When and how defeat occurs is a big part of framing the future.
When Vasiliy Lomachenko lost his second pro start (excluding paid World Series of Boxing bouts) to veteran Orlando Salido, it was seen as both a learning experience and a little bit of a check on such early audacity. Lomacjenko followed with a decided win over Gary Russell in his next bout and kept right on going from there.
Then Lomachenko arrived on October 17, 2020. With a chance to stamp himself firmly as the lightweight champion of the world, singular, Lomachenko stayed pinned at the end of taller younger Lopez’s jab as round after round slipped away. A late surge on the cards was too little, too late.
Now Lomachenko steps back into the ring (ESPN+, 7:15 PM EST) with no guarantee he will get a chance to avenge the Lopez loss. In a classic case of boxing’s version of comparison shopping, Lomachenko will make his return against a fighter who took Lopez some rounds and hope to outperform his rival. Masayoshi Nakatani’s off-the-floor knockout of Felix Verdejo and stark height edge over Lomachenko wondering if this one might carry the air of an upset.
It will be Lomachenko’s seventh straight start against a fighter rated by TBRB or Ring in the top ten or as the champion of their division. It’s the longest such streak in the sport. Lomachenko can’t afford to start another streak with a second straight loss in this battle of top ten lightweights.
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Title: Previous Titles: WBO featherweight (2014-16, 3 Defenses); WBO super featherweight (2016-18, 4 Defenses); WBC lightweight (2019); WBA/Ring lightweight (2018-Present, 3 Defenses); WBO lightweight (2018-Present, 2 Defenses)
Weight: 134 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, Ukraine
Record: 14-2, 10 KO (20-2, 10 KO including World Series of Boxing Contests)
Press Rankings: #1 (TBRB, Ring), #2 (ESPN, Boxing News), #3 (BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 13-2, 9 KO
Last Five Opponents: 138-11-3 (.918)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Orlando Salido L12; Roman Martinez KO5; Jason Sosa RTD9; Guillermo Rigondeaux RTD6; Jorge Linares TKO10; Jose Pedraza UD12; Anthony Crolla KO4; Luke Campbell UD12; Teofimo Lopez L12
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Gary Russell Jr MD12; Nicholas Walters RTD7
Title/Previous Titles: None
Height: 5’11 ½
Weight: 134 ¼ lbs.
Hails from: Tokyo, Japan
Record: 19-1, 13 KO
Press Rankings: #8 (BoxRec), #9 (TBRB, Ring), #10 (Boxing News)
Record in Major Title Fights: No title opportunities
Last Five Opponents: 92-10-2 (.894)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Teofimo Lopez L12
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: None
The Pick: Nakatani’s height and the awkward, arms extended way he likes to get shots off could pose some riddles early for Lomachenko. The issue Nakatani will have is he doesn’t have particularly fast feet and his hands aren’t faster than Lomachenko. In some respects, he may end up being tailor made for the more experienced former champion. Nakatani’s defense isn’t great and Lomachenko will have chances to land in combination and perhaps swell the eyes of Nakatani as the rounds pass by. Lost in the excitement of the Verdejo win is a quick recollection of just how badly Nakatani was losing before finding a shot to change his fate. Don’t expect that lightning to strike twice. The pick is Lomachenko by wide decision.
Rold Picks 2021: 27-5
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com