By Robert Aaron Contreras
Looming superstar Teofimo Lopez (14-0, 11 KO) left the ring Saturday night with his undefeated record intact, and a IBF title shot in tow. It was not without a tough go from Masayoshi Nakatani (18-1, 12 KO). In the end, Lopez was still all backflips. His quick hands and mighty fists prevailed, winning 118-110, 118-110 and 119-109.
Though the scores were wider than viewers might have expected. Masayoshi, the visiting fighter from Japan, surprised the crowd at the MGM National Harbor in Maryland, imposing his immense size onto Lopez throughout, never providing an easy target for the upstart’s headhunting. The ringside panel clearly preferred Lopez’s sequences of hard punches over the B-side fighters niggling head and body jabs. Lopez like his harshest critics was not as convinced.
“Horrible,” Lopez summed up his performance for Bernando Osuna after the fight. “It is what it is. He’s tall… this guy was no pushover. But you know what? I went 12 rounds. This is what it’s all about.”
“I showed I could take a punch—man, we’re ready. We’re going to make the fight with [Richard] Commey. And then Lomachenko.”
Lopez, a well-built 5’8”, and the six-foot-even Nakatani stood in sharp contrast with one another. It was the towering lightweight who was eager to get underway. Immediately stepping toward the center of the ring and furring long jabs, pausing to toss out lead left hooks from the orthodox stance.
On two occasions in the opening round Lopez left his feet for his patented, leaping left hooks. But a bevy of jabs secured the first three minutes for Nakatani. As they did in the second period.
Early in Round 3, Nakatani even drive Lopez into the ropes. The former Olympian out of Brooklyn opted to catch and shoot to counteract the imposing challenger in front of him. Lopez timed Nakatani’s body jabs to perfection, pitching a chopping right hand over the Japanese’s long, overextended body shots.
A decent left hook finally exploded on Nakatani’s chin in the fourth frame. And with Lopez on the offensive, a sweeping right hand seemed to knock down Nakatani near the ropes. But the referee called a slip—the replay showed only a glancing punch off the shoulder.
Lopez continued to put his hands together. Circling outside of Nakatani, he darted in, do some light damage, and punch his way out. A big right hand of his coincided with the end of the fifth stanza.
All the while, Nakatani’s jab rattled off with regularity as if a metronome. It for the most part kept Lopez at bay in over the next three rounds. Moments, however, when Nakatani seemed sure he was in control of the pace, Lopez would kill his rhythm by moving into closer position and chain together three-punch combinations, aiming almost exclusively to the head. Nakatani’s chin held up the entire way. But the rounds were becoming tight.
Lopez was not exactly being outmatched, not decisively anyway, but by the tenth period, his inactivity—Nakatani’s output doubling him in jabs: poking and prodding away at his shorter target—did stir a small feeling for an upset on the cards. More headhunting was Lopez’s solution in the penultimate round, already in the longest bout of his professional career. Nakatani remained on top of the 21-year-old hotshot.
The heavy-handed Brooklyn native hung back, still circling, looking to tee off when he got the opportunity. He created his own luck here and there, jabbing surprisingly well with his taller foe, relying on quick hands. Nakatani, having competed across 12 rounds since 2014, was still chugging along.
There was grappling aplenty in the 12 and final frame. Lopez hacked away, looking for home runs. Both fighters would step back, separate, then rush into each other to wrap up, and need to be pried off each other by referee Harvey Dock. No significant punches landed either way, leaving a stench of irresolution in the air as the final bell clanged.
Of course the judges had made up their mind, a long time ago it seemed, siding with Lopez nearly every step of the way. Nakatani would have never stood a chance. No judge gave him more than two rounds. Official Bernard Bruni, the most incredulous, could only find one for him.
The night, the venue and the promotion were behind Lopez. In front of him now is a world title fight.
Subriel Matias def. Maxim Dadashev via 11th-round TKO
Matias (14-0, 14 KO) made a name for himself, overpowering the touted Dadashev (13-1, 11 KO). The Puerto Rican puncher had a real talented, elusive boxer in front of him but gained an early advantage plowing forward, and continued the pressure until the very end, charging stinging punch combinations that convinced trainer Buddy McGirt to pull Dadsehev from the fight ahead of Round 12.
The corner retirement was the right call as the Russian boxer was quickly hospitalized and underwent surgery overnight.
From the outset, Matias walked down his opponent. Paying special attention to Dadashev’s midsection. Dadashev’s jab flickered nicely, driving the punch to the face of his stalking opponent—his feet continuously navigating the ring, zig-zagging, digging concentric circles around Matias.
It was a fine gameplan. But Matias with his shoveling was relentless. The early stages belonged to the Puerto Rican. Dadashev stole back the fourth frame with that buzzing jab. But the pretty punch was gone by the seventh period, with the middle stages going back to Matias.
There was a sliver of hope for Dadashev in Rond 8. But Matias was bulldozing again in the ninth and tenth periods. It was a consistent drumming from Matias. Dadashev, feeling the brunt go it: the left side of his ribcage and the back of his arm were glowing a violent red from the punishment.
For Round 11, Matias delivered uppercuts and shoeshining body work. Dadashev’s fleeting footwork was gone, and his knees more wobbly with every punch.
McGirt could not bring himself to sending Dadashev back out for the final round. And he signaled the first loss of his man’s career.
“Is this worth it?” McGirt recounted after the fight. “I seen he was getting hit with more and more clean shots as the fight went on. God forbid, one punch, can change your whole guy’s life. I wasn’t going to let that happen.”
“I’d rather they be made at me for a day or two than to be mad at me for the rest of their life.”
Matias, at least, moves on. Undefeated since turning professional in 2015, stopping every opponent along the way. A light welterweight title fight is in store for him.
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