The Friday Faceup

Can Lomachenko juggle his way back to a world title ?

After an exodus of eight months following his high profile loss to Teofimo Lopez, former unified lightweight champion of the world Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KO’s) returns this weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada.

He meets Japanese contender Masayoshi Nakatini (19-1, 13 KO’s) who extended Lopez to twelve rounds, losing convincingly in 2019.

For Lomachenko, a man who’s dedicated his life to the sport winning double Olympic gold and professional world titles in two weight classes, it was worrying to fans that we might have seen the last of this spectacular talent. Thankfully, Loma (aka The Matrix) now returns, hopefully to re-capture previous momentum and maybe a version of one of his former titles.

Lomachenko was disgusted by the unanimous points return (116-112, 117-111, 119-109) from the judges adjudicating in his October 2020 loss to Lopez and, after leaving the ring swiftly, later revealed a shoulder injury requiring immediate surgery and recuperation. His ring exit was similar to the indignation and contempt expressed by ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler after his 1987 ‘defeat’ to Sugar Ray Leonard and some thought we might not see him inside the four ropes again.

Lomachenko, now 33, remains in the Ring magazine pound for pound ratings at #9 and still boasts a lightweight world ranking and 14-2-0 (10 KO’s) record. His skill set and physical toughness is beyond reproach but is now at an advanced age for the lighter divisions. Nakatini, a year younger, like all Japanese fighters will be tough and as a tall lightweight will provide Loma with plenty of problems.

In a way it’s the ideal comeback for Lomachenko; a test at just below championship level, against a boxer with a respected record who carries some kudos. If, as expected, the Ukrainian is victorious over the 12 rounds, and looks good, then he can expect a title shot next. Lopez may be looking onto bigger things after his self confessed ‘Takeover’ but there will be a clamour for a rematch.

The fight will be televised on Sky Sports in the early hours of Sunday morning (UK time) as part of their new deal with Bob Arum’s Top Rank organisation.

Also Saturday, in Atlanta, Georgia two divisional ‘world’ champion Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis (24-0, 23 KO’s) challenges Mario ‘El Azteca’ Barrios (26-0, 17 KO’s) for his WBA super-lightweight ‘regular’ title. That the undisputed champion in the 10st/140lb division is Scotland’s Josh Taylor further confuses the casual sports fan (and some boxing fans), but it is what it is.

In fact, it’s a quality match between two undefeated fighters. Both are ‘bangers’ but Davis should prevail in a tough, competitive contest. The Baltimore native registered the 2020 knockout of the year against Leo Santa Cruz and has the superior power and ring smarts to defeat Barrios. The likely outcome is a narrow points victory in a thrilling fight.

The contest will be available in the UK on the FITE streaming channel as a pay per view event.

The weekend highlights are capped by the appearance of quality WBC flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez against Joel Cordova in Guadalajara, Mexico. The fight is co-promoted by hometown boy and #1 pound-for-pound king Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in his new venture, and Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom.

Martinez (17-1-0, 13 KO’s) is being tipped for big things and in Cordova meets a fellow Mexican with 12-4-2 (3 KO’s) record. Whist you never know when two ‘hombres’ meet, this would suggest that Cordova is in deep and a convincing Martinez victory is expected.

The contest will be available on the DAZN streaming platform in the UK.

Take your pick of some quality action this weekend. Enjoy !

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