Undefeated lightweight contender Teofimo Lopez 13-0 (11) will put himself in the box seat to fight for a world title if he can get past Masayoshi Nakatani 18-0 (12) at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland on Friday night.
The winner of the IBF eliminator will be in a position to challenge IBF lightweight champion Richard Commey 29-2 (26) in the fall.
The 21-year-old Lopez of Brooklyn, New York has had a meteoric rise up the lightweight division and is already being touted as a future opponent for pound-for-pound level fighter Vasyl Lomachenko.
Before those fights can happen Lopez must first turn back the challenge of the undefeated Nakatani from Osaka, Japan who will be making his US debut.
“Training camp was great this time around, and I just loved how everything was put to schedule,” said Lopez, who is coming off a 5th round stoppage over Edis Tatli on April 20th at Madison Square Garden.
“Nakatani is no pushover, and I know he’s going to come and try to win this fight. He’s undefeated and is a lot taller than me so he has the advantage with his reach. I trust my coach and my team that our game plan is going to work, and I see us knocking Nakatani out before 12 rounds.”
“A win for me will lead us to become the mandatory challenger to face the IBF world champion Richard Commey.”
Lopez has a clear sense of his own identity in the ring and says entertaining the crowd is what it is all about.
“I see myself as a performer in the ring, and I am coming to the MGM National Harbor to put on a show,” said Lopez. “I have respect for Nakatani because he is undefeated like me, but nobody is going to stand in my way.
“I say this before all of my fights — I go in there to take over the show. I’m a main event fighter now, and that won’t change. When people watch me fight, they put down their phones because they don’t want to miss anything. For the boxing fans living in the Northeast, come down and watch me fight. And if you can’t make it down, check out the best show of the weekend on ESPN+.”
“I do all of that stuff — the backflips and the Fortnite celebrations — because I want to entertain. I want people to remember my name. I’m a fighter, but I am also an entertainer. That’s been lost in today’s game. I’m unique in the sport of boxing.”