LAS VEGAS – (AP) – Former three-weight world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko made a successful return to the ring, stopping Japanese veteran Masayoshi Nakatani in his ninth round on Saturday night.
With Nakatani’s left eye shut after eight devastating rounds, Lomachenko (15-2, 11 KOs) used a flurry of lefts to finish off his much taller opponent in what was a decisive comeback in his first fight since a loss against Teofimo Lopez in October.
It was the first time Nakatani (19-2) had been stopped in a fight, with his only other decision loss, at the hands of Lopez in 2019.
Lomachenko landed 59% of his powerful punches, as he dominated from the opening bell, dotting Nakatani with a steady stream of hard and right lefts. Lomachenko was only hit by 12% of Nakatani’s powerful punches.
Lomachenko’s biggest trick before the Ninth was a Sixth Destroyer, in which he landed a number of punches that made Nakatani’s head recoil several times, eventually bleeding the eyes, nose and mouth of the native of Osaka.
Lomachenko also knocked down Nakatani in the fifth, using a three-hit combo towards the end of the round.
In his last fight, Nakatani was knocked down twice by Felix Verdejo before responding with a knockout victory in the ninth round. This time around, Nakatani didn’t stand a chance as he was outclassed by the former great Ukrainian pound for pound in every round.
“I have achieved my goals and am back on track,” said Lomachenko.
With the win, Lomachenko hopes to land a rematch against Lopez, who was due to play his first title defense in Miami on June 19 until he tested positive for COVID-19. His mandatory fight against George Kambosos, and the entire undercard, has been postponed to August 14 in Miami, but could be moved to September 11 in Las Vegas.
Lopez’s father Teofimo Sr. was in attendance and told ESPN ahead of the fight that his son’s side was ready to grant the rematch, but with the caveat, this was to happen immediately after Kambosos’ fight. .
Lomachenko’s loss to Lopez cost the 33-year-old his WBA and WBO lightweight titles and left the former unified champion away on a division that inherited a youth movement of undefeated fighters, including Lopez (16-0), Gervonta Davis (24-0), Devin Haney (26-0) and Ryan Garcia (21-0).
A Lopez rematch could come later this year or early in 2022, while Top Rank’s Bob Arum mentioned matches against Haney and Tank Davis for Lomachenko.
In the 10-round middleweight co-feature, 2016 Olympian Janibek Alimkhanuly (10-0, 6 KOs) continued his climb up the contender ladder with an impressive TKO destruction of former world champion Rob Brant (26-3, 18 KOs). The fight was stopped after the eighth round, when the Brant cornemen called on referee Michael Ortega.
While Alimkhanuly landed 46% of his powerful punches (65 of 142, including 20 to the body), Brant struggled the entire fight to find the confidence to challenge on the inside, being very cautious of cons. -shots of Alimkhanuly.
“Ever since I turned pro I wanted a big fight like this,” Alimkhanuly said. “Anytime a title shot comes, I’ll be ready.”
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