Teofimo Lopez eyeing Richard Commey title fight
By Bill Tibbs
While much of the boxing world will have its eyes on Las Vegas Saturday night to watch Senator Manny Pacquiao do battle with Keith Thurman, the night before boxing’s hottest prospect will clock into work for bout # 3 of his 2019 campaign.
Red-hot lightweight Teofimo Lopez (13-0, 11 KO’s) will square off with undefeated Masayoshi Nakatani (18-0, 12 KO’s) on July 19 at the MGM National Harbour in Oxon Hill, Maryland. The fight will be the main event of an ESPN card presented by Top Rank Boxing.
The fight will be the next step towards getting a shot at the IBF lightweight championship held by Richard Commey who looked very solid recently beating rugged veteran Ray Beltran.
The bout with Nakatani is the first step on a winding road that will hopefully lead to a shot at the title and then superstar Vasyl Lomachenko down the line. If Lopez gets by Nakatani, and then defeats champion Commey, he could be looking at a unification showdown with Vasyl Lomachenko (assuming that Lomachenko is successful in his next bout with Luke Campbell in August).
In short, the title shot is within reach. This bout with Nakatani is the last hurdle for Lopez, who will turn 22 soon, before he fights for a world title strap. So, there is no point in talking about the title, or Lomachenko, until he registers a “W” with Nakatani. Lopez, who has gathered legions of fans at a fast and furious pace since turning pro in 2016, knows this better than anyone.
While he has dazzled fans with his ring generalship, power and speed, along with an ability to entertain, Lopez never takes his eyes off the prize. This is something he and his father have been working for since the amateur days and Lopez made it clear in recent pre-fight interviews that he isn’t about to drop the ball this close to the finish line.
"Everything they are saying about Commey and Lomachenko will not happen if I do not beat Nakatani, that’s the most important thing, and I feel ready - but for now I’m not looking beyond this eliminator," said Lopez. “Nakatani is a tall fighter, he has good jab and he’s going to want to fight from a distance, but we’ve worked on that. We’ll see what happens when I feel my fists on his body”.
And while Lopez knows he isn’t in an easy out with Nakatani, he also believes he will stop him and he’ll look good doing it. He wasn’t going to pick a round but he did say that the fight wouldn’t go the distance.
"Let’s see if Nakatani can withstand the full twelve rounds, most of the fighters that I’ve faced can not take it for every round and I don’t think Nakatani is going to put up much resistance. This fight will be finished by knockout," Lopez said.
And as usual, Lopez, who refrers to his career as simply, ”the takeover” plans to end the night with a back flip and a crowd pleasing celebration.
"People like the show, we talk a lot but we back it up. I don’t talk to be famous, I talk because I have faith in myself, that’s why I celebrate. There are a lot who do not like it but it’s part of what I bring to the ring for this fight. Since we are near Baltimore, I’m going to celebrate with something from that area, they have the Ravens, something from Ray Lewis maybe," Lopez said.
Prediction - Lopez mid-late rounds stoppage.