The lofty list of accomplishments has been improved upon and the trophy case has a brand-new shiny addition. Two-time Olympic gold medalist, three-weight world champion and WBA lightweight ruler, Vasyl Lomachenko, added the WBO version to his collection last Saturday with a unanimous decision over Jose Pedraza. Per Neilsen ratings, the second largest crowd to view a boxing match in 2018 tuned in to “Top Rank Boxing on ESPN”, which aired the bout live from the Hulu Theater in New York city’s famed Madison Square Garden.
It wasn’t vintage Lomachenko (12-1, 9 KO’s), who was forced to go the distance for the first time in eight contests, but he got the job done. Coming off surgery to his right shoulder, Lomachenko’s work-rate seemed lower, particularly punches with his right hand. Simultaneously, the game, taller Pedraza (25-2, 12 KO’s) switched from orthodox to southpaw and back, offering up different looks and superior length, which certainly didn’t help matters. All that said, it’s not as if the fight was the least bit close, the performance just failed to measure up to what we’ve grown accustomed to from Lomachenko. The highlight of the outing was round 11, when Lomachenko hurt Pedraza with a left uppercut, then rained shots upon him. Pedraza eventually tasted the canvas twice during the stanza, via body-shots.
Despite Lomachenko’s off night, relatively speaking, scoring was academic; 117-109 (twice) and 119-107. He made his intentions clear moving forward, stating he wanted his next fight to be against Mikey Garcia. But with Garcia already signed to face Errol Spence at 147 pounds March 2019, the earliest Lomachenko’s wish could be granted is Summer of the same year.
In the opener, Teofimo Lopez (11-0, 9 KO’s), “2017’s Prospect of the Year” by most credible sources, registered what will almost assuredly be “2018’s KO of the Year”, stealing the show, requiring all of 44 seconds to dispose of Mason Menard (34-4, 24 KO’s). Menard’s a journeyman for certain, but he usually goes rounds. He lasted until the 7th with former WBO lightweight champion, Ray Beltran, and the 9th with highly touted prospect, Devin Haney. Nonetheless, seconds into this train wreck, Lopez hurt Menard with a big, looping right hand which forced him to retreat. A follow up flurry worsened his condition and then an even bigger looping right hand froze and face planted Menard.
The consummate showman, Lopez whipped out a Kyler Murray jersey in the immediate aftermath. “Top Rank Boxing on ESPN” was preceded by the presentation of the Heisman trophy, designating the best player in college football, an award won by Murray himself. A clever, creative master stroke by Team Lopez, knowing Teofimo’s fight would follow the Heisman broadcast. It’s moves like this and jaw dropping knockouts that keep boxing fans anxious to see Lopez fight again. He brags, he boasts, he dances, he flips, and he knocks people out. In that way, Teofimo Lopez is reminiscent of Prince Naseem Hamed. He wants a world title shot in 2019 and despite being just 21 years of age, this 2016 Honduran Olympian seems primed and ready for the task.