Wednesday, March 22, 2023  |


Top Rank links with Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, Lomachenko returns there vs. Nakatani


Top Rank, the venerable promotional entity leaded by Hall of Famer Bob Arum, has partnered up with a newer player/platform on the hospitality scene, Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

The first event of four at that facility unfolds Saturday, May 22 inside The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, and is topped by a clash that is much anticipated for boxing hardcores: WBC/WBO champion Jose Ramirez meets WBA/IBF champion Josh Taylor, from Scotland.

In the 10-round junior welterweight co-feature, two-time world title challenger Jose “Chon” Zepeda, who engaged in the 2020 BWAA Fight of the Year with Ivan Baranchyk, will battle Philadelphia veteran “Hammerin” Hank Lundy.

Three weeks later, Saturday, June 12, Top Rank goes back to Virgin Hotels—–yeah, it feels a bit strange to NOT be talking about TR doing shows from that MGM “Bubble”—-when former featherweight world champion Shakur Stevenson fights Jeremiah Nakathila, from Namibia, for the WBO interim junior lightweight world title.

The promotion returns to the scene on Saturday, June 19, with Japanese knockout artist Naoya “Monster” Inoue defending his IBF and WBA bantamweight world titles against IBF No. 1 contender Michael “Hot and Spicy” Dasmarinas, from the Philippines.

The last of the four events during this flurry at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas brings the return of Vasiliy Lomachenko, who we last saw tasting defeat at the hands of the younger gun Teofimo Lopez, last October.

Loma (14-2), who turned 33 on Feb. 17, battles Masayoshi Nakatani in the 12-round lightweight main event. Nakatani (19-1) last gloved up in December, when he turned away the challenge of Felix Verdejo.

Fans will be allowed inside for all four fight cards at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. Ramirez-Taylor tix are on sale today, in fact.

“Top Rank is honored to debut boxing at the beautiful new Virgin Hotels Las Vegas with many of the sport’s biggest stars in sensational fights,” said Top Rank bossman Bob Arum. “We begin May 22 with a genuine super fight, a precursor for the great action to come in June.”

Digging in to the offerings…Stevenson (15-0, 8 KOs; pictured below) wants a title in a second weight class, and figures to be a big fave over Nakathila (21-1, 17 KOs), a winner of 10 consecutive fights by knockout since he lost in 2016 in a step-up fight, to Evgeny Chuprakov, then 16-0.

Inoue (20-0, 17 KOs) is also facing someone not a known quality to even hardcore fight fans; Dasmarinas (30-2-1, 20 KOs) is 12-0-1 since his last loss, to Lwandile Sityatha in 2014.

The June 26 Lomachenko vs. Nakatani tussle is the center-piece pairing of the ones announced for this run at the new joint. The Ukrainian, looking to show the world that he hasn’t lost a step, will scrap on ESPN+, and will be giving up maybe five inches in height and six inches in reach.

By the way, the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas structure is interesting, in that it gathers mega-name conglomerates to work in synthesis.

Their 60,000 sq. ft. casino is run by Mohegan Sun Casino, the Connecticut company. Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin corporation has their name stamp to attact business, and it’s one of the 100 differentiated and jazzed up hotels and resorts under the Hilton umbrella.

Hilton took a hit in the first quarter, no surprise because of the pandemic. But as of April 28, they reported that 97% of their properties round the world are open for business.

These events, it’s all about boxing, sure, but it’s also about The Comeback, coming out of pandemic and getting systems humming and people working and spending and having fun being entertained and enthralled.