By Kenneth Friedman: Undefeated lightweight contender Teofimo Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs) kept his perfect record intact with a wide 12 round unanimous decision win over #3 IBF Masayoshi Nakatani (18-1, 12 KOs) on Friday night in an IBF lightweight world title eliminator at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland. Nakatani showed close after the results of the fight were announced.
Rather than complaining or acting bitter, Nakatani congratulated Lopez, and then left the ring shortly after. The Japanese fighter could have a fuss about the wide scores, which didn’t resembled the fight that took place tonight. Instead of being bitter, Nakatani took the high road, and congratulated Teofimo for his win.
The judges scored it for Teofimo by the scores 118-110, 119-109 and 118-110. Boxing News 24 scored it for Lopez 115-113. It was a close fight that could have gone either way.
Lopez, 5’8″, had a lot of problems getting close to the 5’11 1/2″ Nakatani to land his big power shots. In order to get near enough to Nakatani to land anything, Lopez had to wade through a lot of hard jabs and straight right hands before he could let his hands go. Nakatani’s jabs were doing damage to Lopez, and he clearly like getting hit. With the leverage that Nakatani had on his shots, it was painful for Lopez to take those blows. In the latter half of the fight, Lopez lost a lot of his ambition to want to attack Nakatani, because the price that he was paying was too high.
It’s not surprising that the A-side fighter Lopez got the decision, because he’s receiving a huge push from his promoters at Top Rank Boxing. They’re looking to turn him into a star, and set him up for a fight against Vasiliy Lomachenko in early 2020. But before Teofimo can get to the Lomachenko fight, he’ll need to defeat IBF lightweight champion Richard Commey first. That’s not going to be easy, even if he has the same three judges that worked tonight’s fight working that match.
Commey is an excellent puncher, and he has a way of taking the judges out of the loop by knocking out his opponents. Nakatani hurt Lopez in the 10th round after hitting him with a hard jab followed by a right hand to the head. Lopez was clearly hurt by the shot, and Nakatani isn’t known for being a puncher. If Nakatani could hurt Lopez, then Commey will have a chance of knocking him out.
All in all, it was a disappointing performance by Lopez. This wasn’t the type of fight that boxing fans thought they were going to see from the New Yorker. Teofimo has been so heavily hyped by his promoters at Top Rank. You would think that Lopez would look better than this. Off this performance, you can’t seriously give Teofimo any chance whatsoever of beating Vasiliy Lomachenko. Lopez might not even be able to beat Commey.