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Monday, September 23, 2013
Nicholas Walters joins Top Rank

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Featherweight titlist Nicholas Walters of Jamaica signed a multiyear promotional agreement with Top Rank over the weekend and will make his first defense on Nov. 9, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told ESPN.com on Monday.

"We found out he was [a free agent] and we jumped on him because, obviously, we are concentrating on that division," Arum said. "We have some major fights that can be made there and the more good fighters you can have in that weight class, the better the fights you can make.

"So now we have [titleholder Evgeny] Gradovich, the winner of the Orlando Salido-Orlando Cruz [vacant title] fight [on Oct. 12], Walters, Nonito Donaire, we just signed [two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl] Lomachenko and there's [junior featherweight champ] Guillermo Rigondeaux. So there are a lot of great fights we want to do in that division."

Arum said he's hoping to have Lomachenko fight either Walters or the Cruz-Salido winner "early next year."

Walters will make his first title defense on Top Rank's HBO card in Corpus Christi, Texas, which is headlined by junior lightweight titlist Roman "Rocky" Martinez defending against former featherweight titleholder Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia. However, Walters' bout will only be part of Top Rank's international telecast, not HBO's domestic broadcast, which is already a tripleheader as it also includes Donaire against Vic Darchinyan and the vacant junior middleweight title bout between Demetrius Andrade and Vanes Martirosyan.

American TV exposure or not, Walters is happy to have signed with a major promoter.

"It's a dream and a privilege come true for me to be with Top Rank, as they have made many great fighters with the likes of [Muhammad] Ali, [Sugar Ray] Leonard and [Oscar] De La Hoya, just to name a few," Walters said. "I hope that they will help me reach my different goals in the future."

Nicknamed "The Axe Man," Walters (22-0, 18 KOs) won a vacant 126-pound world title on Dec. 8, 2012, scoring a seventh-round knockout of Colombia's Daulis Prescott -- the brother of fringe junior welterweight contender Breidis Prescott -- before a hometown crowd in Kingston, Jamaica. Walters, 27, scored three knockdowns en route to the victory.

Walters, who turned pro in 2008, is largely untested, however. The fight against Prescott (26-1 with 19 knockouts at the time they met) his most notable so far.

"I know that Nicholas is a spirited and a disciplined fighter whose boxing style will please the boxing fans of America and he will be an exciting TV fighter, which will make both Top Rank and HBO happy," manager Jacques Deschamps said.

Before signing Walters, Arum said he watched some footage. He liked what he saw.

"He's a capable and strong son of a gun," Arum said. "He's heavy handed and he comes forward and makes a good fight. He's a good puncher and he'll make a pleasing fight and we can put him with any of these featherweights we have and HBO will buy it.

"I talked to Donaire, for example, and he'd love to fight him next year. The guys aren't going to duck him. So we needed to get him a fight before the end of the year, so we'll have him on the card in Corpus Christi and then look for a bigger fight for him next year."

Donaire, who lost his junior featherweight title to Rigondeaux in an April unification fight, is moving up to featherweight for a rematch with Darchinyan – whom he knocked out in a 2007 flyweight world title fight -- on Nov. 9.