On Friday, July 19, 2019, Teofimo Lopez kicked off his ambitious three-fight plan, one which would ideally see him fight for multiple titles in his next couple of fights.
Standing in Lopez’s way of a crack at IBF titleholder Richard Commey was fellow unbeaten fighter Masayoshi Nakatani, who was intent on spoiling Lopez’s grand plans.
Lopez and Nakatani locked horns in a scheduled 12-round IBF Lightweight world title eliminator at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland in front of 2,100 fans and live on ESPN+.
It was a night of firsts for Teofimo Lopez as he went past the seventh round for the first time as a professional, as well as being buzzed with power shots for the first time.
The early rounds saw Nakatani work behind a stiff jab, not afraid to step toward Lopez and initiate the action.
Not to be intimidated by the major height difference, the 5’8″ Lopez landed a number of beautiful pull-counters early on against the 5’11” Nakatani.
But the overwhelming success we’ve come accustomed to seeing from Lopez is not what unfolded in this fight. Instead, Nakatani was tricky and awkward, obviously not scared to engage with the young Top Rank star.
Lopez was not able to land his leaping power punches and instead relied heavily on counterpunches and jabs to lead the way to victory.
But, this fight did come with a bit of adversity for Lopez who was buzzed in Round 10–Nakatani’s best round. It was in the 10th that Nakatani and Lopez exchanged big shots in the middle of the ring.
Lopez did a good job of taking the shots, but it became clear that his defense has serious gaps that need to be worked on.
“Homework for Lopez. Get your left hand up,” said Andre Ward, who was commentating on the fight ringside for ESPN+. “Don’t be in your shoulder roll posture from the first round on. That comes later when you get control of the fight.”
In the ended, Lopez took the unanimous-decision victory with scores of 118-110 twice and 119-109.
Lopez can count this fight as a big win because of the fact that he got quality rounds in against a tough and durable opponent.
As for what’s next for Teofimo Lopez, Top Rank’s Evan Korn stated that a fight against Richard Commey could happen in November of this year.