During a busy night of big fights on both side of The Atlantic, lightweights Masayoshi Nakatani and Felix Verdejo might have given us the best action fight of the evening. The two men, fighting in Las Vegas on the Shakur Stevenson-Toka Kahn Clary card, exchanged knockdowns in a very entertaining battle. Japan’s Nakatani was dropped twice, in the opening round and again in round four, before coming back to drop Verdejo twice in the ninth round, finishing the Puerto Rican off in the same session. Nakatini, now 19-1(13) called out unified 135 pound king Teofimo Lopez after his stirring win. Lopez is the only man to have beaten Nakatani.
Verdejo, once “the next big thing,” was hoping for a win last night and then a shot at Lopez. Now it’s tough to see what Verdejo does next. Having fallen to 27-2(17), Verdejo is again in need of a rebuild. Initially, it looked as though Verdejo would get himself a quick win over Nakatani. Veredjo came out fast and dropped his rival with a big right hand to the head. Nakatani, though, is one tough warrior and he wasn’t badly hurt. Verdejo remained in control of the fight, decking his foe again in the fourth, but Nakatani is a fighter with heart along with fine recuperative powers and again he got up looking unhurt. By the middle rounds of the fight things began to change. Nakatani was the man looking stronger and he was taking over the action. Verdejo was noticeably hurt in the seventh round, when Nakatani landed a big right hand of his own.
A fading Verdejo was then put down twice in the ninth, with the referee waving the fight off as soon as the second knockdown took place. There were no complaints about the ending, even though Verdejo was ahead on all three judges’ cards at the time of the stoppage. Now Nakatani wants revenge over Lopez. “I fought Teofimo Lopez before (it was back in 2019, Nakatani going down via unanimous decision) and I want to fight him again,” a victorious Nakatani said. “That’s why I kept going tonight. I want to go for the knockout (against Lopez in a return fight) like I did today. That’s going to be my style going forward.”
Of course, just about every 135 pound fighter you can think of right now wants a shot at Lopez. Lopez is in the opinion of a good many people the next big superstar of the sport, and he sure has plenty of big and attractive options for his next fight or fights. But Nakatana, even if he doesn’t get the big rematch he wants, will surely feature in further good fights down the road. Yet another exciting and extremely watchable warrior from Japan, Nakatani gave us a real thriller last night inside “The Bubble” at the MGM Grand in Vegas.