Masayoshi Nakatani Stops Felix Verdejo In Nine
Rising from two early knockdowns, Masayoshi Nakatani (19-1, 13 KOs) stormed back to stop Felix Verdejo (27-2, 17 KOs) in nine rounds at the MGM Grand Bubble in Las Vegas, Nevada in what turned out to be a terrific battle of attrition.
Verdejo got off to an explosive start as 65-seconds into the opening round, he put Nakatani down with a beautiful left-right combination flush on the chin. He tried going for the finish, but the Japanese warrior showed his toughness and survived the rounds.
From there, the 27-year-old from San Juan, Puerto Rico settled into a nice boxing groove in rounds two and three. He began to pump the jab and continued to land a home for the straight right-hands down the middle.
Nakatani is as willing as they come and is on the attack. The problem is, he fights in a straight line with his head up. Yes, he was marching forward looking for a fight. However, the faster and sharper Verdejo was catching him with power counter-punches at every opportunity. It was the sharpshooting that produced a second knockdown with 1:45 to go in the fourth round as Verdejo caught Nakatani with a picture-perfect counter right-hand to the chin.
TIDE TURNING MOMENT
The middle rounds saw a sudden change in momentum for Nakatani. He stunned Verdejo with a right-hand to the jaw at the midway point of round seven. The 31-year-old from Osaka, Japan continued the pressure. In round eight, he found a home for his powerful right-hand.
With 1 second into the ninth, a fatigued and unsteady Verdejo went down from a Nakatani power jab. Verdejo rose but was in very bad shape. A follow-up overhand right hand put Verdejo down for a second time in the round. Referee Celestino Ruiz had seen enough and called a halt to the fight with 1:15 to go in the round.
This was a riveting win for Nakatani. His chin, toughness, and durability proved to be the difference. After the bout, he said he would like to avenge his sole defeat as a pro against current unified IBF/WBA ‘Super’ and WBO World Lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs).
For Verdejo, this is a devastating loss. He was once hailed as a can’t-miss prospect destined to become a world champion. Now he has to look in the mirror and evaluate his future in the sport.
By: Michael Wilson Jr.