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Lomachenko vs Nakatani: Red pill or blue pill? Saturday, ESPN+

Written By | Jun 26, 2021
Lomachenko vs Nakatani, Boxing, Sport

Vasiliy Lomachenko (left) and Masayoshi Nakatani weigh-in Friday at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

SAN DIEGO, Calif., June 25, 2021  – Boxing purists still believe in Vasiliy Lomachenko and hope he will prove them right in his return to the ring Saturday.

Eight months after his shocking defeat at the hands of upstart Teofimo Lopez Jr., pound for pound great Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KOs) hopes to reset and return to form against Masayoshi Nakatani of Japan (19-1, 13 KOs). The main event airs on ESPN+ at 10 pm ET/7 pm PT, with the full undercard set to air at 7:15 pm ET/4:15 pm PT.

Known as ‘The Matrix’ for his seeming ability to slow down the reaction time of his opponents due to his focus and the precision of his skills, Lomachenko stalled out against Lopez Jr. He blamed it on a shoulder injury. He has since undergone surgery, and the pandemic allowed him plenty of recovery time.

Nakatani’s only loss is also to Lopez Jr. Despite it being a blowout on the scorecard, Nakatani tested Lopez Jr. and went the full 12 round distance. He followed up the performance by surviving two knockdowns to deliver a decisive 9th round TKO of Felix Verdejo. Now Nakatani will provide a litmus test for Lomachenko.

Lomachenko: ‘I want to prove myself’

Lomachenko vs Nakatani, Boxing, Sport

Vasiliy Lomachenko needs to get a quicker start Saturday than he did against Teofimo Lopez Jr. last October Photo: Mikey Williams Top Rank

“I can’t wait to be back in the ring. I’m very excited, and I want to show my best skills. I want to prove to myself, my family, my friends, my team, who I am in the ring,” said Lomachenko at this week’s final news conference.

Lomachenko showed Nakatani the proper respect. “He is a tough guy. He has the height and the reach. I think he is a very good boxer. That’s why he was my choice as an opponent.”

Nakatani said the dominating win by Naoya Inoue at the same Las Vegas venue inspires him. “A fellow Japanese fighter {Inoue last week} having a great performance is very motivating for me,” said Nakatani. “This is a fight that I have to win and that I want to win.” Nakatani said the fight is a huge opportunity that means nothing if he doesn’t win.

Lomachenko has made no secret of his desire to get revenge in a rematch with Lopez Jr. “I have a fight this Saturday, and after that, we can talk about a rematch. I want it!” Understandable but unlikely. Lopez Jr. has outgrown the 135-pound division, and he’s likely to stay at 140 pounds just long enough for the chance to face undisputed champion Josh Taylor in a battle of division titans. Lomachenko’s best performances are arguably at 130 pounds, and if he could make the weight, plenty of intriguing, realistic fights are available within the Top Rank family.

Red pill or blue pill?

In the film “The Matrix,” internet personality Morpheus offers our hero Neo the choice of a red pill, which will allow him to learn the harsh truth beyond the matrix of deception, or the blue pill, which will let Neo go back to his comfortable life, even though it is an illusion.  Which will it be for Lomachenko? He must take care of business with Nakatani, a hard reality before moving forward. His impressive pedigree, his former ‘reality,’ won’t count for much if he can’t get a victory.

Middleweight matchup: Brant vs Alimkhanuly  

boxing, sport, brant vs alimkhanuly

Rob Brant (left) and Janibek Alimkhanuly pose at their weigh-in Friday in Las Vegas. Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

On the undercard, middleweight Rob Brant of St. Paul, Minnesota (26-2, 18 KOs) hopes to fight his way back into a title fight opportunity against Janibek Alimkhanuly Kazakhstan (9-0, 5 KOs) in a 10-round bout. Brant won a surprising victory over then WBA champion Ryota Murata of Japan in 2018, but Murata got his revenge in the rematch with a knockout.

Former Olympian Alimkhanuly is stepping up in competition, but Brant will still be a significant underdog against the fast-rising prospect. Brant hasn’t fought since August 2020, but he is now training in the camp of Brian McIntyre, who also trains Terence Crawford, Shakur Stevenson, and Jamel Herring.

“It’s never a surprise being the underdog,” said Brant. “I’m looking forward to it. You have to take the risks. I have no problem with being the underdog. I have always been known as a high-volume boxer, but with BoMac I have learned and developed a lot of patience.” Brant said his goal is to prove he belongs with a victory.

“This fight is very important for me,’ said Alimkhanuly. “I’m 100 percent ready, and Saturday night I’m going to show what ‘Qazaq Style’ is all about. Very soon, I’ll be fighting as the main event.” Alimkhanuly trains with the well-regarded Buddy McGirt. He says McGirt has added more tools to his style and hopes to win a world title together.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalism covering the Sweet Science for Communities Digital News based in San Diego, California. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.

Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.

Copyright © 2021 by Falcon Valley Group


Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award-winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.