Boxing Social columnist and member of Team Loma Russ Anber looks ahead to Vasiliy Lomachenko’s Las Vegas assignment this weekend and admits that the Ukrainian is “rolling the dice with his career” by taking on the tough challenge of Masayoshi Nakatani…

I’ve been in the United States since last weekend and had the great pleasure last Tuesday to meet up with Vasiliy Lomachnko ahead of working his corner for his 26 June showdown with Japan’s Masayoshi Nakatani.

Loma’s team asked me to put him through his paces on the pads, so we worked together and it was great, a really nice feeling. The last time I had seen Loma was for the Teofimo Lopez fight which was such a weird experience.

It was a fight of great magnitude, and I was there for fight week and things were quite tense and edgy. It also felt strange because we knew there weren’t going to be any fans in attendance because of the pandemic. It didn’t have the usual or normal feel of a big fight, and Loma lost what was – to my mind – a close fight, so it was a disappointing night.

This time, though, everything feels back to normal and just great. We trained in the gym that Loma has built at his house in Camarillo. When I arrived Loma was so cheerful and happy to see me. He hugged me and you could just feel there was a good vibe in the camp.

The first thing I said to Loma was: ‘have you been practicing doing this?’ and I tilted my head back and raised my eyes to the sky.

Loma looked at me, kind of confused and said, ‘I don’t understand!

I replied: ‘your opponent, he’s pretty tall!’ then he got it and laughed.

Of course, Nakatani’s height advantage is something Loma will have to overcome and we worked on a few things to do with that in the gym.

Loma invited me to stay for the rest of his camp in the three-bedroom guesthouse he has adjacent to his gym but, unfortunately, I had already made plans to be working in Vegas ahead of the fight so I wasn’t able to do that but I’ll look forward to seeing Loma and the rest of his team later this week when they get to Vegas.

Obviously after the Lopez fight Loma had surgery on his shoulder but everything is looking good with it right now. When you’ve had surgery you can never be sure, of course, but he’s certainly throwing his punches with full impact and power with no problems whatsoever. He’s not babying the shoulder or deliberately holding it back or not using it or anything like that.

Lining up the Nakatani fight after the disappointment of losing his titles to Lopez is typical of Loma’s approach to boxing. He’s always looking for a challenges Not only has he not gone for an easy touch but he’s rolling the dice on his career if you will. He has to look impressive and he has to do it against a guy who has a track record and who made a name for himself by going the distance with Lopez.

There’s a lot on the line here for Loma. This fight will either propel him right back into the lightweight picture by making him the mandatory challenger to Lopez or it will cause a whole rethink of his career. 

It’s a dangerous guy he’s fighting and Loma wants to look good and show the world he deserves that rematch with Lopez.

Considering everything Loma has accomplished in his career, I really think the boxing world deserves to see Loma Lopez 2. However, with Lopez testing positive for Covid and his fight with George Kambosos Jr being postponed there has to be an element of doubt about what the plans are in the lightweight division moving forward.

Anber says he is keen to see Vasiliy Lomachenko rematch Teofimo Lopez later in the year. Image: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

I think Top Rank’s thinking was that with Loma and Lopez both fighting around the same time this summer they could match them up again for a pay-per-view date in October. 

Certainly the rematch makes sense, because outside of Lopez moving up to 140lbs and challenging Josh Taylor, what other big money fights are there out there for him? There’s no bigger money fight for him at lightweight than fighting Lomachenko and I think Top Rank had finally convinced Lopez of that.

But now his Covid test has really thrown a wrench in the works.

Maybe a Lopez-Loma rematch will now get pushed back to December but before that can happen – of course – both men have to win, and I’m confident that with his pedigree and skills Loma will do just that on Saturday night.

Russ Anber was talking to Luke G. Williams.

Russ Anber is the founder/ CEO of Rival Boxing, as well as a highly respected trainer (of both pros and amateurs), a gym owner, a cut-man, an entrepreneur, a broadcaster and one of the best hand wrappers in the boxing business. Vasiliy Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk, Artur Beterbiev, Michael Conlan and Callum Smith are among the many top boxers Russ currently works with.