VERONA, N.Y. -- As he prepared to defend his featherweight world title in June, Nicholas Walters was in an enviable position.
Eight months earlier, Walters, an exciting puncher who goes by the nickname "Axe Man," made a name for himself by scoring a sensational sixth-round upset knockout of Nonito Donaire to seize his title. That victory got people talking and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum was looking to line him up for a title unification fight against Vasyl Lomachenko for the end of this year provided Walters could get past Miguel Marriaga, who had handed him an amateur loss.
Where: Turning Stone Casino Resort, Verona, New YorkWhen: SaturdayTV: HBO, 10:15 p.m. ET/PT
Walters did get past Marriaga, although by easily outboxing him for a unanimous decision win rather than it being the kind of action fight most expected from the big punchers. But although Walters kept his perfect record intact against Marriaga, the fight with Lomachenko had gone down the drain the day before because Walters was overweight and stripped of his 126-pound title.
Without the carrot of another title belt to win, Lomachenko and his team were not interested in the fight. So Walters will carry on without his title and without Lomachenko, having moved up to the 130-pound junior lightweight division to take on hard-punching Jason Sosa with a chance to make another big impression.
Sosa is also looking to make a name for himself when he and Walters meet in a scheduled 10-round fight on Saturday night (HBO, 10:15 ET/PT) on the undercard of Cuban defector Luis Ortiz (23-0, 20 KOs) making the first defense of his interim heavyweight belt against Philadelphia contender Bryant Jennings (19-1, 10 KOs) at the Turning Stone Resort Casino.
Walters (26-0, 21 KOs), 29, of Jamaica, said he took responsibility for being nearly a pound overweight for the fight with Marriaga and is not dwelling on what happened.
"We have moved on from last June, but it always plays in the back of your mind what we could have done -- or should have done -- to not lose the title on the scale," Walters told ESPN.com on Thursday. "But we have to get over that. We lost the title. That was in the past.
"Now we're fighting a good fighter, Jason Sosa. He's coming off 13 knockouts in his last 13 fights. It's a big fight. We have to think about what we have in front of us in Jason Sosa and take care of that business."
Walters harbors thoughts about returning to featherweight and still would like to fight Lomachenko. He says he believes he can still make that weight.
"We have to think if we are going to stay at 130 or go back to 126," Walters said. "I can go to 126. In the Marriaga fight I was 126.6. There were a few things that cost us the title, but we can make 126 if the price is right, if the opponent is right. But we would like to win the 130 title. All the great fighters win a title, move up and win another title. I'm no different, same thinking."
Walters, a standout amateur whose chances of making the Olympics were dashed by Marriaga at a qualifying tournament, is much more experienced against better professional opponents than Sosa (18-1-3, 14 KOs), 27, of Camden, New Jersey, who had only three amateur fights and went 1-2. But Sosa has looked strong in recent fights.
He has won 14 bouts in a row, including the 13 straight knockouts and has not lost since a first-round knockout in his fifth pro fight in 2010. When the fight with Walters was offered he jumped at the chance to fight him.
"We're here for one reason and that's to become world champion," Sosa told ESPN.com. "And in order to become a world champion you have to fight best and I believe he's one of the best. And I'm ready to show the world that I'm also one of the best. It's a big step but at the end of the day this is boxing. You got to fight. You can't expect to be a champion through loopholes.
"You look at my background, it's three amateur fights. I had to fight every like it's my last. I'm learning in the pros. He got the background with the amateurs but that's amateurs, this is the pros. He do got more experience, but boxing is boxing and it only takes one punch."
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Sosa has landed a lot of them to fashion his knockout streak and expects to find Walters with one as well.
"Somebody is getting knocked out and I don't think it's gonna be me," Sosa said. "Pretty sure it's not going to be me.
"I have been working extremely hard on speed and angles because we know that Walters is flat-footed and I want to make sure I have an advantage with movement on fight night. We know that Walters is a tough fighter with an impressive record. He has beat Donaire and [Vic] Darchinyan, which are both strong opponents. But we also believe that we are the bigger fighter being that this is his first fight at 130. He has never felt power like mine and I believe that will be my biggest advantage."
Sizing up the two fighters a few feet apart from each other Thursday, Walters appeared to be the physically bigger man. He said Sosa's supposed size advantage does not mean anything.
"I know most definitely his game plan. We think he wants to turn this into a fight," Walters said. "I'm supposed to be the smaller guy, but I'm not the smaller guy. Don't even think that I'm gonna run from this guy. I'm gonna fight my fight [and] give my people a good fight, a tough, strong fight. I'm looking for the knockout, most definitely I'm looking for the knockout. But let's see what happens on Saturday night.
"We have done our work and we are hoping to give the people a great Christmas gift of fireworks."