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Loma Returns: Still Eying Teofimo

ESPN/Top Rank Boxing

New York: Vasily Lomachencko will not forget losing the lightweight titles to Teofimo Lopez. Eight months ago at the MGM Grand Bubble in Las Vegas and during a pandemic on ESPN, those images remain. Lomachecko was no longer the pound-for-pound king and Lopez started the takeover.

“I didn’t think I was defeated and still say I was not defeated,” Lomachencko said this week in final preparations for his ring return Saturday night in a 12-round lightweight bout against Japanese contender Masayosshi Nakatani at Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas.

Lomachencko is the main event of a Top Rank card of boxing televised on the ESPN platforms.

Perhaps, Lomachencko has a point about losing the titles because the 119-109 scorecard of Julie Lederman to many was way off. Credit, though, to Lopez who vowed to make his point and unify the lightweight titles and begin his takeover.

In the meantime the first title defense for Lopez against George Kambosos is on hold again and reportedly rescheduled for September 11 on a Triller PPV that highlights an exhibition bout with Hall of Famer Oscar de La Hoya.

Months later, Lomachencko has vivid and bad memories of the title loss. Lopez, and to his credit was able to knock off the champion and left little doubt about his standing as that 23-year old and new superstar in the sport with ambitions of becoming a unified champion in two divisions and quest for the titles at junior welterweight.

But the story here is about Vasily Lomachencko. There could be thoughts about moving down a notch and test those at 130, however, Lomachencko will not be content until he meets Lopez again. Every fighter seeks vindication, after all that is a part of their repertoire and more so after a bitter and tough loss that saw the titles go on the challenger.

“I don’t accept defeat,” says Lomachenko. “I just can’t”

So Saturday night the process begins. Lomachencko, under Top Rank control, as is Lopez, could be in position for a possible return fight and put an end to the takeover. Lopez, on the other hand, will be an observer and possibly at ringside after his title defense last week was scrapped due to a positive COVID test.

And a Lomachencko-Lopez second fight is something that Top Rank has on the agenda. Bob Arum and Lopez made amends after a purse bid of that first title defense went to the startup Triller Fight Club promotion. Lopez is reportedly set to defend his titles on an upcoming ESPN PPV telecast in October or November, and Top Rank would like to headline him at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Yes, it’s all in the cards to set the stage for a second fight that is not difficult to sell. But Lomachencko is being questioned about that first fight. What went wrong?

Instead of flashing back and with the mentality of being on the wrong end of a bad decision, Lomachencko is focused on Saturday night. Basically, he will be in the ring with fans in attendance and intends to make a statement.

“I have a fight this Saturday, and after that, we can talk about a rematch,” he says. “I want it.”

Added to the equation are the logistics of a rematch. Lopez, is not commenting directly, but sources say the champion has a desire for a second fight. Lopez has avoided interview requests since his bout with COVID. There is suspicion that his fight with Kambosos and the entire Triller card was cancelled due to a lack of ticket sales in Miami.

Also, Devin Haney the WBC regular lightweight champion is always in the talk about a real unified fight with Lopez. Regardless, Lomachencko could also be a part of that equation and get Haney, and it all depends on the schedule because Lopez has that mandatory against Kambosos.

But any rematch is not coming soon. So the emphasis will be how Lomachencko rebounds Saturday night. Those first six rounds against Lopez were not Lomachencko type of fights and a better first half could have made the difference to the judges.

However, Lomochencko with the knockout power made the comeback and came up short. That night, Teofimo Lopez was the better fighter and went home as the supposed unified lightweight champion with Haney in that equation.

As they say this will be an interesting test for Lomochencko and for the first time in 17 pro fights a very important one. Lomachencko is no longer in that best pound-for-pound discussion and Teofimo Lopez is still on his agenda.

TANK DAVIS AND MORE: Gervonta “Tank” Davis is in that class of the young superstar and Saturday night on Showtime/PBC PPV he steps in the ring and seeks a title in a third weight class when he opposes undefeated WBA Super Lightweight champion Mario Barrios at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

The storyline, does the 26-year old Davis get another title against a taller and good puncher that Barrios brings to the ring? And if Davis prevails does he remain at super lightweight? Barrios will present a challenge and will look to corner Davis and go to the body.

Fighting in close with Davis? Well just ask Leo Santa Cruz who discovered going inside and trading punches with Davis is hard to get an advantage.

But the fight I anticipate is the 154-pound clash co-main event as Erickson “Hammer” Lubin opposes former unified champion Jeison Rosario in a WBC Super Welterweight Title eliminator. Rosario lost the title last October to Jermell Charlo.

“What happened in the Charlo fight was the fluke,” Rosario said. “Me winning the titles was not the fluke. I’m going to show everybody that I will bounce back from that loss and win my next fight. I have no problem taking this fight. It’s not a mistake at all. This is what we do. We fight. I’m very excited for June 26 and I expect Lubin to bring his best.”

And Rosario has never been shy about going for the opportunity. After the Charlo fight a win Saturday will be his redemption and right back in that title mix.

“I’m the type to take advantage of an opportunity,” he said. “When it presents itself. This is another opportunity to get right back in the picture and fight for a title, so you have to take this. Not everybody would. Erickson did and I’m cut from the same cloth. It’s the opportunity and the pride of fighting the best.”

Comment: Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso

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