Teofimo Lopez outlasts Masayoshi Nakatani in winning the IBF lightweight title eliminator
Seconds after just having his hand raised and performing his signature backflip, Teofimo Lopez didn’t hesitate when assessing his performance Friday night against the towering Masayoshi Nakatani.
“Horrible, horrible, but you know, it is what it is, the guy is 6-feet tall, and from this point on, we’re fighting guys my height,” said Lopez, who beat the 5’11½” Nakatani by wide unanimous scores on the Top Rank ESPN+ show before a crowd of 2,100 at the MGM National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
Lopez (14-0, 11 knockouts) won the IBF lightweight title eliminator, which now sets up a title shot against IBF 135-pound beltholder Richard Commey.
But there was much to be gained against Nakatani (18-1, 12 KOs). Commey has a big right, and Nakatani landed his fair share of them.
“They wanted to see me go the distance, I went 12 rounds and a backflip, I’m still in shape,” Lopez said. “I feel great. We’re going to make the fight happen with Richard Commey. I have little tune-ups, I get lazy here and there, I slack off.
“It’s 12 rounds. Am I proud of it, no. But I showed everybody I can go 12 rounds. This guy was no push-over. I showed I can take a punch. I showed I can go 12 rounds.”
In the opening round, it appeared Nakatani had the better of Lopez. He used his jab to the body in keeping the powerful Lopez away. In the second, Lopez closed the distance, but Nakatani still did well. Early in the second, the fighter’s heads clashed with around 2:09 left in the round. Nakatani came away blinking his left eye.
With 1:45 left in the fourth, it looked as if Lopez’s power finally surfaced. He knocked down Nakatani with a right, but referee Harvey Dock called it a slip.
In the fifth, Lopez started going more to the body. It was probably Lopez’s best round, to that point. In the sixth and seventh, Lopez began getting closer and landing more consistently. Lopez went more to the body, though at times, his attack came one punch at a time.
Through seven, it appeared Lopez held a slight edge.
And for the first time in his career, Lopez entered the eighth round. He landed a solid right on the taller Japanese foe, who responded by landing a short right to the temple.
In the ninth, Lopez landed a short right, and just when it appeared Nakatani was slowing down, he connected with a right of his own. Lopez closed the last 15 seconds strong.
With 1:06 left in the 10th, Nakatani landed a big right on Lopez’s temple, which seemed to rattle him for a moment. Seconds later, Nakatani slammed Lopez with another right. Nakatani’s solid shots appeared to give him the round.
In the 11th, a trickle of blood began dripping from Nakatani’s nose.
Lopez opened the 12th with a left to Nakatani’s head. Lopez was the aggressor in the last round, landing a left-right in the last 30 seconds.
Judges Dave Braslow and Larry Hazzard Jr. both had it 118-110, while judge Bernard Bruni scored it 119-109 all for Lopez. Many at ringside and watching on TV saw it closer.
“He has a lot to learn,” Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum said. “It’s the tallest guy he ever fought. It was tough adjusting to it. The guy was a dangerous puncher. It was a good performance. I wanted him, when he had the guy going, to put the pedal down. The good thing that comes from this is that we know he can go 12 rounds. That’s always a question in my mind. Could he go 12 rounds, and the answer is yes.”
The co-feature involved Subriel Matias (14-0, 14 KOs) stopping Maxim Dadashev (13-1, 11 KOs) in an IBF junior welterweight title eliminator.
In the early rounds, it was Matias putting pressure on the Russian who fights out of Oxnard, California. Neither fighter landed anything significant, though it was Matias carrying an edge based on his aggression.
Those early rounds were an indication of what was to follow. Finally, in the 11th, Hall of Famer Buddy McGirt, Dadashev’s trainer, saw enough and waved it over. Matias, the underdog, had Dadashev in trouble in the 11th. A body shot, followed by a right uppercut rattled Dadashev, who had to be helped from the ring after the fight.
That’s when McGirt called it.
In the end, Matias outlanded Dadashev, 319 to 157.
“I wanted to prove that I have more than just punching power,” the Puerto Rican fighter said. “I may be ugly and I may be puffy in my face, but nonetheless, when it came down to it, I am the pride of my town.
“I knew I was dominating the fight, and I knew one thing, if I kept working to the body consistently, he wasn’t going to take it. You saw him, he couldn’t continue. I was dominating the fight. I focused my offense on going to the body, and that’s how I stopped him from running.
“Now that I won, I am focused on becoming a world champion. I will show I have the ability to become a world champion when I get the opportunity. I hope that Maxim is alright. He is a great fighter and a warrior.”
A tranquil McGirt admitted he couldn’t convince Dadashev it was time to stop. McGirt said Matias was strong. He called him a “miniature Jarrett Hurd.” He feels Matias is a future world champion.
“At the same, I saw [Dadashev] was getting hit with more clean shots as the fight went on,” McGirt said. “I’m saying to myself, ‘Is this worth it, God forbid.’ One punch, as you know, can change a whole guy’s life and I wasn’t going to let that happen.
“I’d rather have them be mad at me for a day or two, than be mad at me for the rest of their life.”
Dadashev was rushed to a hospital after the fight. It was reported that Dadashev was “violently vomiting.” Dadashev was responsive, according to his manager, Egis Klimas, then lost consciousness. He was then taken to a Level 1 trauma unit at UM Prince George’s Hospital. It was later reported that Dadashev had to undergo surgery to relieve the swelling on the brain.
On the undercard, Esquiva Falcao (24-0, 16 KOs) stopped Sergio Batarelli (25-4-2, 12 KOs) at 1:35 of the eighth round of a scheduled 10-round middleweight bout.
“He was a very tough fighter. I was prepared because of that,” Falcao said. “I saw that I hurt him, and I went for the knockout. I told myself that if I want to be a world champion, I needed to knock out this guy. Bob Arum, I’m ready for my title shot! I’ll go anywhere. Japan, Brazil, it doesn’t matter.”
Tyler McCreary (16-0-1, 7 KOs) won an eight-round lightweight split-decision over Jessie Cris Rosales (22-3-1, 10 KOs). Tyler Howard (18-0, 11 KOs) won an eight-round middleweight decision over Jamaal Davis (18-15-1, 7 KOs).
Heavyweight Cassius Chaney (16-0, 10 KOs) stopped Joel Caudle (8-3-2, 5 KOs) at 1:52 of the first round in a scheduled eight-rounder. A series of punches landed on Caudle, who lost his balance and stumbled out of the ring. Lightweight Rolando Vargas (3-0, 3 KOs) stopped Nathaniel Davis (1-1, 1 KOs) at 1:50 in the second round of a scheduled four-round lightweight bout.
After a three-year sabbatical from the ring for various reasons, Dusty Harrison (33-0-1, 19 KOs) won for the third time this year, stopping Juan De Angel (21-12-1, 19 KOs) at 2:30 of the seventh of a scheduled eight-round middleweight fight.
Joseph Santoliquito is the President of the Boxing Writers Association of America and has written for The Ring/RingTV.com since 1997. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.