Already three belts claimed in 12 fights, and now Vasyl Lomachenko looks to add world championship number 4 when he seeks to unify the WBA and WBO Lightweight titles in New York.
His finest win as a professional came early this calendar year, when the Ukrainian placed his unique skill set against the much bigger Jorge Linares. Lomachenko 11-1(9KO’s) solidified his stake as the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet as he stopped another of boxing’s elite in the 10th round of a fantastically poised fight.
The fight was in the balance when a knockdown in the 10th led to a stoppage win for Loma, but the victory only elevated the growing reputation of a fighter already moving up places in the all-time greatest list. But those first 10 rounds at Lightweight also provided an insight as to where the three weight world champion could be found out. It seems the one thing that will be Vasyl’s undoing is simply coming across an opponent that is too big.
Jose Pedraza – the WBO ruler – is insistent that he will be the one to burst the Lomachenko bubble. His performance against Raymundo Beltran to claim this title in August makes him more than worthy of facing boxing’s best, but it will take another rise in level to actually pull off the major upset.
A feverish Puerto Rican contingent at the Madison Square Garden Theatre will only help, but there will also be a number of Ukrainian fight fans flooding in as they hope to see another victory on the road fora nation that are now boasting a hotbed of boxing talent.
Pedraza’s only defeat came in the division below where he reigned as IBF Super Featherweight champion. That was until the divisive Gervonta Davis burst onto the world scene in early 2017. Pedraza 25-1(12KO’s) was found wanting that night and came unstuck when Davis superbly took the champion out in round 7.
Davis is muted as a future rival of Lomachenko’s, and boxing would be the ultimate winner if and when that fight takes place, but for now this unification clash should be enjoyed.
This is not simply a showcase for Vasyl, he faces a champion in fine form,and a man who seems comfortable at the weight and believes his own accurate boxing can be the undoing of Lomachenko. Pedraza will take great heart from the success that Linares had earlier this year, and will feel that in his prime years he can execute such a game plan for the entire 12 rounds.
But it seems that this is Lomachenko’s era right now, and he will know all too well that upsets can always happen – as they did in his second professional fight, and first world title attempt against Orlando Salido. But that entire fight was laced with controversy over how Salido was allowed to rough the exceptional amateur up and then take home a split decision win. Lomachenko has also matured as a pro,and seems capable of meeting such tactics in kind.
Lomachenko has broken a few wills in the ring, and while I don’t see this ending with Pedraza on his stool, there will be a finish inside the distance nonetheless.
Pedraza is competitive in most rounds, but Vasyl will always be multiple steps ahead, and consequently several rounds ahead. That lead will grow as Pedraza’s chance dwindle. In control, Lomachenko will step on the gas. A knockdown will be followed by another shortly after,and with Pedraza gassing, the referee will stop the action in round 9.