Written by Tré Berry III | 06/21/2021
The wait has been a long time coming, especially given the circumstances he had to endure that’s attached to his story. Double Olympic Gold-Medalist, 3X amateur World Champion, and former pro 3-division, Ring-Magazine / Unified World Champion 🇺🇦Vasiliy “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko (14-2-0, 10KO) will be back at the office on June 26th, as he is looking to restart the climb back up to Lightweight supremacy. His first step will be to go up against giant Japanese warrior, and #9 world ranked Ring-Magazine contender 🇯🇵Masayoshi Nakatani (19-1-0, 13KO), and given the type of fights Nakatani fights, and forces his opponents into, this could very well be a fire fight while it lasts in this 135 lb. main event.
What you see is what you get when it comes to Lomachenko, which is a portion of why people appreciate what he brings to the table, in terms of the no-nonsense mentality, seeking out the toughest challenges, and wasting no time in doing so. Among the reasons why he has galvanized the public is the historic level of both mental, and physical skill that he exhibits every time that he takes to the ring.
Speaking of the physical skill, Lomachenko is still in his prime in terms of the overall skill aspect…..but after 418 fights as an amateur/semi-pro/pro, the evidence towards his body breaking down has been a consistent theme since Vasiliy made the decision to turn Lightweight back in 2018.
LOMACHENKO & HIS PHYSICAL CONCERNS
In the 2nd round against the then-definitive Champion of the Lightweight division 🇻🇪Jorge Linares, Loma tore his right labrum, and had to deal with the primed Venezuelan through 10 rounds, without the ability to commit to his best punch due to the injury, which is his sweeping right hook as a southpaw.
The shoulder has become a reoccurring issue, as he suffered the same injury prior to his fight with now-Undisputed Lightweight definitive World Champion 🇺🇸Teofimo Lopez, and couldn’t use the right hook once again (he only threw 13 of them in the first ten rounds, and threw 12 in the final two rounds due to necessity with the fight hanging in the balance).
It just so happens that Lopez was still good enough to fight Loma who is still dangerous when physically compromised, and they fought truthfully an even fight, though faulty Judging failed to reflect that. Lomachenko injured his knuckle on the knockout right hook landed against 🇬🇧Anthony Crolla.
His fight against 🇵🇷Jose Pedraza followed the Linares fight, and shoulder surgery to correct the damage. In that bout, Lomachenko’s right hook was absent for 10 rounds until the moment where he had Jose in real trouble, and risked the damage in the moment to turn the jet-fuels on.
This could be a Deja Vu moment here, as he had the exact same surgery on his shoulder, from the same surgeon, and Nakatani will be Vasiliy’s first fight back on the trail since going under the knife, so it is possible that Lomachenko’s right hook may be absent for this contest as well, citing his past history. Certainly it is something to keep a close eye on.
This will be Vasiliy’s first non-title bout since his pro debut way back in 2013. He knows a routine vintage performance put forth on Saturday is what is needed to expedite his process back to the main stage to get either a rematch, or other notable Lightweights to come out for a legitimate challenge.
PERSERANCE OF MASAYOSHI NAKATANI
Now as for Masayoshi Nakatani, he has become the epitome of the modern-day resilient action fighter. The 32 year old fought locally in Japan to put himself in a position to get a shot at top Lightweight contention. He really made his bones against 🇺🇸Teofimo Lopez when he ranked as a top contender, and raised some eyebrows as he did pretty well against the American in a losing effort, good enough to make pundits question a few things about Lopez at the time.
Now because of the megalithic Japanese Lightweight’s performance, those in the ranking systems decided that he deserved to get another shot against a talented world contender – that being against 🇵🇷Felix Verdejo.
✎EDITOR STEPPING OUT FRONT FOR A SECOND – A bit of honesty here, given everything that we’ve learned about Verdejo’s atrocities in life, it’s difficult to speak on him at this current time, but Masayoshi’s journey is intertwined with his in-ring exploits. Early on it looked like the talented Puerto Rican was going to close the show in style as he jumped out on Nakatani early, blasting him with the power, and putting him down to the mat twice, once in the 1st round, and the other time in the 4th round, while being rocked on multiple occasions, in serious danger of being taken out.
Nakatani however never succumbed to the pressures, and pain that he was trying to endure by walking through and trucking his way to the target. The tides of the fight slowly began to turn by round 5, with Verdejo forgetting what got him to that point, setting up the power instead of blindly winging knockout blows, which he was doing. It gave Nakatani the openings he needed to land the bone crunching power, and you began to see the legs weaken for Felix.
Nakatani eventually got to him in round 7, and knocked Verdejo out with an impressive barrage of punches. His gratitude, and payback to the matchmakers who believed in him enough to throw him right back into the fire against an established contender was paid in full, and Nakatani fully validated his standing in the division as a tough, iron clad customer who thrives in an action setting.
The best reward for that achievement was to get him in with true Championship caliber opposition, and Vasiliy Lomachenko is the perfect embodiment of that notion. To see two proud warriors go at it, tune in June 26th, to ESPN+, to see this Lightweight main event. The fight, like other Top-Rank cards this month will be at Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada as the cap to their month-long venture with the venue. This is certainly one that you don’t want to miss.