Pound-for-pound Boxing King Vasiliy Lomachenko Ready to Light Up MSG

Champion boxers Vasiliy Lomachenko and Jose Pedraza will fight in a unification bout this weekend in New York.

Updated: Dec. 7, 2018 • 10:34 AM ET

Vasiliy Lomachenko is looking to keep his title as boxing's pound-for-pound king.

Pound-for-pound king and WBA lightweight titleholder Vasiliy Lomachenko will return to the ring on Saturday to battle WBO lightweight champion Jose Pedraza in a unification bout at the infamous Madison Square Garden Arena in New York. A title will also be on the line in the co-main event, as Isaac Dogboe defends his WBO junior featherweight title against Emanuel Navarrete.

Lomachenko is coming off a career-defining win over Jorge Linares in May. Linares challenged Lomachenko in the fight, even knocking him down in the sixth round, but Lomachenko once again showed his diverse array of skills to finish Linares in the 10th round and win the WBA title. Lomachenko showed tremendous resolve in the bout and began wearing down Linares in the eighth and ninth rounds, eventually finishing him with a perfectly placed liver shot in the 10th.

Despite having only 12 professional fights, Lomachenko claimed a title in a third weight class with the win over Linares, becoming the fastest fighter to accomplish that feat. Lomachenko also holds the record for having the fewest professional fights, three, before winning a major world title. Of his 11 victories, nine have come by KO or TKO; and his only loss came in his second professional fight, a split-decision loss for a title.

Lomachenko is up for the challenge of defending his belt in New York City.

“I am ready to fight an excellent opponent like Jose Pedraza,” Lomachenko said via Top Rank Boxing. “My goal has always been to unify the titles, and Pedraza is standing in my way. There is something special about fighting in New York City and at Madison Square Garden. The fans in New York City are true boxing fans, and I can’t wait to put on another spectacular performance for them.”

The 30-year-old Ukrainian is widely considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, currently ranked No. 1 by ESPN, The Ring and several other outlets. He defended the WBO featherweight title three times and the WBO junior lightweight title four times.

Meanwhile, Pedraza (25-1, 12 KOs) most recently defeated Raymundo Beltran by unanimous decision to win the WBO lightweight title in August. He has won three straight since suffering a TKO loss to Gervonta Davis in January 2017.

The 29-year-old Puerto Rican has the opportunity to make a major statement if he can defeat the seemingly unbeatable Lomachenko. The question is: will he be able to deal with Lomachenko’s movement and angles enough to hurt him like Linares did? Pedraza hasn’t shown the same power as Linares, so scoring early and often will likely be his gameplan.

Pedraza has key victories over Beltran, Antonio Moran, Stephen Smith, Andrey Klimov and Michael Farenas. He hasn’t had a finish since 2014, so if he wants to go the distance with Lomachenko, he must be patient and not get into any careless exchanges to risk being finished.

Pedraza is confident heading into Saturday’s fight.

"I'm going to show him the kind of boxer that I am, of good boxing quality and technically speaking,” Pedraza said via Boxing Scene. “I am a great fighter and I have a great condition to make a good fight and even beat him. I'm going to do my job and I hope to do it at face value. And if I do, I plan to win.”


Co-main event

Saturday’s co-main event will be between Isaac Dogboe and Emanuel Navarrete for Dogboe’s WBO junior featherweight title.

Dogboe (20-0, 14 KOs) is coming off a TKO victory over Hidenori Otake in August, his first successful defense after winning the title in April against Jessie Magdaleno. The 24-year-old Ghanaian also has victories over Cesar Juarez and Javier Nicolas Chacon, and he’s ready to defend his title.

“I’m fighting one of Mexico’s finest warriors, Emanuel Navarrete, and he’s one of the best and I am the best in the division,” Dogboe said via The Ring. “The world loves exciting fights. Navarrete is tough. He comes to fight but I am the best in this weight division.

“I will take him deep into the trenches. I will need to get inside his reach. But I got here through adversity and I’m not ready to give anything up. Navarrete is someone I can’t overlook. I know he can punch. Once I’m in the ring, I’ll find ways to break him down.”

Navarrete (25-1, 22 KOs) is coming off a knockout victory over Jose Sanmartin in June. He has won 20 straight fights since losing to Daniel Argueta in 2012, and the 23-year-old Mexican is looking to claim his first major world title on Saturday.


• The main card can be seen on ESPN at 9 pm. this Saturday.

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