With July just around the corner, it’s time to check out what’s in store. A blue chip prospect continues his ascent, an aging boxing wonder returns, a fiery Junior Welterweight unification erupts, plus a decent helping of Heavyweight action unfolds.
Teofima Lopez vs. Masayoshi Nakatani (ESPN+)
July 19, Oxon Hill, Maryland
Aged 21 with just thirteen pro outings behind him, Teofima Lopez is theoretically one fight away from a title crack in this IBF Lightweight eliminator. Lopez is widely considered to be boxing’s finest prospect, with his refined skill set, power and uber confidence making waves.
As for opponent Masayoshi Nakatani, I’m totally unfamiliar. According to BoxRec, the unbeaten prospect, 30-years-old with an unbeaten 18-fight run, is yet to fight outside his native Japan. I hate to overlook his chances, but look, it’s extremely unlikely that Lopez’s handlers have accidentally picked an ‘Andy Ruiz Jr’ here.
In the plus column, Nakatani stands 3.5-inches taller, with a 2.5-inch greater wingspan. If you’re still feeling marginally excited about this matchup, keep in mind that Lopez – short of a shock defeat – will become mandatory challenger to dynamite-fisted titleholder, Richard Commey.
Lopez vs. Nakatani: Notable Undercard
- Maxim Dadashev vs. Subriel Matias | IBF Junior Welterweight eliminator
Keith Thurman vs. Manny Pacquiao (Fox PPV, Fox / Deportes)
July 20, Las Vegas, Nevada
Due to sheer star power alone, this must be considered July’s hottest attraction. While it appears a boxing mismatch on paper – given the proven, unbeaten champion versus aging veteran dynamic – the intangibles hold great interest.
For some, Thurman – the 10-years-younger WBA champ – is the best Welter in the world right now. For others, it’s Errol Spence Jr – understandable given Thurman’s lengthy hiatus due to injury, recently ending with a surprisingly competitive tune-up against veteran Josesito Lopez.
Meanwhile, challenger Manny Pacquiao, who turns 41 in December, has been a bit more active, not conquering formidable players per se, but raising eyebrows high enough to keep him on the radar following wins over Lucas Matthysse and Adrien Broner.
If Thurman’s outing against Lopez was simply down to ring rust, his youth and talent should be enough to get a victory over Pacquiao. However, if Thurman’s body and desire are beginning to betray him, Pacquiao’s otherworldly drive and fortitude could be enough to land the upset.
Thurman vs. Pacquiao: Notable Undercard
- Caleb Plant vs. Mike Lee | IBF Super Middleweight Championship
- Yordenis Ugas vs. Omar Figueroa | WBC Welterweight eliminator
- Sergey Lipinets vs. John Molina Jr | Welterweight
- Luis Nery vs. Juan Carlos Payano | Bantamweight
Dillian Whyte vs. Oscar Rivas (DAZN, Sky Sports Box Office)
July 20, London, England
I don’t think either of these guys belong in the discussion with Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury and Andy Ruiz Jr (and I guess Anthony Joshua still), but does that matter? Dillian Whyte and Oscar Rivas are fan-friendly, big punchers, and this fight looks like a bombs-away shootout.
Whyte has bounced back well since suffering a sole defeat to Joshua in 2015, beating Derek Chisora twice and narrowly outslugging Joseph Parker. Meanwhile, Rivas is undefeated with a similar record numbers wise, but stands 3 inches south at 6’ 1”, with arguably only one notable win on his record over ever-defiant contender Bryant Jennings.
The victor of this WBC Heavyweight eliminator supposedly gets a crack at titleholder Wilder at some point, perhaps in 2019, depending on the Wilder-Fury II situation.
Whyte vs. Rivas: Notable Undercard
- Dave Allen vs. David Price | Heavyweight
- Derek Chisora vs. Artur Szpilka | Heavyweight
Maurice Hooker vs. Jose Ramirez (DAZN)
July 27, Arlington, Texas
This is a pretty tasty scrap between two respected, unbeaten Junior Welterweight titlists, well in their primes. Stylistically it fits the bill, with Maurice Hooker, the more patient boxer who can bang, meeting Jose Ramirez, a gnarly battler with skills of his own and a good 12-round engine.
Hooker brings his WBC title to the party, originally captured from Terry Flanagan in June 2018, successfully defended against unbeatens Alex Saucedo and Mikkel LesPierre. Ramirez brings his WBO variety, captured versus Amir Imam in March 2018, defended versus Antonio Orozco and Jose Zepeda.
Besides a very noticeable 8-inch reach advantage for Hooker, they otherwise match up incredibly well. Bigger spoils of course await the winner, with a shot against the upcoming WBSS champion – Regis Prograis or Josh Taylor – potentially on the boxing horizon.
Hooker vs. Ramirez: Notable Undercard
- Tevin Farmer vs. Guillaume Frenois | IBF Junior Lightweight Championship
- Murat Gassiev vs. Jey Dawejko | Heavyweight
Gervonta Davis vs. Ricardo Nunez (Showtime)
July 27, Baltimore, Maryland
There could actually be some more deserving matchups in the ‘Best of the Rest’ section (below) which could have snatched this spot. But, you know, it’s hard to bump off a fight featuring the razor sharp talent that is Gervonta Davis. Plus, there may be more to this matchup than first meets the eye.
Davis, 24, with four title defenses in the bag since drumming Jose Pedraza in 2017, faces the unheralded Ricardo Nunez. On paper, the guy can clearly bang, having clocked up 19 stoppages in his 21 wins, and, in terms of age and size, he seems to stack up pretty well. Experience lies with the WBA champ Davis, however, and in abundance.
Davis vs. Nunez: Notable Undercard
- Yuriorkis Gamboa vs. Roman Martinez | Lightweight
Boxing in July: Best of the Rest
Lawrence Okolie vs. Jack Massey (Sky Sports Action)
July 6, Manchester, England; British, Commonwealth Cruiserweight Championship
Daniel Dubois vs. Nathan Gorman (ESPN+)
July 13, London, England; British Heavyweight Championship
Shakur Stevenson vs. Franklin Manzanilla (ESPN / Deportes)
July 13, Newark, New Jersey; Featherweight
Rey Vargas vs. Tomoki Kameda (DAZN)
July 13, Carson, California; WBC Junior Featherweight Championship
(For a more extensive overlook of July, see our Complete 2019 Schedule.)
How do you see July’s Top 5 matchups playing out? Can Pacquiao hand Thurman his first pro defeat, or is ‘One Time’ about to send a modern boxing legend into retirement? Let us know in the comments, along with your other picks.