by Cliff Rold
The best lightweight fight possible right now may never come to pass. Unified titlist Mikey Garcia is heading to welterweight for at least a night and promotional gulfs exist even if he wasn’t.
We can still hope, eventually, a clash can occur.
In the meantime, the other half of the clash has to keep winning. Ukraine’s Vasiliy Lomachenko will aim to pick up the only other belt in class available. Jose Pedraza, a two-division titlist after a career best win over Raymundo Beltran, will attempt to stop him.
Few give Pedraza a shot. Could the underdog upset the odds against a Lomachenko making his first start since shoulder surgery?
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Title: WBA/Ring lightweight (2018-Present, 1stAttempted Defense)
Previous Titles: WBO featherweight (2014-16, 3 Defenses); WBO super featherweight (2016-18, 4 Defenses)
Weight: 134 ¼ lbs.
Hails from: Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, Ukraine
Record: 11-1, 9 KO (17-1, 9 KO including World Series of Boxing Contests)?
Press Rankings: #1 (TBRB, ESPN, Boxing Monthly, BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 10-1, 8 KO
Last Five Opponents: 122-6-5 (.936)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Orlando Salido L12; Gary Russell Jr. MD12; Roman Martinez KO5; Nicholas Walters RTD7; Jason Sosa RTD9 (secondary WBA titlist); Guillermo Rigondeuax RTD6; Jorge Linares TKO10
Title: WBO lightweight (2018-Present, 1stAttempted Defense)
Previous Titles: IBF super featherweight (2015-17, 2 Defenses)
Height: 5’8 ½
Weight: 134 ¼ lbs.
Hails from: Caguas, Puerto Rico
Record: 25-1, 12 KO, 1 KOBY
Press Rankings: #3 (TBRB, Ring), #4 (BoxRec, Boxing Monthly), #5 (ESPN)
Record in Major Title Fights: 4-1, 1 KOBY
Last Five Opponents: 120-21-1 (.849)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Tevin Farmer TKO8; Gervonta Davis TKO by 7; Raymundo Beltran UD12
The Case for Lomachenko: Lomachenko is as complete a fighter as there is currently in boxing. The multiple time Olympic champion shows the pedigree of that foundation in his timing, footwork, and combination punching. As he has grown accustomed to the paid ranks, he’s also added a power dimension to his game, sitting down with authority on his shots. After the Linares win in what was a fantastic two way display of technical prowess, we also know he can get up. Lomachenko was boxing well when Linares planted him on the floor in the sixth. Most top talents eventually taste the deck. What they do when that happens tells the audience something extra about them. In Lomachenko’s case, he rose and found a way to stop Linares. Against Pedraza, there will be less power to contend with but the Puerto Rican must still be respected. Lomachenko has the speed, footwork, and elusiveness to box all night against the slower footed Pedraza. Will the temptation to test his repaired shoulder push him into more dangerous positions? This feels like a fight where Lomachenko might have to create Pedraza’s chances with his own approach.
The Case for Pedraza: Pedraza has to be patient and not let himself be overwhelmed. The last time Pedraza faced someone close to as talented as Lomachenko, Gervonta Davis ran him over. Lomachenko is a more rounded and polished challenge. We’ve seen opponents shut down sometimes against Lomachenko, frustrated by their inability to find their offense while being peppered. Pedraza has to play the long game, digging hard when he can close and trying to solve the timing of Lomachenko enough to use his own countering ability to convince Lomachenko he’s in a real fight. If he can do that, he has a chance to win some rounds. He’ll have to win enough of them to score the upset but it would have to start somewhere.
The Pick: Assuming Lomachenko isn’t somehow a different fighter after surgery, this just feels like different classes of fighters. Pedraza is a solid professional, well schooled and steady, but he doesn’t appear to have as many dimensions as Lomachenko. Lomachenko is the better boxer, the better counter puncher, and carries more power. It’s hard to think of a way Pedraza realistically wins this fight. The expectation is a stoppage in the second half by Lomachenko.
Rold Picks 2018: 57-21
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]