Vasiliy Lomachenko bounces back with dominating knockout victory

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Bring on Teofimo Lopez-Vasiliy Lomachenko II.

Lomachenko outclassed Masayoshi Nakatani before stopping him at 1:48 of the ninth round Saturday at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, possibly setting up a rematch with Lopez if his rival defeats mandatory challenger George Kambosos on Aug. 14.

The Ukrainian star, who lost a decision to Lopez last October, wanted to beat Nakatani more convincingly than Lopez’s unanimous decision in 2019.

Mission accomplished. Lomachenko, perhaps the most-gifted boxer of his generation, gave his Japanese opponent a brutal lesson in the sweet science. He couldn’t miss his own punches and Nakatani couldn’t find the target, which tells the story of the fight.

Lomachenko gradually broke down the brave Nakatani, who went down in Round 5 and took a series of punishing blows to his battered face before referee Celestino Ruiz jumped into save Nakatani (19-2, 13 KOs).

“I’m happy because I won,” Lomachenko said. “All the strategies that we developed with my team [worked]. I reached all my goals. I won and now I’m back on track.”

Indeed, the winner made a strong impression eight months after his most-disappointing performance, the unanimous-decision loss to Lopez that cost him his No. 1 pound-for-pound status and three 135-pound titles.

Lomachenko (15-2, 11 KOs) said afterward that he entered the Lopez fight with an injured right shoulder, which required surgery. He also complained about the scoring in Las Vegas, insisting he deserved no less than a draw.

The victory on Saturday allows him to put the setback and now-healed injury behind him and focus on getting another shot at Lopez.

Teofimo Lopez Sr., the fighter’s trainer, told ESPN that Lomachenko can fight Lopez again if it comes directly after the Kambosos fight because Lopez plans to move up to 140 pounds. However, there remains work to do to put the fight together.

That plan works for Lomachenko.

“Everybody saw how I won this fight, and everybody is waiting for the rematch [with Lopez], so let’s make a rematch,” he said. “He has a fight in the future with Kambosos, but how about after, in the beginning of next year? December, January, February, I am waiting.

“I’m happy about this if they are ready to give me a rematch after all I’ve done, after this fight. I am happy about this opportunity.”