Nicholas Walters failed to make weight Friday afternoon and was stripped of his featherweight world title ahead of his fight against Miguel Marriaga on Saturday night at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Walters was initially 127.4 pounds, 1.4 over the 126-pound division limit. Under New York State Athletic Commission rules he had two hours to shed the extra weight but when he returned to the scale nearly two hours later he was still 127 pounds and he was stripped of the belt, although the bout will still go on as scheduled in the main event of an HBO broadcast (10 p.m. ET/PT).
Marriaga (20-0, 18 KOs), 28, of Colombia, who beat Walters in an amateur fight at a 2008 Olympic qualifying tournament, was 125.2 pounds and he is eligible to win the vacant title.
Walters agreed to pay Marriaga an undisclosed amount of money from his purse to go through with the fight, according to promoter Top Rank. There was no additional fine imposed by the New York commission.
"I'm coming off an eight-month layoff. I tried everything," said Walters, who made a big impression in that last fight in October when he knocked out 2012 fighter of the year Nonito Donaire in the sixth round for an upset in their world title bout.
Carl Moretti, vice president of Top Rank, Walters' promoter, said he was a bit surprised he did not make weight.
"He worked out as hard as he could but the last couple of pounds are always hard for him to get off and he tried to, but physically he felt he would have nothing left if he kept working to get that last pound off," Moretti said. "I'm a little surprised. I saw him struggle to make weight for the Donaire fight and also for his previous fight, so I always knew 130 was around the corner. I just didn't think it would be around the corner for this fight. He's definitely going to 130 pounds after this."
Moretti said just because Walters (25-0, 21 KOs), 29, of Jamaica, is moving up in weight it would not preclude a much-anticipated fight with featherweight titleholder Vasyl Lomachenko (4-1, 2 KOs), the brilliant two-time Ukrainian Olympic gold medalist, whom Top Rank plans to match with him if he wins on Saturday night. It would not, however, be to unify titles.
"We'd still like to do the fight," Moretti said. "Let's see what happens Saturday. If we make that fight, they can fight over 126."
Puerto Rican lightweight sensation Felix Verdejo (17-0, 13 KOs), 22, the 2014 ESPN.com prospect of the year, and San Antonio prospect Ivan "Bam Bam" Najera (16-0, 8 KOs), also 22, both made weight for their scheduled 10-round bout, which was contract at maximum weight of 133 pounds. Verdejo weighed 133 pounds and Najera was 131.4 pounds.