Vasiliy Lomachenko is set to return and isn’t looking for a soft touch to work his way back into the mix.
The former three-division titlist and pound-for-pound entrant is confirmed to next face Japan’s Masayoshi Nakatani. The bout will take place June 26, live on an ESPN platform from Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.
Confirmation of the date and venue was made on air by ESPN’s Mark Kriegel during an ESPN+ boxing telecast. The same location will also host the undisputed junior welterweight championship between undefeated and unified titlists Jose Carlos Ramirez (WBC/WBO titles; 26-0, 17KOs) and Josh Taylor (WBA/IBF; 17-0, 13KOs) on May 22.
Ukraine’s Lomachenko (14-2, 10KOs) fights for the first time since ending his unified lightweight title reign in a 12-round unanimous decision defeat to Teofimo Lopez (16-0, 12KOs) in their WBA/IBF/WBO unification bout last October at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. The setback marked Lomachenko’s first loss since his second pro fight, when the two-time Olympic Gold medalist came up just short versus Orlando Salido in a featherweight title bid back in March 2014.
The setback versus Lopez was a bitter pill to swallow for Lomachenko, who subsequently went under the knife to surgically repair his right shoulder. The 33-year-old southpaw is fully healed, having also moved past a litany of excuses—many of which he insisted were lost in translation from interviews conducted in his native language—to embark on what he hopes is another title run.
Nakatani (19-1-1, 13KOs) fights for the first time since a thrilling come-from-behind 9th round knockout of Puerto Rico’s Felix Verdejo last December, which also took place at the MGM bubble. The 5’11½” was down twice in the bout and trailing by scores of 77-74, 78-72 and 78-72 before twice dropping Verdejo in the ninth round to produce the upset knockout win. The bout was hailed by many outlets as among the best of 2020.
It was also a huge bounce back victory for Nakatani, who 15 months prior suffered his lone career defeat. It came in a hard-fought 12-round decision to Brooklyn’s Lopez, who won his first lightweight title one fight later in a 2nd round knockout of Richard Commey, The clash versus Lomachenko will mark the third straight in the United States for Nakatani after having previously fought exclusively in Japan.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox