By Mark Elezaj
Vasily Lomachenko (14-2, 10KO’s) the former three-division world champion returns to the ring this Saturday night for the first time since losing his belts against Teofimo Lopez in October 2020, against Masayoshi Nakatani (19-1, 10 KOs) on ESPN+ and Sky Sports at the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.
Lomachenko, 33, who had right shoulder surgery after his fight with Lopez, says that he is ready to continue on with his career and is looking to return to title contention.
“What inspired me to take this fight is the fact that I just lost all of my titles,” Lomachenko told BoxingScene.com. “I have to start from scratch and wanted to face a top contender.
“I didn’t want a (hand-picked) opponent. This guy gave Teofimo Lopez a very tough fight and I have prepared well for his challenge.”
At 5-foot-11 and a half, with a 71-inch reach, Nakatani (19-1, 13 KOs), 32, has a huge height and reach advantage over Lomachenko, who stands in at 5-foot-7 and has a 65.5 inch reach.
“He is strong, very tall and very long arms,” said Lomachenko. “He has experience at the top level, as he showed in a [competitive] fight with Lopez and the way he was able to beat Verdejo. This is the perfect challenge for me. I’ve always aimed to face the highest level of competition.”
“I wasn’t necessarily expecting a big fight like this,” Nakatani confessed to BoxingScene.com, through his translator. “I was ready to accept any fight that Top Rank was ready to offer me. They know I will fight anyone, and I am thrilled for the chance to face and beat a great fighter like Vasiliy Lomachenko.”
“This time last year, I wasn’t sure about any of that,” admits Nakatani. “I just knew I had to beat Verdejo to be in (position) for opportunities like this. I just love to fight.
“I don’t turn down any opponent and I was thrilled when they told me I would be facing Lomachenko next. If everything goes well this weekend, I would absolutely love a rematch with Teofimo Lopez. I know I will have earned it by then.”
Lomachenko wants to win back all the WBA, WBC Franchise, and WBO titles that he lost Teofimo, but he may have to wait until one of the sanctioning bodies makes him a mandatory for those titles
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum says that he would like to make the Teofimo and Lomachenko rematch happen, telling Bad Left Hook, “I think a rematch between Loma and Teofimo on pay-per-view does a lot of business.”
If Teofimo does agree to the rematch, the fight will likely happen in early 2022.
Teofimo was supposed to fight this weekend against George Kambosos Jr. and once again in October, but his COVID 19 illness has changed those plans.
The Lomachenko-Nakatani fight card will begin at 7:15 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
The fight card includes eight fights. You can watch the entire event live on ESPN+ and on the ESPN App.
~ The Fighting Voice ~