Top bantamweight contender and former titleholder Luis Nery is set to make his return on July 20 as part of the Pacquiao-Thurman PPV undercard from Las Vegas, Mike Coppinger reports, with two other former titleholders in the mix to be his opponent.
Nery (29-0, 23 KO) made his debut with Premier Boxing Champions on March 16, demolishing McJoe Arroyo and stopping him after four rounds. The 24-year-old Nery, a native of Tijuana, went to Japan in Aug. 2017 and stopped long-reigning WBC bantamweight titleholder Shinsuke Yamanaka in four rounds. After the fight, it was reported that Nery had tested positive for a banned substance, with the WBC eventually buying that the positive was due to contaminated food, and leaving him as their bantamweight champion.
Nery went back to Japan about seven months after the first fight for a rematch with Yamanaka, but missed weight and lost the belt on the scales. The fight went on, though, and Nery stopped Yamanaka in two. Yamanaka hasn’t fought since.
Since the rematch with Yamanaka, Nery has won three fights, all by stoppage.
Nery might face Rau’shee Warren or Juan Carlos Payano, both of whom would be good opponents. For what it’s worth, the most recent BLH rankings have Nery at No. 2 in the division, with Payano at No. 10 and if I went to 11, Warren would be 11. Warren and Payano, who split a pair of fights in 2015 and 2016, are still very close for me.
Warren, 32, was a three-time U.S. Olympian, going to the Olympics in 2004, 2008, and 2012. He lost in the first round each time, losing to Zou Shiming in 2004, Lee Ok-Sung in 2008, and Nordine Oubaali in 2012. He rematched Oubaali in January on the Pacquiao-Broner card, losing a decision, giving Oubaali the WBC bantamweight title.
Warren (16-3, 4 KO) would probably be the more marketable option here, given he’s American, but at some point the difference in marketability is so small that it probably doesn’t really matter at all, especially on a show that is being sold entirely on its main event.
So Payano (21-2, 9 KO) is really just as good an option. The 35-year-old Dominican was blown out in 70 seconds by Naoya Inoue last October in the first round of the World Boxing Super Series, but bounced back nicely in March, dominating previously-unbeaten prospect Damien Vazquez over eight rounds.
Both Warren and Payano would obviously be clear underdogs against Nery, but that would be the case for anyone else at 118 other than Naoya Inoue, and he’s busy.
Right now, the Pacquiao-Thurman PPV show is looking pretty decent overall. No huge marquee fights, obviously, but some decent matchmaking. Along with the Nery-TBA matchup, there will be a pair of welterweight fights, Sergey Lipinets vs John Molina Jr and Yordenis Ugas vs Omar Figueroa Jr. Lipinets-Molina figures to be good action, and Lipinets and Ugas are both top 10 sort of guys at 147 right now, while Figueroa certainly could be with a win over Ugas.