Allan Cerf takes a look at the Teofimo Lopez - Masayoshi Nakatani fight
Particulars: Saturday, July 13, 2019, from MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland and ESPN +, it’s Teofimo “El Brooklyn” Lopez vs. Japan’s Masayoshi Nakatani. Lightweights.
Background: Teofimo Lopez is wrecking fools like Mike Tyson in 1985. He’s bold, he’s brash, he’s super-skilled- he’s got the requisite big mouth and braggadocio. He has speed, concussive power; the works. A Golden Gloves winner, a tremendous achievement, Lopez was eliminated in the first round of the 2016 Olympics where, for political reasons, he fought for Honduras rather than the USA.
Lopez (13-0, 11 KOs) states he doesn’t respect Lomachenko. With withering Eastern European disinterest, Lomachenko mildly replied that Lopez was only using the Ukrainian’s name to market himself. Lomachenko added he’d face Lopez if and when the arc of Lopez’s career merits it. It’s a Sign O’ The Times that team Lopez wants to go right for the top. After all, Lomachenko fought for a title in his second fight, why shouldn’t they? (Obvious answer: As tremendous a prospect as Lopez is – he’s not the prospect Lomachenko was by some margin. Doesn’t mean he couldn’t eclipse Lomachenko over a career. He’s simply not that kind of prospect.)
For me, the thing that makes Lopez a bit of a throwback is his youth. Tyson was a year younger, but basically, the same age range. The fear of losing is so big nowadays - boxing’s talented youngsters being held back too long can really screw up our sport. While I don’t think Lopez has nearly enough fights to be challenging Lomachenko, credit him for wanting big success as a very young man. Also – he’s VADA enrolled which is a wonderful thing. Lopez wants success based on skills, not pills.
As a technician, interestingly, while certainly swift enough, Lopez’s bread and butter is the old 1-2. I’ve seldom seen him rattle off, fluid 6-10 punch combinations. His game is an interesting mix of stalk-counterpunch. He will corner opponents and initiate, then practically invite return fire. Sort of “see you and raise you, OUCH.” Also, noteworthy is his hopping. Anyone that’s seen Teo fight can’t help but remark at his thirst for combat. “Spastic energy,” they called it in the case of a young Shane Mosely. Lopez is literally I guess, “hopping mad,” springing into the air for no reason but love of combat. Lopez is also methodical though and seeks to get huge leverage on every blow. A flaw? As Paulie Malignaggi points out, boxing today requires so much. Having great technique and punches isn’t enough. You can’t just have a great jab, you must vary its speed, angle and timing. I wonder if a love of his pet punches might cause Lopez to someday get timed and dropped. (He was while sparring, a video that went viral in minutes) Even if Lopez is dropped, I think he’ll probably recover and win the fight. At least with his present level of opponent.
Nakatani, undefeated in 18 bouts, will be fighting for the first time outside Japan. This sentence in boxing is usually a scary one to type. He was last seen in the ring stopping one Hurricane Futa. Investigating Nakatani’s career returned limited results. The only examples I found of him in action is from fans which frankly, is problematic both for our website and my review. Technically, fan footage is necessarily amateurish and hard to judge. But here goes. Nakatani is completely static with some mastery of fundamentals, courage and an okay left hook. He fights so infrequently I wonder why he bothers? He seems to be enthusiastically supported in Asia, whatever his limitations. He’s a good three inches taller than Lopez, which honestly, will likely make him an easier target. He’s gone 12 rounds five times during his career.
Fighter’s Grades: (Speed, Power, Defense, Reach, Age, Stamina, Experience)
Teofimo Lopez: B+ B+ B+ B- A B+ B- (Average of all) B+ (3.3)
Masayoshi Nakatani: C C+ B B C+ B C+ (Average of all) C+ (2.6)
Reality Check: Japan has some of the best fighters or perhaps the best fighter in the world, presently. Nakatani is light years behind that quality. He is a sitting duck unless some kind of cruel lightning strikes Lopez.
Fight and Prediction. Lopez by KO in round three