What if Lomachenko, cured from his bursitis, comes out smoking and destroys Nakatani? Well - you know, what… The drums will begin beating for an ‘immediate’ replay of Teo-Loma.
Particulars: On June 26, 2021, from Virgin Hotels Las Vegas ESPN + and Sky Sports (UK) It’s Vasiliy Hi-Tech Lomachenko vs. Masayoshi Nakatani, Lightweights.
Background: What a difference a year can make. Vasiliy Lomachenko’s mantra was “give me only the best fights immediately.” It was admirable and for a time he was the hottest fighter and probably, the best in the world. And he kicked some serious butt and took some serious scalps. From when he came on the scene, through 2019, he looked invincible. Then 2020 rolled around and mortality surfaced.
Between say, 2013- 2017, Loma’s skills were at their peak– causing the world’s best lighter weight fighters to – man, after man, resign on their stools. Storied champions would quit – an absolute no-no, rather than continue the humiliation, round after round. Loma was the world’s most exciting fighter just as his countryman, Monatik, had the world’s most exciting pop songs. It was a great advertisement for the talent pool in Ukraine.
Lomachenko at 29 was a different proposition than the 32-year-old that caught young gun Lopez. His surprising – if not shocking defeat to Teo– after strange pre-fight statements hinting he was on a slight downward slope, means that this by no means young fighter knows the clock is ticking. Was he hurt coming into the Lopez fight? Yes, sure. Was Lopez also hurt coming, in? Yes, he was.
So what about Loma’s opponent? For one, he lost to Teofimo. But - when the near 6’ Nakatani jabbed on point, Teo looked human. Lopez’s gloomy post-fight critique was fascinating. He bravely rated his performance ‘horrible,’ and then said illogically, “from now on we’re only fighting guys my height.” Of course, that won’t fly.
Remember also that Nakatani landed some hooks and rights – more than a few – on his much shorter opponent. While you’re at it, recall also that Nakatani was so weight-weakened according to ESPN, his team had to support him into the ring. Finally recall that after defeating Luke Campbell, Lomachenko said it was tough fighting taller fighters. Campbell is listed at 5’9” but is certainly taller than that and has an excellent reach for the weight. Nakatani has the same 71” reach and is listed at 5’11”.5 but that’s my height and they must measure differently in Japan – he looks taller than that.
Fighters Grades: Vasiliy Lomachenko: A B B+ B- C+ A A (Average of all) B+ 3.3
Masayoshi Nakatani: B B- B+ B+ C+ A A- (Average of all) B 3.2
Reality Check: What if Lomachenko, ’cured’ from his bursitis, comes out smoking and destroys Nakatani? Well - you know, what… The drums will begin beating for an ‘immediate’ replay of Teo-Loma. What else? And, I’d give Loma a shot at beating Lopez.
With his right hook completely unavailable, Lomachenko deliberately didn’t engage for six rounds and then suddenly had moments against Lopez - including one sequence when he rattled the Honduran-American and was a few punches away from stopping him. He didn’t find the punches- or Lopez denied them, pulled himself together and seized a narrow – but clear, deserved, decision. The smart money would seem to favor the much younger man in a rematch.
I wrote in 2017: “Seemingly peaking at 29, VL is an athlete who relies on ring smarts and unbelievable physical talent. Smarts don’t diminish. Physical talent does.”
If Lomachenko’s nagging injuries remain, and Nakatani can make the weight without dying, Loma’s in for a long, revealing night, one that might indicate he retire forever to his beloved Ukraine. On the other hand, if he’s fully recovered and is 85% of his best – the other lightweights cannot sleep easy. Ever.
Nakatani moves well, and has most of the key punches; jab, hook, right hand. Trouble is, he doesn’t seem to have much pop. But – he’s freaking big at the weight and he’s fearless and game as they come.
Fight and prediction: Very hard to say until the bell rings. Loma always looks fantastic in training – beyond anything ever seen in history – with his brilliant training regimen of mind/body. Doesn’t mean he’s healthy. Nakatani is no spring chicken and needed to be helped into the ring vs. Lopez.
I’ll go with a middle ground; Lomachenko is partially recovered and a good version of Nakatani shows up, ending in a distance fight with some spectacular two-way boxing.
“Hey, aren’t you cast from Gold?” Lomachenko’s countryman and songwriter, Monatik, asked in song. Nope – I would say at this stage, Lomachenko is of sterling silver quality – and that’s not good enough to remain at the very top in professional boxing.
Lomachenko UD Nakatani, 12