, HBO
Felix Verdejo (left) and Ivan Najera at the weigh-in Friday in New York. Photo: Will Hart, HBO

On the undercard, HBO offers another showcase style fight between Puerto Rican lightweight Felix Verdejo (17-0, 13 KOs) and Ivan Najera (16-0, 8 KOs) of San Antonio, Texas. Verdejo is making his third appearance in New York in this 10 round bout. Verdejo is part of the rising tide of talent in the smaller weight divisions, and he’s waging a charm offensive including trying out his improving English skills. Top Rank has high hopes for Verdejo becoming the next big Boricua star along the lines of Miguel Cotto and Felix Trinidad.

Lightweight Felix Verdejo hopes to put his name alongside another famous Felix from Puerto Rico, Felix Trinidad. Photo: Will Hart, HBO
Lightweight Felix Verdejo hopes to put his name alongside another famous Felix from Puerto Rico, Felix Trinidad. Photo: Will Hart, HBO

Fans better be in their seats at the start of the bout; Verdejo’s last two NYC fights lasted just one round and he’s only gone beyond six rounds once. Verdejo will cap off what he hopes is a big weekend with an appearance in the annual Puerto Rican Day parade up Fifth Avenue on Sunday.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +

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