Former unified lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko took a massive step towards regaining his titles on Saturday night with a ninth-round stoppage victory over Masayoshi Nakatani in Las Vegas.
Lomachenko, back in the ring for the first time since losing his unified lightweight titles to Teofimo Lopez Jr in October, caught Nakatani with a straight left that left the Japanese fighter clinging on for dear life.
The Olympic gold medallist then let rip with a series of lefts and rights that gave the referee little choice but to stop the fight.
Speaking immediately after the fight, Lomachenko, who is 33 and from Ukraine, said he was pleased with his performance overall.
"I'm happy because I won," Lomachenko told ESPN. "All the strategies that we developed with my team [worked]. I reached all my goals. I won, and now I'm back on track."
"In case there was any doubt, Lomachenko proved he is still one of the very best fighters in the world," Bob Arum, Lomachenko's promoter, added. "He is healthy and ready to fight any of the lightweights."
The win keeps 33-year-old Lomachenko on collision course with Lopez Jr - with a rematch pencilled in for early January or February.
Lopez Jr will make the first defence of his unified lightweight titles against George Kambosos Jr at a Triller Fight Club event in Las Vegas on September 11.
If the 23-year-old comes through unscathed, then they will return for a rematch of their 2020 encounter that Lopez Jr edged on points.
"He has a fight in the future with Kambosos, but after [we will fight]," said the 33-year-old. "Maybe next year, beginning of the year. December, January, February. I am waiting."
He added: "Everybody saw how I won this fight, and everybody is waiting for the rematch [with Lopez], so let's make a rematch."
Lopez Jr's father, Teofimo Lopez Sr, approached Lomachenko's corner following his win over Nakatani, but was quickly escorted away by security to avoid any unnecessary confrontation.
Unfortunately, Lopez Jr has not expressed much interest to date, if at all, in a rematch with Lomachenko.
However, his father has now claimed that they have their eyes set on a rematch with Lomachenko, having insisted that he will do all he can to convince his son to change his mind.
"After this performance, I think the public wants to see this fight," Lopez Sr. said. "And I could convince my son to fight him again."News Now - Sport News