Lomachenko wins unanimous decision for 2nd lightweight belt
By BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Two down, two to go.
Vasiliy Lomachenko is halfway to owning all the major lightweight titles after just two fights, and he’s already eyeing the guy he’d need to beat to get the next one.
“Of course I want two more belts and maybe we can make next year a fight with Mikey Garcia,” Lomachenko said.
He picked up his second lightweight title Saturday night, wearing down Jose Pedraza and winning a unanimous decision at Madison Square Garden.
Lomachenko (12-1) knocked down Pedraza twice in the 11th round and though he couldn’t finish him, won easily to add the WBO title to the WBA belt he picked up in May during his first fight at 135 pounds.
The three-division champion unified titles within a division for the first time, after moving up to lightweight in May when he knocked out Jorge Linares in the 10th round.
“It was my dream to unify titles,” Lomachenko said. “It was my next goal. I can now focus on my next chapter.”
Lomachenko won one card by a 119-107 rout, while two judges scored it 117-109, as did The Associated Press.
It ended his streak of eight straight victories by stoppage but he came close in the 11th, when Pedraza went to a knee to stop an onslaught of punches with about a half-minute left in the round and then went down again after Lomachenko caught him with a body shot.
In his first fight since right shoulder surgery, Lomachenko started cautiously before finding the range with a flurry of combinations in the latter half of the fight to pull away. He tore the labrum in the second round against Linares but said he had no problems with the shoulder Saturday, even though he threw far more lefts.
“I’m healthy,” he said. “One hundred percent.”
He certainly looked it for much of the fight and is halfway to a 135-pound sweep. The IBF title is vacant and the WBC version is owned by the unbeaten Garcia, who won’t be defending that any time soon while he moves to challenge welterweight champion Errol Spence in March.
So Lomachenko will have to wait for what would be the marquee fight in the division.
Pedraza (25-2) was making the first defense of the belt he won from Ray Beltran in August and the Puerto Rican had some good moments, including in the 10th round when he landed some good body shots and won the round on all three judges’ cards. But Lomachenko dominated from there.
“I went 12 rounds with the best fighter in the world,” Pedraza said. “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 am proud of what I did.”
It was Lomachenko’s third straight fight at Madison Square Garden, this one in front of a sellout crowd of 5,312 in the smaller Theater that was filled with Ukrainian flags while the Knicks and Nets played upstairs in the main arena.
The 30-year-old Lomachenko had said the break while rehabbing the surgery may have helped him after nearly 400 amateur bouts before his pro career, and it appeared at times early he was looking for ring work. He was content to focus on defending for large parts of the rounds before letting go of his punches and it wasn’t until later in the fight when he started unleashing his sharpest combinations.
Teofimo Lopez, a 2016 Olympian, scored a quick and devastating knockout of Mason Menard in another lightweight fight on the undercard.
Lopez (11-0, 9 KOs) appeared to hurt Menard (34-4) with his very first punch and it didn’t take him long from there to end it with a roundhouse right near the left ear that momentarily froze Menard with his left arm limp before he fell straight forward onto his face. Referee Charlie Fitch quickly abandoned his count when it was clear Menard wouldn’t get up and the fight was over after just 44 seconds.
Lopez then did a backflip and shortly after Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray won the Heisman Trophy across town, slipped into his Sooners No. 1 jersey and did a Heisman pose.
Lopez then guaranteed he would become a world champion in 2019.
“We’re in the stage of my career where we can change boxing and bring it back,” he said. “You all haven’t seen anything like me in a long time.”
Also, Mexican Emanuel Navarrete won the WBO junior featherweight title by beating Isaac Dogboe by unanimous decision.
Navarrete (26-1) said he hurt his hand early in the fight but it never showed, as he kept coming forward and Dogboe (20-1) couldn’t keep him away. Navarrete won by scores of 116-112 on two cards and 115-113 on the other.
“This world championship represents every day that I was working away from my family,” Navarrete said. “This title represents sacrifice.”
Dogboe’s eyes began swelling early in the fight and his face was bloodied toward the end, but he was never knocked down and rallied well at times after being examined by ringside physicians between rounds.
“It was a great fight, and Emanuel Navarrete fought like a true Mexican warrior,” Dogboe said. “Champions are supposed to keep going under any circumstance, but I just couldn’t get the victory. The best man won tonight.”
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