By: Sean Crose
Lightweight supremacy was on the line Saturday night when Vasyl Lomachenko, the man many have claimed is the best fighter on the planet, defended his WBA lightweight championship against WBO beltholder Jose Pedraza in a scheduled 12 round title unifier at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The match was the main event on a three fight card aired live on ESPN.
First, undefeated lightweight phenom Teofimo Lopez, 10-1, slipped between the ropes to battle the 34-3 Mason Menard. The match was as brief as it was violent. Lopez rocked his man with a right almost immediately, unloaded his arsenal, then blasted Menard with a thunderous right. Menard landed flat on his face, forcing the referee to halt the bout almost immediately. It was reminiscent of Marquez’ knockout of Pacquiao or even Hearns’ of Duran. Indeed, it may have been the knockout of the year.
Next up, WBO junior featherweight champion Isaac Dogboe put his title belt and 20-0 record on the line when he faced the 25-1 Emanuel Navarette in a scheduled 12 rounder. Dogboe looked good in the first, though Navarette came on strong at the end of the round. Dogboe got hurt in the second and survived. Navarette nailed the champion with a pair of hard lefts in the third.
Dogboe looked better in fourth, but then got hurt again by Navarette late in the fifth. Things started looking up for the titlist in the eighth, and he even dropped Navarette in the ninth. It was Dogboe’s last big moment. Navarette survived the knockdown and continued to hurt his man on his way to a unanimous decision victory. Dogboe, gracious in defeat, looked as if the fight should have ended sooner than it did.
It was time for the main event. WBO champ Pedraza boasted a 25-1 record while WBA champ Lomachenko entered the bout with a record of 11-1. The first round was a feeling out process, with Loma landing what was essentially the only meaningful shot. Pedraza employed his own effective skill set in the second. The third was also a close affair. The fourth, too, was close…though Loma landed the more telling shots.
The fight remained tight in the fifth, but Loma began to land more regularly in the sixth. Yet Pedraza did enough in the seventh to perhaps win the round on the cards. It was a surprisingly close affair. The eighth and ninth began to tell a tale of Lomackenko edging a closer than expected bout.
Pedraza showed he was still in the fight by seemingly taking the 10th. Loma became explosive in the 11th, taking his man down twice with blistering flurries of punches. Pedraza survived the round, only to be dominated in the twelfth. Loma walked away with a new belt and a UD decision victory.