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Lomachenko Unifies Lightweight Division

Round up of Saturday nights action from Madison Square Gardens in New York where Vasyl Lomachenko unified the Lightweight Division.

Vasyl Lomachenko unifies the lightweight division in just his second fight at 135lbs.
Vasyl Lomachenko unifies the lightweight division in just his second fight at 135lbs.

Pound-for-pound king Vasyl Lomachenko punctuated his dominance over Jose Pedraza with two late fight knockdowns in Saturday night’s lightweight title unification bout at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. The boxer extraordinaire can now add unified champion to his mesmerizing list of accomplishments that includes winning world titles in three weight classes as well as a bevy of other record-shattering feats.

Lomachenko (12-1, 9 KOs) landed the more telling blows throughout the entire fight to overwhelm Pedraza (25-2, 12 KOs) in a unanimous decision win in front of a sellout crowd of over 5,312 cheering fans at the historic indoor arena. The judges saw it that way too as one had it 119-107 and the other two scored the bout 117-109. ESPN also scored the fight 118-108, who like Pedraza, was making his first title defense.

Despite Lomachenko’s utter dominance, he did not put Pedraza away as many (including this author) expected. That could be an indication that the stoppages might come less frequently as Loma moves up in weight and takes on bigger opponents.

The fight started very slowly with the two fighters opting to feel each other out before becoming fully engaged. This continued for the first several rounds although Lomachenko had begun to find a home for the straight left hand.

Lomachenko showed no signs of ring rust or ill effect from recent shoulder surgery. He steadily increased his work rate as the fight progressed. Every time Loma would begin to assert himself and let his hands go, however, Pedraza would counter brilliantly and escape danger. Pedraza did his best throughout the fight to create distance although Lomachenko was beginning to find his way on the inside by the sixth round to score with lightening -quick punches.

Lomachenko really stepped on the gas in the eleventh round with brutal combinations, uppercuts, straight lefts and combinations. A dazed Pedraza forgot to clinch and went down on one knee. Moments later, he was dropped again from a body shot but got up just in time while the Ref was giving the count to barely survive the round.

The onslaught ceased in the twelfth round as Pedraza, still shaken up from the previous round, managed to steady himself. Pedraza managed to get off some shots, but it was clear that he was merely in survival mode with no chance to get back into this fight.

Both fighters were gracious afterwards with Lomachenko crediting Pedraza as being a tough and tricky fighter, which is why he could not get the stoppage. With the win, Lomachenko captured Pedraza’s WBO title and now owns two of the four straps in the lightweight division. Loma expressed an interest in fighting Mikey Garcia. Garcia owns the WBC strap but will move up in weight to fight Errol Spence Jr. in a huge showdown in March.

A Garcia-Lomachenko matchup would be intriguing indeed if it ever happens. However, the Ukrainian has no plans to face Filipino great Manny Pacquiao according to remarks he made to reporters in New York prior to the fight.

“There are a lot of good fighters to fight who are comparable to me,” I’m not disrespecting Pacquiao. He’s old. I think his career is done. I don’t want to become a legend in boxing because of him.”

The Undercard

In the co-feature, Emanuel Navarrete (26-1, 22 KOs) pulled off an upset with a twelve round unanimous decision over previously undefeated Isaac Dogboe (20-1, 14 KOs) to capture the WBO super bantamweight world title. Navarrete buzzed Dogboe several times and controlled the fight with pressure and a high work rate. Dogboe took extensive punishment in rounds eleven and twelve as Navarrete seemed to unload with power shots and barely made it out of the final round. The top prospect suffered swollen eyes and a bloody nose but continued to fight courageously while taking a beating.

Boxing’s top prospect and world ranked lightweight, Teofimo Lopez (11-0, 9 KOs) needed just 44 seconds to blitz Mason Menard (34-4, 24 KOs) to score a first round knockout. Lopez caught Menard with a perfectly placed right hand that left him out on his feet before crashing face-first to the canvas. Referee Charlie Fitch awkwardly began the count but soon realized that the motionless Menard was not going to get up. It was a spectacular performance and will probably be voted “Knockout of the Year.”

Also, Alexander Besputin (12-0, 9 KOs) defeated Juan Carlos Abreu (21-5-1, 19 KOs, 1 NC) via unanimous decision. The Russian southpaw and potential Crawford opponent scored two knockdowns and won handedly with marks of 100-88 on all three scorecards. Overall, it was a fine performance by Besputin, but it showed some offensive limitations and defensive vulnerabilities that a more experienced opponent could exploit. Crawford is expected to fight three times in 2019 and watched Besputin and Abreu go head-to-head at ringside.