Vasiliy Lomachenko and Jose Pedraza Set for Lightweight Unification in New York City
Lomachenko is ready to take another bite out of the Big Apple. Lomachenko, the pound-for-pound superstar and WBA lightweight world champion, will look to unify world titles for the first time as a professional when he clashes with WBO champion Jose “Sniper” Pedraza on Saturday, Dec. 8 at 9 p.m. ET, live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. This marks Lomachenko’s fourth main event appearance at a Madison Square Garden venue.
Lomachenko-Pedraza will headline a special edition of Top Rank on ESPN, which will follow the 84th Annual Heisman Memorial Trophy Presentation.
Promoted by Top Rank, ticket and undercard information for this world championship event will be announced soon.
“Boxing fans are excited that Vasiliy Lomachenko will be back in action on Dec. 8,” said Top Rank CEO Bob Arum. “He knows that in WBO champion Jose Pedraza, he faces a tough opponent with a style that may give him a lot of trouble.”
“I am ready to fight an excellent opponent like Jose Pedraza,” Lomachenko said. “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.”
“I am grateful to have this opportunity, since I didn’t get the chance to unify titles when I was champion in the junior lightweight division,” Pedraza said. “In this division, I will achieve my goal, and I will do it against one of the best boxers in the world. There will be a surprise on Dec. 8!”
“We are thrilled to bring fans one of the year’s marquee boxing events to ESPN,” said ESPN’s Burke Magnus, executive vice president, programming and scheduling. “Currently ranked as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, Lomachenko is who fans want to watch. His historic victory last year on this night was a tremendous success, and we look forward to showcasing the world’s best once again.”
Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs) is widely considered to be the greatest amateur boxer in history, as he posted a 396-1 record with Olympic gold medals for his native Ukraine in 2008 and 2012. In the pro ranks, he has continued to etch his name in the history books. Lomachenko tied a boxing record by winning a world title in his third pro bout on June 21, 2014, a clear points win against Gary Russell Jr. to claim the vacant WBO featherweight title. He made three defenses of that title before moving up to 130 pounds. In his debut at 130 pounds, Lomachenko knocked out Roman Martinez with an uppercut-hook combination to win the WBO junior lightweight world title. Following the Martinez bout, Lomachenko began an unprecedented streak of four consecutive opponents – Nicholas Walters, Jason Sosa, Miguel Marriaga, and Guillermo Rigondeaux – retiring on their stools. The Rigondeaux bout, which took place last December at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, was the first time in boxing history that a pair of two-time Olympic gold medalists fought as professionals. After six rounds, Rigondeaux quit on his stool.
With nothing left to prove at 130 pounds, Lomachenko moved up to lightweight and challenged WBA champion Jorge Linares. On May 12 at Madison Square Garden, Lomachenko suffered a labral tear of his right shoulder in the second round and was knocked down with a right hand in the sixth, only to come back and stop Linares with a left hand to the body in the 10th round. The Linares victory signified another milestone for Lomachenko. In becoming a three-weight world champion in 12 professional fights, he broke the previous record set by Jeff Fenech (20 fights) in 1988. Lomachenko has knocked out eight consecutive opponents dating back to his fourth professional bout in 2014.
Pedraza (25-1, 12 KOs), from Cidra, Puerto Rico, has climbed back to the top of the sport following a January 2017 TKO loss to Gervonta Davis that saw him relinquish his IBF junior lightweight world title. He returned 14 months later as a lightweight on March 17, shutting out Jose Luis Rodriguez over eight rounds at the Hulu Theater at Madison Garden. After a hard-fought 10-round unanimous decision against Antonio Moran on June 9, Pedraza traveled to Glendale, Ariz., on Aug. 25 to face WBO lightweight world champion Ray Beltran. He scored an 11th-round knockdown to seal the unanimous decision victory, becoming only the second male Puerto Rican fighter to win world titles at 130 and 135 pounds.