Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer
If the Jamaica Boxing Board of Control (JBBC) has its way, in celebration of Jamaica's 50th year of Independence, Nicholas Walters, Jamaica's world-rated featherweight boxer, could be fighting for a world title on home soil later this year.
It would be a commemoration of the first-ever post-Independence title fight held in Jamaica between Jamaican boxing legend's Bunny Grant and American Eddie Perkins. However, the JBBC needs to raise about $20 million in a short time if this proposed title fight is to become a reality.
Grant fought Perkins for the world junior welterweight boxing title at the National Stadium on April 18, 1964, but lost in a unanimous-points decision. In 1962, Grant held as many as four titles simultaneously: the Latin American junior welterweight title, the British Empire lightweight title (renamed the Commonwealth title) and the Jamaica lightweight and welterweight titles.
Almost 50 years later, Walters, the World Boxing Association (WBA) number-one ranked featherweight, with a record of 20 wins and no defeats, now stands to have his own piece of Jamaican boxing history as the WBA has given the JBBC the go-ahead and the backing to try and make the fight happen as early as October.
Should it come to pass, the title fight would feature Walters, 26, and 31-year-old Fernando David Saucedo from Argentina, who is ranked number five.
The WBA would sanction the card under their KO Drug Boxing banner. WBA featherweight Ogleidis Suárez and Ismael Barroso, both from Venezuela, and others would fill the undercard.
'A long shot'
However, there is a significant obstacle facing the board. According to board President Stephen Jones, they have about two to three weeks to raise the money and start planning the event. If they are unable, they need to notify the WBA, who would then offer another country the opportunity. In this instance, Venezuela would most likely benefit.
"It's a long shot, but we have to try and take it," he said. "When opportunities like this come, you have to take a shot at it."
In January, Jones said a proposal was sent to the WBA about the possibility of staging a world title fight involving Walters right here in Jamaica. On June 21, the WBA invited Jones to a meeting with WBA president, Gilberto Mendoza, in Panama to discuss that possibility.
During a three-hour meeting, Jones revealed that the WBA acknowledged that the sport needed a shot in the arm and that Jamaica could become the 'Vegas' of the Caribbean as it relates to hosting global title fights. The WBA also offered to assist in making the fight happen.
"The meeting went better than I could have hoped for," Jones said. "Because the WBA has recognised that Walters can not only win the title, but could keep it for years to come, which means many title defences. I was also impressed to see that of all the islands in the Caribbean, their first choice to become a hub for international boxing would be Jamaica. It was also testament to the fact that we're moving boxing in the right direction in Jamaica."
Should the board manage to raise the money to stage the event, they would have the opportunity to sell television rights to the event that could include two additional title fights with Walters fighting in the main bout.
"It is important because I believe this would help not only the sport, but a great opportunity to build sports tourism and makes it easier for Jamaican boxing to receive international acclaim," Jones said. "Also, local fighters would be fighting on the card, giving them much needed exposure."