Vasiliy Lomachenko is undoubtedly still a major player in the Lightweight division and any concerns of whether he may have seen his best days have been forgotten after he returned to winning ways on Saturday.
Lomachenko (15-2, 11 KOs) fought for the first time since the defeat to Teofimo Lopez in their undisputed title clash last October and was then sidelined after shoulder surgery.
However, the Ukrainian great dazzled under the bright lights of Las Vegas, dominating and then stopping Masayoshi Nakatani in nine rounds, with the Japanese contender halted for the first time in his career, having gone the distance in defeat to Lopez two years prior.
Nakatani struggled to figure out ‘Loma’ out from the opening bell, with his speed, angles and overall ring IQ enabling him to nullify the significant disadvantage he had in height and reach.
Lomachenko had the finishing instincts to match his exceptional skillset, with referee Celestino Ruiz putting Nakatani out of his misery with over a minute remaining in the ninth round.
It was the exact kind of statement the 33-year-old required after seeing his name dropped in several pound-for-pound conversations following defeat to Lopez and a win which puts him straight back into the world title picture.
“I’m happy because I won. All the strategies that we developed with my team [worked],” Lomachenko told ESPN post-fight.
“I reached all my goals. I won and now I’m back on track.”
The three-weight world champion has top two rankings in two of the three governing bodies and is rated fifth by another, so who could be next on his hitlist?
All the talk after Lomechenko’s win centred around a rematch with Teofimo Lopez.
The first fight had just about everything, from an intense build-up to a closely-fought battle, which saw ‘Loma’ rally back after a torrid start, losing his Lightweight world titles on a unanimous decision.
Lopez’s father Teofimo Lopez Sr was ringside to witness his return and admitted he would be open to a second outing, although ‘The Takeover’ is set to face mandatory challenger, George Kambosos Jr later this year, after their fight scheduled for June 19 was postponed due to the Brooklynite testing positive for COVID-19, with the Australian supremely confident of disrupting his rival’s plans.
“After this performance I think the public want to see this fight,” Lopez Sr told ESPN.
“I think that I could convince my son to fight him again. I think after Kambosos it could be made.
“It’s going to be the biggest fight in the world and we could make it happen in December in Madison Square Garden.”
CONFIRMED: Everyone wants it.
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) June 27, 2021
There have been calls for a rematch ever since the first fight and seems the most lucrative option for both, especially in front of a crowd in New York, where Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs) in particular is a big draw.
Lomachenko called for a second bout with his rival, stating to ESPN: “Everybody saw how I won this fight, and everybody is waiting for the rematch [with Lopez], so let’s make a rematch.
“He has a fight in the future with [George] Kambosos, but how about after, in the beginning of next year? December, January, February, I am waiting.”
Should a showdown between Lomachenko and Lopez not materialise, then Ryan Garcia would be an enticing alternative.
Lomachenko is ranked as the number two contender with the WBC, behind Franchise champion, Lopez and full titlist, Devin Haney.
Haney will have a mandatory to fulfill in the form of the winner of the upcoming WBC interim title clash between Joseph Diaz and Javier Fortuna, thus ruling him out of a clash with both ‘Loma’ and Garcia.
Garcia (21-0, 18 KOs) pulled out of a scheduled July fight with Fortuna to battle mental health issues and he has announced that he is ready to return.
The 22-year-old will look to continue the momentum following his stoppage win over Luke Campbell in January and providing a deal could be reached between Top Rank and Garcia’s promoters, Golden Boy as well as between the networks ESPN and DAZN, then we could be seeing a mega showdown in the near future.
Recharged and ready to get back to it 21-0 18ko’s 🥊🔥 time to get to 22
— RYAN GARCIA (@RyanGarcia) June 28, 2021
Those stumbling blocks are easier said than done to overcome, although it would seem the most viable fight from a WBC perspective and the victor could then go on to challenge for a world title.
Former world champion, Richard Commey could be another realistic option for Lomachenko.
Commey (30-3, 27 KOs) bounced back from defeat to common opponent, Lopez with a sixth round knockout of Jackson Martinez, headlining a Top Rank card in February.
The Ghanian has competed at the highest level, with just three defeats on his record and is enhancing his profile in the USA.
The 34-year-old would be a live opponent for ‘Loma’ and has a fearsome knockout percentage with 27 victories inside the distance.
Commey has a high ranking in the WBC and WBO and would represent another credible step towards another world title opportunity for the Ukrainian.
A clash shouldn’t be difficult to seal either, given Commey’s previous history with Top Rank and in a fight he’d head into as the underdog, ‘RC’ would potentially be receiving his last chance at securing another shot at world glory and would thus carry plenty of ambition.