Vasyl Lomachenko (12-1, 9 KOs) unified the WBA and WBO lightweight titles on Saturday night in Madison Square Garden, after earning a unanimous decision win over Jose Pedraza (25-2, 12 KOs) in the Top Rank card on ESPN.
Despite coming in as an overwhelming favorite, it would not be an easy night for Lomachenko, who found Pedraza a difficult target, and was forced to go the full 12 rounds, ending his eight-fight KO streak.
Lomachenko was the aggressor from the start, as he followed Pedraza round the ring, but Pedraza’s upper body movement and pitty-pat punches stunted some of his
Finally in the 11th, Lomachenko unloaded with a flurry of punches, punctuated by a hook to the body that hurt Pedraza and sent him down moments later. Pedraza managed to get to his feet, but shortly after, another body shot from Lomachenko sent him down to one knee again.
Fortunately for Pedraza, the round was just about over, and as he got to his feet, the bell rang. Lomachenko would simply outbox Pedraza in the final round, rather than go for the kill, and the judges scored it widely for Lomachenko (119-107, 117-109, 117-109) for the unanimous decision.
“It was my dream to unify titles,” said Lomachenko. “It was my next goal; I can now focus on my next chapter.”
“He is a veteran. He did a very good job, and I respect Pedraza and his team,” Lomachenko added.
For his part, Pedraza said, “I’m happy with my performance tonight. I went 12 rounds with the best fighter in the world. I knew what we were going up against. I thought it was a close fight until the knockdowns. At the end of the day, I’m proud of what I did.”
In the co-featured bout, Emanuel Navarrete (26-1, 22 KOs), who was making his US debut, after exclusively fighting in Mexico, stunned Isaac Dogboe (20-1, 14 KOs) by annexing the WBO junior featherweight title in a hard-fought battle.
Dogboe who was by far the smaller fighter, worked his way to the inside and hammered Navarrete to the head and body in the early going, but despite having a size and reach advantage, Navarrete was game to fight on the inside as well.
Navarrete dominated the first few rounds, even hurting Dogboe to the body in the second round, but after a slow seventh, Dogboe appeared to catch his second wind in the eighth, and outslugged a seemingly tired Navarrete.
However, in the championship rounds, Navarrete hammered Dogboe, nearly shutting his eyes closed and busting up his face, en route to a unanimous decision win with scores of 115-113, 116-112, and 116-112.
In the opening bout, hot prospect Teofimo Lopez (11-0, 9 KOs) scored a brutal one-punch knockout over Mason Menard (34-4, 24 KOs), who fell face-first, after a right hand connected right under the left ear and jawline.
“I knew he was a tough fighter. I knew he could fight,” explained Lopez afterward. “I wanted to test him, and I took a chance early in the fight. I know he trained hard, and he didn’t want it to go that way. But this is the ‘Takeover.’ The ‘Takeover’ has begun.”