By: Hans Themistode
Following Vasiliy Lomachenko’s surprising loss at the hands of Teofimo Lopez in mid-October last year, promoter Bob Arum did not want to bother him just yet. Lomachenko had always dreamed of becoming an undisputed world champion and needed only one more win to achieve his ultimate goal.
Lopez though, would hear none of it as he outboxed Lomachenko to a clear unanimous decision victory. Not only did the loss strip Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KOs) of the world lightweight titles that were in his possession, but it also dropped him from the consensus number one pound for pound spot as well. With Arum giving him nearly four months to sulk and dust himself off, the long time promoter has begun discussions with his star about his return.
Although Lomachenko was adamant in his desire to run things back with Lopez, that ship has seemingly sailed. With that being said, Arum believes he’s found a more than suitable replacement for his return fight.
“The Japanese boy, (Masayoshi) Nakatani,” said Arum during a recent interview with IFL TV. “He knocked out (Felix) Verdejo and gave (Teofimo) Lopez all he could handle. Nakatani is a really hard-punching lightweight and we’re looking to him as the opponent for Lomachenko.”
As previously mentioned by Arum, Nakatani is currently riding the high associated with the best stretch of performances in his career. In July of 2019, Nakatani (19-1, 13 KOs) took it to Lopez during their showdown. Coming in, the Japanese native was viewed as an easy victory. However, he proved that he could compete at the highest level.
The results on the night weren’t exactly what he was looking for, but after taking a year and a half to recover from his back and forth battle with Lopez, Nakatani would return to the ring. As was the case in his previous contest, Nakatani was once again the underdog, this time against Felix Verdejo. A short and unsuccessful night at the office appeared to be on the cards for Nakatani as he was dropped twice during the first and fourth rounds.
Nevertheless, he not only climbed back to his feet each and every time but he also went on to hand Verdejo a savage beating. One that culminated in two knockdowns in the ninth round before the referee waved things off entirely as Verdejo fell flat on his face in an attempt to beat the count.
The win for Nakatani has now placed him in the driver’s seat for Lomachenko’s return to the ring. Unlike the Ukrainian’s last contest which was held in the empty arena of the MGM Grand Bubble in Las Vegas, Nevada, Arum has revealed that he isn’t planning on subjecting his fighter to that lonely atmosphere once again.
According to Arum, he’s confident that by the time Lomachenko’s fight date comes rolling around, a limited amount of fans will be able to attend events.
“We’ve talked with him and we’re looking at early summer. He’s tired of fighting in bubbles, he’s a big-ticket seller so we think we can do a big fight in early summer in the United States. We’ve been talking with MSG, so we believe by June, they’ll be able to accommodate hopefully 50-60 percent.”