Vasiliy Lomachenko entered the ring in Las Vegas on Saturday night looking to make a point. He did just that, getting back in the win column with a dominant performance against Masayoshi Nakatani, scoring a ninth-round knockout.
Lomachenko was returning to the ring for the first time since losing his two lightweight championship belts in an upset defeat to Teofimo Lopez. Prior to the fight with Lomachenko, Lopez's toughest career fight came in his 2019 battle with Nakatani. Lomachenko did not suffer the same troubles with the rangy Japanese fighter in their clash at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas on Saturday.
The scariest moment of the fight for Lomachenko came in Round 1 when the fighters bent forward simultaneously, resulting in a headbutt that left blood streaming down Lomachenko's face. That cut was capably handled between rounds and from there the fight was all Lomachenko.
Unlike in his loss to Lopez, where Lomachenko gave away many of the early rounds through inactivity, Lomachenko had his foot on the gas from the jump, using his speed and footwork to outbox Nakatani. The Japanese lightweight never got his jab or straight right hand going because of Lomachenko's ability to get inside on the much taller opponent.
Things started deteriorating rapidly for Nakatani in Round 5, with Lomachenko landing a left hand around his guard in the clinch followed by a right and left that put Nakatani on the canvas. Nakatani was able to rise to his feet and continued to try to battle back into the fight, but Lomachenko's left hand landed over and over in the ensuing rounds. The left hands were also landing to the right side of Nakatani's face, where he'd suffered a broken orbital bone in two previous fights.
Nakatani's eye would continue to swell throughout the sixth and seventh rounds.
Battered and with his eye swollen shut, Nakatani gave it one last effort in the ninth round but was badly rocked by more Lomachenko left hands before a pair of right hands sent Nakatani back to the canvas, this time forcing the referee to jump in for the stoppage.
Lomachenko landed 59% of his power punches through the fight, completely dominating the action in every round.
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Now attention returns to Lomachenko's pursuit for a rematch with Lopez. The Lopez camp has repeatedly shot down the idea of giving Lomachenko a second fight, but with both fighters under the Top Rank banner, it may be a case of Lopez either needing to step up for the rematch or move up to 140 pounds.
Lopez's father, Teofimo Lopez Sr., was in attendance on Saturday night and told ESPN that they would be willing to grant the rematch, but said it must be the next fight for both fighters following Lopez's planned mandatory title defense against George Kambosos in September.
"Everybody saw how I won and everybody has been waiting for the rematch," Lomachenko said after the fight. "So, let's make the rematch. ... I understand he has a fight in the future. But after. How about after? Next year at the beginning of the year. December. January. February. I'm waiting."