Q&A: Nicholas Walters
Since signing with Top Rank a year ago, Nicholas Walters has been able to step out of the shadows in the talent-laden featherweight division.
Walters, who impressively stopped Alberto Garza and most recently former two-weight champ Vic Darchinyan, faces WBA featherweight titleholder Nonito Donaire on Saturday at StubHub Center in Carson, California. The fight is the co-featured bout to the Gennady Golovkin-Marco Anotnio Rubio middleweight showdown.
While some believe that Donaire has seen better days, Walters (24-0, 20 knockouts) isn’t so sure, pointing out that the four-division titleholder has moved up from 112 pounds to where he now campaigns at 126.
“I saw him fight twice at featherweight, I was impressed in both fights,” Walters told RingTV.com two weeks ago. “I know he’s a world-class opponent but at featherweight I don’t know if he’s a better fighter than he was at flyweight. So what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna make him prove himself. I’m gonna test him on the 18th.”
The “Ax Man” became the first Jamaican-born fighter to win a “world title” on home soil when he stopped Colombian Daulis Prescott in seven rounds in December 2012. [Editor’s note: Walters won the WBA’s regular title. THE RING magazine and RingTV.com recognize the sanctioning organization’s “super” titleholder, Donaire, as the sole WBA beltholder.]
It marked a special occasion for not just Walters but also the country in general.
“Of course, a number of Jamaican fighters had tried and failed,” said the 28-year-old boxer-puncher. “To create history on home soil, on the 50th anniversary of Independence in Jamaica, (was special).
“It was a big task to become a world champion but not only win the title but to win by knocking the guy out in the process, a very tough opponent, one of the better opponents that I have faced throughout my career. It was a great feeling, it was a great night for boxing in Jamaica.”
Anson Wainwright – What are your thoughts on fighting Donaire?
Nicholas Walters – Actually, I’m fully prepared for the fight. I’m 100 percent ready. I’m going to be very smart in the ring. I worked hard in the gym and that’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to make a good fight.
AW – When you assess Donaire’s abilities, what do you see as his strengths and areas you feel you can exploit?
NW – Nonito’s strong points are his punch power and speed. I don’t think he’s a very clever fighter. I think that he has speed and power but that was at a lower weight. Now he’s fighting real men, he’s fighting at a bigger weight. His speed doesn’t affect me, his power doesn’t affect me, so now he’s in with bigger guys. I’m always fighting at 126 (pounds). I’m the big fish at 126. He needs to show me more respect than I need to show him.
AW – The fight takes place as chief support to Golovkin-Rubio at the StubHub Center, Carson. California, live on HBO. This would appear to be a great opportunity for you to make a big impression on not only the featherweight division but also boxing in general?
NW – Yeah of course. This is my first time live on HBO, so I want to make a big impression. I want to make a good impression and win over some of the American based fans and fans all over the world. I’m definitely taking this fight very seriously. I’m going to go into this fight and approach it very intelligently. I’m hoping for a good fight.
AW – You’re coming off a highly impressive fifth-round knockout over Vic Darchinyan. Tell us about that fight?
NW – Well, Darchinyan is a very good world champion in two divisions. I think they underestimated me, just like Nonito. They think I’m not that quality of boxer, but you know what? They don’t know much about the “Ax Man.” I’m 24 fights, 24 wins, with 20 knockouts. They maybe think I’m a built up record. I’m a very good fighter, I know I’m a good fighter, I always believe I’m a very good fighter. It’s my time just now and I’m going to prove to the world I’m a very good fighter.
AW – Tell us about your training camp for this fight?
NW – As usual, my training camp is in Panama, working out in a public gym in El Rockero Alcazar Curundu. We’re working hard. We have quite a few sparring partners, ex-world champions like Liborio Solis and up-coming talents, some Venezuelan boxers, a Mexican sparring partner, Mario Macias, came over to help me in my training. I sparred with a number of guys. Remember, I’m in a public gym so I’ve worked with a number of the local talents here in Panama, just to see different styles. I think everything is going to work out for me in this fight.
This camp is a very good camp. My dad came in from Texas to join the training camp. We’ve been working out with my dad and some other coaches. We’re having an excellent time, we’re enjoying ourselves, and that’s the main thing, enjoy yourself and do the work.
AW – What was your youth like growing up in Jamaica and how did you become interested in boxing?
NW – (I had) a very good childhood. I grew up with my mother and father in the same home. I started boxing at a very tender age. I did typical youth stuff, hunting, football, cricket. Boxing was a main part of my sport, I’ve always done boxing. Life growing up in Jamaica was good.
I got into it at a tender age by my dad, Joe Walters. He was a good amateur fighter and then went on to be a professional but his career was cut short. He was a very good professional, aggressive and talented, and that’s why I got hooked to boxing, because of my dad and his boxing skills.
AW – You became interested in boxing because of your father because it’s not a popular sport in Jamaica?
NW – Boxing isn’t as popular in Jamaica as running, cricket or football but Jamaica does have their few moments in boxing, good world champions. Whenever Jamaica has a world champion they always have good world champions.
AW – The featherweight division is packed with talent. What are your thoughts on the division and the other champions?
NW – The featherweight division throughout the years has always been a top weight category. Speed and power, intelligence in this category, you always have great champions coming from featherweight. I respect all the champions. For you to be a world champion in any sport you have to be the best. We have some good world champions at featherweight and I’m glad to be a part of that. As I say, I respect all the champions. The only thing is I would like the opportunity to fight some of the other champions so I can definitely unify the titles and become a major superstar in boxing.
AW – Is the featherweight division the hottest weight class in boxing or can become?
NW – It can become the hottest division. We have very good talent at featherweight. It’s a hot category just now. I think I’m the best guy at featherweight, that’s my feeling. I guess all the other champions feel the same about themselves. The only time you can prove that is to fight and now I’m going to fight one of the top world champions at featherweight. I’m pretty confident going into the fight.
AW – You don’t have problems making 126, which means you’re in the correct division to make money if you keep doing well?
NW – Of course, that’s the main aim, to fight, look good fighting and make money fighting. I love fighting, I’ve always been fighting. I don’t only want to fight but want to make money fighting.
AW – Tell us about your life away from boxing?
NW – I have a family, my mum, my dad, my two brothers, my sister. My family is back in Jamaica. I’m starting my family in Panama, my girlfriend is pregnant and I have a young son, three years old, that’s my first son.
My hobbies are listening to music, going to the movies, going to Jamaican parties, playing dominoes, cock fights, rooster fighting. I’m a lover of sport. I like watching all sports. Fishing, hunting, I’m a competitive guy. I like entertainment. I’m a typical guy apart from boxing.
AW – In closing do you have a message for Donaire?
NW – I would tell him, the day he signed the contract, he’s in big trouble. I’m working hard. I hope he’s working hard because it’s going to be a hell of a fight come the 18th.
[Wainwright wishes to make a special thanks to H├®ctor Villarreal who helped make this interview possible.]