Notebook: Lomachenko returns
Navarrete stops Diaz in slugfest; Berlanga wins but no KO
Former pound-for-pound king and three-division world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko’s ring return is set.
Lomachenko will face Masayoshi Nakatani in a 12-round lightweight fight on June 26 in the main event of a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card at the Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas. The fight was announced during the Emanuel Navarrete-Christopher Diaz ESPN telecast on Saturday night.
The bout will be Lomachenko’s first since he lost his unified lightweight belts by upset decision — 119-109, 117-111 and 116-112 — to Teofimo Lopez Jr. in a unification fight on Oct. 17 inside the bubble of the conference center of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
The 33-year-old Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KOs), a southpaw, went into the fight with an injured right shoulder he hurt in training camp. A few days after the loss he had surgery on the shoulder, the same one he had previously suffered a torn labrum in during his 10th-round knockout victory over Jorge Linares to win his first lightweight belt in May 2018. That injury also required surgery.
Lomachenko, the two-time Olympic gold medalist, who has won professional world titles at featherweight, junior lightweight and lightweight, has been back in training at home in Ukraine for the past few months and had always been planning for a late spring/early summer return.
He was considering a return to junior lightweight, but decided to stay at lightweight to face Nakatani, an opponent he and his team specifically sought out, Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti told Fight Freaks Unite.
“We suggested a couple of other guys. Strongly. But it was not to be, so Nakatani is in,” Moretti said.
Nakatani (19-1, 13 KOs), 32, of Japan, is 5-foot-11, very tall for a lightweight, and will own a four-inch height advantage against Lomachenko. Nakatani is coming off a career-best victory when he survived two knockdowns and was trailing on all three scorecards before knocking out Felix Verdejo in the ninth round on Dec. 12 at the MGM Grand conference center.
That victory followed Nakatani’s only pro loss, a unanimous decision to Lopez in a lightweight world title elimination fight in July 2019. Although Lopez won, Nakatani gave him a very tough fight.
The Lomachenko-Nakatani card being at the Virgin Hotels — the newly refurbished former Hard Rock Hotel & Casino — is part of a deal Top Rank recently made with the property to host four upcoming ESPN shows: the undisputed junior welterweight title fight between Jose Ramirez and Josh Taylor on May 22; the Shakur Stevenson-Jeremiah Nakathila interim junior lightweight title bout on June 12; unified bantamweight world champion Naoya Inoue’s mandatory defense against Michael Dasmarinas on June 19; and Lomachenko-Nakatani on June 26.
Thriller: Navarrete TKO12 Diaz
Emanuel Navarrete wanted a memorable battle that would be worthy of the revered Mexico versus Puerto Rico boxing rivalry and he found a willing partner in Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz on Saturday night.
Although one-sided, they turned in an action-packed battle in which Navarrete scored four knockdowns and stopped Diaz to retain the WBO featherweight world title when Diaz’s trainer, Nelson Rodriguez, threw in the towel in the waning seconds of the 12th round of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN main event at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Florida.
It was a thrilling fight and a more than worthy entrant into the pantheon of outstanding Mexico-Puerto Rico world title fights. I wrote about it for The Ring magazine website. Please read the story here: https://www.ringtv.com/620734-emanuel-navarrete-stops-christopher-diaz-in-12th-round-of-mexico-vs-puerto-rico-classic/
Berlanga rolls but KO streak ends
The question coming into red-hot super middleweight prospect Edgar Berlanga’s fight with Demond Nicholson was simple. It wasn’t whether Berlanga, the heavy favorite, would win. That was considered a foregone conclusion.
The question was could Berlanga – “The Chosen One” – extend his streak of first-round knockouts to begin his professional career to 17 in a row?
He could not, but Berlanga nonetheless dominated Nicholson, knocking him down four times and winning a lopsided decision, 79-68, 79-69 and 79-69, to remain undefeated in the co-feature of featherweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete’s first defense against Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz.
