Rising prospect Teofimo Lopez went the full 12 rounds for the first time in his career on Friday night, as he battled the tough Masayoshi Nakatani in front of 2,100 fans at The Theater at MGM National Harbor.
Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs) was headlining the Top Rank on ESPN card in an IBF lightweight title eliminator against Nakatani (18-1, 12 KOs), and despite the wide scores, was in a much tougher fight than expected.
“They wanted to see me go the distance. I did 12 rounds. I’m still a champ,” Lopez said afterward. “I just need little tune-ups. It’s part of the process. I’m thankful right now. It was my first main event. It was 12 rounds. Am I proud of it? No, but I’m proud that I showed everyone I could go 12 rounds.”
Lopez was the aggressor early on but soon found Nakatani’s height to be a factor, as he found it difficult to get on the inside to land his big right hand.
Nakatani fought well from ma distance and looked for opportunities to go to the body, slowing Lopez down in the middle rounds.
Lopez, though often looking for the knockout, made some adjustments late in the fight and boxed more effectively when it was clear that his opponent was not going anywhere.
Final scores were 118-110, 118-110 and 119-109 for Lopez.
The win now puts Lopez in line for a title fight against Richard Commey, with the hopes of a showdown with Vasyl Lomachenko next year.