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Teofimo Lopez Has To Work Hard and Smart To Decision Nakatani On ESPN+

Michael Woods

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He is among the most confident practitioners in the game, is Teofimo Lopez.

Nope, not a stitch shy, as he’s been telling us the last couple years that he is knee-deep in “The Takeover,” meaning, the transition to becoming THE MAN in the sport.

Move over, “Money” Mayweather, and let Lopez rise. That was what the kid’s been saying for a spell, and yes, some fans haven’t taken to the cockiness. He’s not apologizing, or backing off. He’s kicking tails and promising that will continue as he steps up the competition.

On Friday night, Lopez completed another chapter in his desired rise, but he had to work harder than in any previous tango, and no, there was no flashy viral video stoppage of 30 year old Masayoshi Nakatani at MGM National Harbor in Maryland.

After 12 rounds, the scores were furnished: 118-110, 118-110, 119-109, for Lopez.

How’d he do? “Horrible,” he declared.

The foe’s height bothered him, and he got lazy in spurts. But he said The Takeover is still on target and he will beat Richard Commey, the IBF’s 135 champ, and he wants the other 135 belts from Vasyl Lomachenko. He said he was happy he went 12, and showed his conditioning was good, but no, the typical effervescence wasn’t present. Tim Bradley even used the “E” word, saying Lopez got exposed a bit.

The Top Rank scrap ran on ESPN+, and before the action kicked off, we learned more about what’s been going on behind those scenes. Turns out not everyone in the Lopez family is a fan of the pairing of the kid and his lady, who he recently married. She’s older and it is worried that she’s a gold digger. Yes, there are some chapters in and of themself, in that whole dynamic. But, in the ring, things seem to be less complicated for Lopez…

I mean, we heard that before his last bout, against Edis Tatli in April, nerves were causing Teo’s hair to fall out. Stress baldness!

In the first, we saw Lopez (14-0, 12 KOs), 22 on July 30th, and no longer living with his parents, assessing the busy foe. A snappy jab, some rights, and no fear on his face–Nakatani took the round.

In round two, Lopez had to dodge jabs, and he closed the distance, deciding to do less scouting and get more into offense. The visitor’s hand speed was maybe a notch better than Teofimo expected?

In the third, TL came out more snappy. He was upping that ante….Lopez jabbed to the body, slid right, and we saw Nakatani edging closer, and stalking. Lopez landed a left, in round four…he was stalking now. Nakatani went down, no, a slip. He was backing up now, and hands were dropping. In the fifth, we saw Lopez shaking his head, nah, no Nakatani doesn’t have a good right, as the ESPN crew was saying. A snappy jab from Lopez was peppier than earlier on. But the 6-0 Japanese challenger stayed tall and in the pocket and he’d eaten some solid tosses, without getting buzzed.

To the 6th…Nakatani wasn’t to be brushed off, or back. He was the one doing the advancing and his D was still solid. He saw Lopez’ shots and his in ring vision was keeping his chin from getting checked. In the 7th, we saw Naka stalk. He was quite confident, after having tasted what he believed to be Lopez’ most powerful launch. A behind the back punch didn’t bother Nakatani–he saw it, then ran hard at Lopez, who was coming out of a corner.

This was now the deepest Lopez had been as a pro…

To the eighth round..we saw Nakatani being smart defensively. He was pretty light on his feet, too. In the ninth, a right clipped Nakatani. But Lopez loaded up and the Japanese boxer was still slipping adeptly. Round ten saw Lopez get buzzed. A right hand, then another…They were trading. “Fatigue has set in,” said Tim Bradley, of “The Takeover” specialist.

In round 11, Lopez wasn’t able to pull away, turn it up to another level on the underdog.

In the 12th, Lopez couldn’t get that great look at Nakatani. We went to the cards…

NOTE: Maksim Dadashev, age 28, was taken to a local hospital after losing via TKO following nine rounds of action to rugged and skilled Puerto Rican Subriel Matias. The 140 pound clash saw Matias working hard low and high and he broke down the Russian. The loser was awake but then lost consciousness on the way to a hospital. His ambulance was re-routed to a closer facility and word was he’d be getting surgery, according to an ESPN source, for swelling inside his skull. Trainer Buddy McGirt told the ref he was pulling the plug after his kid ate hard and clean shots in the ninth. This was the bout which ran before the main event.

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.

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