I wrote about Berlanga-Nicholson and the entire outstanding undercard for The Ring magazine website. Please read the coverage here: https://www.ringtv.com/620727-edgar-berlangas-ko-streak-ends-but-wins-lopsided-decision-over-demond-nicholson/
Haney-Linares undercard official
The undercard for WBC lightweight titlist Devin Haney’s defense against former titlist Jorge Linares on May 29 (DAZN) at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas was announced by Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn.
Chantelle Cameron (13-0, 7 KOs), of England, will defend the WBC women’s junior welterweight title for the first time when she faces Puerto Rico’s Melissa Hernandez (23-7-3, 7 KOs)
In a 10-round fight between Golden Boy fighters, middleweights Jason Quigley (18-1 14 KOs), of Ireland, and Shane Mosley Jr. (17-3 10 KOs), of Pomona, California, will meet for a regional title. The were initially scheduled to fight on a Golden Boy card on Feb. 13 but Quigley withdrew due to illness and Mosley instead stopped replacement Cristian Olivas in the fifth round.
England’s Martin J. Ward (24-1-2, 11 KOs) will face Azinga Fuzile (14-1, 8 KOs), of South Africa, in an IBF junior lightweight elimination bout. Ward has all of his previous fights in the United Kingdom except for one in Italy. Fuzile has had all of his bouts in South Africa.
“Quigley versus Mosley Jr. has the feel of a must-win crossroads fight for the pair, while Ward versus Fuzile has plenty at stake and is sure to catch fire,” Hearn said.
Also, newly signed New Jersey light heavyweight prospect Khalil Coe will make his professional debut; New York welterweight prospect Reshat Mati (9-0, 7 KOs) will be in an eight-rounder; female featherweight Ramla Ali (2-0, 2 KOs), a native of Somalia fighting out of England, will be in a six-rounder; and Haney pal Darren Cunningham (13-0, 7 KOs), a featherweight fighting out of Las Vegas, will also be in a six-rounder.
Junior lightweight prospect Marc Castro (2-0, 2 KOs), 21, the former amateur standout from Fresno, California, who will be on his third consecutive Canelo Alvarez undercard, has an opponent for his bout on the Alvarez-Billy Joe Saunders show on May 8 (DAZN) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Castro will face Irving Macias Castillo (8-1, 5 KOs), of Mexico, in a scheduled six-rounder, Castro manager Keith Connolly told Fight Freaks Unite.
Kenshiro Teraji (18-0, 10 KOs), 29, retained the WBC junior flyweight title for the eighth time on Saturday, winning a unanimous decision over Japanese countryman Tetsuya Hisada (34-11-2, 20 KOs), 36, on Saturday at EDION Arena in Osaka, Japan, Hisada’s hometown. Teraji, back in action for the first time since December 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic and legal issues that led to a fine and suspension from the Japanese Boxing Commission, won 119-018, 118-109 and 118-109. The faster Teraji dropped Hisada with an overhand right in the second round and cruised.
Show and tell
You can’t hit a five-run walk-off home run in baseball or sink a five-pointer to win in basketball or make up nine points with a last-second touchdown in football. It is only in combat sports where a competitor could well have lost every moment of the fight but still has a chance to win with one punch in the final second of the bout. There is nothing more dramatic in sports than a boxer erasing a big deficit on the scorecards by scoring a last-second knockout in the 12th round of big fight. I have seen a few comebacks in my day but rarely have I been ringside for something as dramatic as what happened when Carl Froch faced Jermain Taylor.
England’s Froch had come to the MGM Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Connecticut, to defend his WBC super middleweight world title for the first time against former undisputed middleweight champion Taylor. Froch had been knocked down for the first time in his career in the third round and was being manhandled by Taylor, who led 106-102 on two scorecards (although the third judge absurdly had Froch ahead 106-102) as they went to the 12th round. Froch would need a knockout to win — and he got it alright. He dropped an exhausted Taylor midway through the final round and continued to pound him until finally referee Michael Ortega had no choice but to intervene with only 14 seconds left in the fight as Froch retained his title, maintained his undefeated record and broke Taylor’s heart. The fight was on April 25, 2009 — 12 years ago on Sunday. Here is my ringside credential.
Photos: Mikey Williams/Top Rank