Wednesday, October 04, 2023  |



Masayoshi Nakatani gets off canvas to stop Felix Verdejo in lightweight thriller

Masayoshi Nakatani (right) vs. Felix Verdejo. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images
Fighters Network

Masayoshi Nakatani scored a comeback ninth round stoppage win over Felix Verdejo in Las Vegas tonight.

The Osaka, Japan native had to get off the canvas two times, but rallied in the middle rounds and dropped Verdejo twice himself.

“I fought Teofimo Lopez before (in 2019) and I want to fight him again,” he said in the post-fight interview. “That’s why I kept going tonight. I want to go for the knockout (in a rematch) like I did today. That’s going to be my style going forward.”

At first, it looked like it might be a quick night at the office for Verdejo. About a minute into the opening round, he connected with a big right hand that dropped Nakatani (19-1, 13 knockouts) on his backside. However, the battle-tested Nakatani wasn’t hurt and quickly rose to his feet.

Verdejo (27-2, 17 KOs) remained in control in the early rounds. He scored another knockdown in the fourth off a counter right hand. However, once again, Nakatani wasn’t badly hurt and showed impressive recuperative powers.

The momentum began to change in the middle rounds, as Nakatani began to find his range. Both men were landing good shots, but it was the Japanese fighter who appeared to be surging.

Halfway through the seventh, Nakatani connected with a good right hand that visibly stunned Verdejo. The Puerto Rican was able to hold on and clear his head, but his legs would never fully recover. Nakatani kept marching forward, walking through every shot Verdejo landed, pushing him back with hard shots of his own.

Things collapsed for a fatigued, unsteady, Verdejo in the ninth. Nakatani landed a power jab right on the button that put him down. Although Verdejo made it to his feet, the writing was on the wall. Nakatani followed with a hard one-two that landed on the top of the head, dropping Verdejo again. Referee Celestino Ruiz immediately called off the fight, giving Nakatani the TKO victory.

All three judges had Verdejo well ahead at the time of the stoppage. CompuBox credited Nakatani with landing 81 of 412 punches (20%), compared to 69 of 269 (26%) for Verdejo.

Tonight marked the second time Nakatani has fought outside Japan. The first was last July, when he took current undisputed lightweight champ Teofimo Lopez the distance in Maryland. He’d love to get another crack at Lopez and, given his performance tonight, he’s certainly earned it.

The future is unclear for Verdejo, who was once touted as a blue-chip prospect and future star.

Michael Montero can be found on social media via @MonteroOnBoxing. His podcast “The Neutral Corner” can be seen every Monday on TheRingDigital YouTube channel, and heard on audio podcast platforms around the world.