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Valdez routs Lopez in rematch to earn another 130-pound title shot
Muratalla drills Nakathila in 2nd round; Nakatani scores devastating KO of Moloney to win jr. bantamweight belt; Ali Walsh held to draw
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Oscar Valdez punched his way into a junior lightweight world title shot with a one-sided rout of Adam Lopez in a rematch in the co-feature of the Devin Haney-Vassiliy Lomachenko card on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Valdez, a former junior lightweight and featherweight titleholder, won 98-92, 98-91 and 97-93.
With the win, Valdez secured an expected summer shot at WBO 130-pound titlist and Mexican countryman Emanuel Navarrete (37-1, 31 KOs) in what most would peg as a can’t-miss action fight.
“We all want (Navarrete), man,” Valdez said. “Nothing but respect for him. He’s a great champion.”
Valdez came into the rematch with Lopez coming off his first defeat, a lopsided decision to Shakur Stevenson in a junior lightweight unification fight 13 months ago, also at the MGM Grand.
Valdez’s layoff was caused by injury. He and Navarrete were due to fight for the vacant WBO title on Feb. 3, but Valdez withdrew due to a back/rib injury. Navarrete stopped replacement Liam Wilson in the ninth round of a rousing battle to claim the belt with Valdez watching at ringside knowing he would get the first crack as long as he won on Saturday.
When Valdez moved up to 130 pounds and made his debut in the division in November 2019, Lopez (16-5, 6 KOs), 27, of Glendale, California, knocked him down in the second round before Valdez (31-1, 23 KOs), 32, rebounded to stop him in the seventh round of a competitive fight.
The rematch was not competitive, however.
Valdez looked sharp coming off the layoff and injury. His jab was snappy with good power and he was active. Lopez had a few good moments when he fired flurries but there was little power behind the shots.
Valdez’s jab was strong. He landed several that snapped Lopez’s head straight back as he did during the sixth round. Valdez consistently beat Lopez to the punch on the inside and outside and was in control throughout the fight.
When Lopez tried to dance around in the ninth round, Valdez lashed him with a clean left hook and a right hand.
Early in the 10th round, Valdez nailed Lopez in the nose with an accidental head butt and followed with a left hook. Lopez’s nose appeared broken. He reached for his nose immediately and blood began to pour out.
“It’s a sport. It’s competition, nothing personal,” Valdez said of going after Lopez hard after the apparent nose injury. “On the contrary. I’ve got nothing but respect for him. Outside the ring we an all be friends. I was just trying to be the better fighter. With a fighter like Adam Lopez we can’t get too confident. I was just trying to be a better, smarter fighter.”
Muratalla smokes Nakathila
Lightweight up-and-comer Raymond Muratalla made a serious statement that he may be a fighter to be reckoned with as he destroyed Jeremia Nakathila in the second round of a step-up fight.
Nobody had every stopped the experienced Nakathila until Muratalla put him away with ease in the opener of the pay-per-view telecast.
The Robert Garcia-trained Muratalla (18-0, 15 KOs), 26, of Fontana, California, had no problem with the most notable opponent of his career.
“I was so prepared for this fight. I’ve been training for this fight. I’ve been so dedicated,” Muratalla said. “I’m so focused, and I’m ready for anybody. I think I sent a big message to the lightweight division. Nobody has ever stopped Nakathila. I just stopped him in the second round. I think that’s a huge statement.”
In the second round, he buckled Nakathila with a right hand that sent him into a corner. Muratalla charged to him and unloaded eight unanswered shots, almost all of which connected, including a right hand that badly hurt him, and forced referee Robert Hoyle to step in at 2 minutes, 48 seconds.
“I want the winner of the main event. That’s who I want,” Muratalla said.
Since losing a shutout decision to Shakur Stevenson for the WBO interim junior lightweight title in June 2021, Nakathila (23-3, 19 KOs), 31, of Namibia, had won two fights in a row, including moving up to lightweight in his last fight 13 months ago and badly knocking out former junior lightweight titlist Miguel Berchelt in the sixth round.
Nakatani crushes Moloney for title
Junto Nakatani scored a sensational one-punch knockout in the 12th round to end a dominant performance against Jason Moloney as he won the vacant WBO junior bantamweight title.
Nakatani, the former WBO flyweight titlist, who vacated to move up in weight, denied Moloney in his bid to join twin brother Jason Moloney as a world titleholder. Jason outpointed Vincent Astrolabio to win the vacant WBO bantamweight belt last Saturday.
“I was very pleased and satisfied to have a good knockout,” Nakatani said through an interpreter. “I was ready for him and his style. I knew he would fight that way and we adjusted to that. I think this win opens up a big road for me. I want unification fights. It can be against anybody. It can be with (Juan Francisco) Estrada or anybody.”
Nakatani, who won the 115-pound belt vacated by his Japanese countryman Kazuto Ioka, took control early when he bloodied Moloney’s nose and dropped him with a combination — two left uppercuts and a right hand — in the second round.
There was also an accidental head butt that left Moloney with a bloody cut on his right eyelid that his corner did a good job of keeping under control.
Another accidental head butt busted open a cut over Nakatani’s eye and blood poured down his face, but corner got it cleaned up and it didn’t cause him problems.
Moloney (25-3, 16 KOs), 32, of Australia, who is a former WBA “regular” junior bantamweight titlist, did all he could to hang in there and had his moments, especially in the all-action seventh round, but Nakatani, 25, a southpaw, was clearly the superior fighter.
In the 11th round, Nakatani (25-0, 19 KOs) nailed Moloney with a straight left hand that dropped him to his backside.
After the round there was conversation in Moloney’s corner about stopping the fight but he was allowed to continue. But Nakatani ended it with a destructive left hand that nailed Moloney on the chin and dropped him hard on his back under his folded legs.
Referee Mark Nelson waved it off without a count at 2 minutes, 42 seconds and Moloney immediately received medical attention.
Nakatani was ahead 108-99 on two scorecards and 107-100 on the third at the time of the stoppage.
Ali Walsh held to draw
Middleweight Nico Ali Walsh, the grandson of Muhammad Ali, took the first blemish on his record as he was held to a split draw by Danny Rosenberger.
One judges had it 77-75 for Ali Walsh, one had it 77-75 for Rosenberger and one had it 76-76.
Ali Walsh (8-0-1, 5 KOs), 22, of Las Vegas, was in his first eight-rounder and did not seem to have any issues with his stamina but he was also facing his best opponent of a limited group of foes and Rosenberger (13-9-5, 4 KOs), 32, of Youngstown, Ohio, found enough success to keep it close all the way.
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