Teofimo Lopez will move one step closer towards challenging for a lightweight world title.
According to a report from ESPN's Dan Rafael, Lopez is set to face Masayoshi Nakatani in an IBF lightweight title eliminator on July 19 at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland. The fight, which would headline a Top Rank card on an ESPN platform, would crown a mandatory challenger to the world title being held by Richard Commey.
Lopez, one of the fastest-rising stars in the lightweight division, is coming off a fifth-round knockout win over European champion Edis Tatli in the co-main event of the April 20 Top Rank on ESPN pay-per-view card from Madison Square Garden. The 21-year-old Lopez is currently ranked in the top five on all four major governing bodies and has beaten his last five opponents from inside the distance.
Nakatani, ranked No. 3 by the IBF at lightweight, is also unbeaten in the pro ranks enjoying a four-fight knockout streak of his own. Nakatani has held the OPBF lightweight title since 2014 and successfully defended the title 11 times, which stands as the current record for most title defenses under one reign in the title's long history stemming back to 1952.
The fight would essentially take Lopez out of the running for the WBC lightweight title fight, which has yet to be ordered by the organization. Mikey Garcia was moved from WBC champion at 135 pounds to "Emeritus Champion," meaning the actual championship stands vacant. Although the WBC has yet to announce what the planned matchup for the vacant title will be, Luke Campbell is set to be one of those boxers that will be competing for the belt as he is the mandatory challenger.
Competing opposite Campbell would be the highest-ranked available contender from the WBC rankings. Based on the current rankings, which is set to be updated in the coming weeks, Zaur Abdullaev would be the next man up to face Campbell, followed by Devin Haney and then Lopez.
As for what is going to be the immediate future of Commey, the IBF champion was recently cleared to train without limitations and is targeting his first title defense this summer.