Vasyl Lomachenko added yet another world title to his collection, winning a unanimous decision over Jose Pedraza in a highly skilled, tactical affair.
This was not the typical Lomachenko fight we’ve come to expect. That’s not a bad thing.
Time and again, we’ve seen him break opponents down over the course of a bout with both his offense and defense. They’re unable to hit him and unable to stop him, not with his combination of hand and foot speed, activity that comes at you in volume and from all angles, an ability to block or evade most everything, and just his overall boxing acumen.
Lomachenko didn’t make Pedraza quit. He didn’t stop him either. He still did much of the above, boxing brilliantly against an opponent who was working in overdrive to try to do the same.
Pedraza had moments of success and even picked up a few rounds on the scorecards. He hung in there, but he just wasn’t able to take over the fight. His best performance wasn’t enough. Lomachenko kept on winning rounds, and ultimately the pressure got to Pedraza in the 11th round. Lomachenko dropped him twice. Pedraza survived the round and the remainder of the fight.
One judge had it 119-107, or 11 rounds to Lomachenko and just one to Pedraza, with two additional points deducted from Pedraza for those knockdowns. The other two judges gave Pedraza more credit, and fairly so, seeing it 117-109, or nine rounds to three.
Both men used feints and movement to try to create openings while simultaneously trying to counteract what the other was doing. That made for a fascinating fight, one that was rather intense, even if at times it wasn’t as exciting in the traditional sense.
Pedraza quickly realized that he was going to have a hard time nailing Lomachenko in the head, so he turned to some body shots in the second round. Lomachenko was able to lace in left hands as leads and counters. By the fourth, those single shots from Lomachenko turned into one-two combinations.
Through four rounds, Pedraza had landed just 18 of 313 punches, a measly 6 percent connect rate. Many were jabs that missed the mark or never were meant to hit the mark in the first place — he was 5 of 182 with those. But the power shots weren’t helping him win rounds either, given that he’d landed just 13 of 131 by that point.
The fifth turned into a better round for Pedraza. Lomachenko responded by kicking into an even higher gear, increasing the pressure in the seventh round, getting in Pedraza’s face and sending out rapid-fire combinations. Lomachenko continued to land more clearly and with more consistency. He was working for it, though. There was none of the taunting that had come from him in other fights.
Lomachenko was taking over. Pedraza made a stand in Round 10 with his best round of the fight, landing several clean shots. And then Lomachenko responded with a message in Round 11.
It began about halfway into the round, when Lomachenko landed a good one-two combination. He saw Pedraza’s reaction and then let forth with a seemingly never-ending barrage. Pedraza never clinched, which meant Lomachenko could move from one angle to another as he created openings and then exploited them, ultimately dropping Pedraza with about 37 seconds to go.
That was brief but momentary relief for Pedraza after an extended onslaught. He got up at the count of eight and then he was soon back down on the canvas, the result of a left hand to the body. He got up again, this time at the count of nine.
The CompuBox statistics for Round 11 further illustrate the one-sided beating. Lomachenko was 48 of 114 on the round, nearly all of which were power shots. Pedraza was just 4 of 47.
Pedraza, for all of his activity throughout the fight, had effort but lacked effectiveness, thanks in large part to Lomachenko’s incredible skills. He went 111 of 931, just a 12 percent connect rate. While many of his misses were jabs — he was 31 of 506 on the night — he wasn’t overly accurate with power punches either, going 80 of 425, a connect rate of about 19 percent, landing one or so for every five thrown.
Lomachenko, meanwhile, was 240 of 738 on the night, a 33 percent connect rate. He sent out a lot of missed jabs, going 82 of 393, but he was rather accurate with power shots, going 158 of 345, an excellent 46 percent connect rate.
Lomachenko is now 12-1 with 9 knockouts. This was a good showing given that Lomachenko was coming off surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder. There will be those who note that Pedraza had previously been blasted out by Gervonta Davis in seven rounds about two years ago, back when Pedraza held a title at 130 pounds.
Styles do make fights. Davis is a very good fighter, so he deserves credit for that victory. However, it’s also possible that this was a different, better version of Pedraza against Lomachenko than had shown up against Davis.
The best way to compare Lomachenko and Davis would be for them to face each other. That’s not likely to happen in the near future, though.
Instead, look for Lomachenko to target the winner of February’s fight between Richard Commey and Isa Chaniev for a vacant title. If Lomachenko comes out victorious in that bout, he’ll have three of the four major world titles at 135. Mikey Garcia has the fourth, though Garcia is boldly heading up to 147 first to challenge Errol Spence.
Pedraza is now 25-2 with 12 KOs. He can hold his head high knowing that he tried as best as he could against Lomachenko, but this will still serve as a setback despite any moral victory. He’ll need to bounce back with a win or two (or more) against decent opposition before getting another title shot.
Emanuel Navarrete Runs Isaac Dogboe’s Breakout Year, Wins World Title
Isaac Dogboe was the rising star, the fan favorite few except the most hardcore of boxing fans had heard of until earlier this year, when he came off the canvas to win a world title at 122 pounds from Jessie Magdaleno.
Emanuel Navarrete was in the position Dogboe had been in not so long ago. He was stepping up against the toughest opponent in his career — and in stepping up, he rose to the occasion, taking a unanimous decision over Dogboe and leaving as the new titleholder.
Dogboe tried to break down Navarrete as he’d done with his previous foes. But Navarrete was able to withstand both Dogboe’s power and his pressure. In return, Navarrete threw more punches, landed cleanly and often enough that swelling built up around Dogboe’s eyes, and finished stronger while Dogboe wilted.
The scores were 116-112 from two judges, or eight rounds to Navarrete and four for Dogboe, while the third judge had it closer at 115-113, or seven rounds to five. The right man won, which Dogboe acknowledged, giving credit to Navarrete in a post-fight interview.
Navarrete deserved the credit. Dogboe came forward at the outset, and Navarrete tried to use his considerable height advantage to box. He soon realized it was better to come forward himself, using his length to land on Dogboe while still out of range of retaliatory fire. Dogboe battled back, no surprise given the game warrior he’s been before, but Navarrete took over again. By the final round, it was Navarrete landing several shots and Dogboe was left holding on, not just tired but vulnerable.
And so ends Dogboe’s good run. He had earned a title shot earlier this year with a highlight-reel stoppage of Cesar Juarez in January, then returned in April to unseat Magdaleno, then made his first defense in August with a quick one-round TKO of Hidenori Otake. Navarrete was expected to be a tough test, and indeed he will turn out to be a harsh lesson for Dogboe, who is now 20-1 with 14 KOs and will need to learn from this experience and try to come back better for it.
Navarrete moves to 26-1 with 22 KOs — the loss was very early in his career — and may also inherit many of the options that would otherwise have been available for Dogboe in 2019. If there’s not a rematch — and Dogboe’s team shouldn’t rush into it, given the punishment he took — then Navarrete could look toward unification bouts against the likes of Daniel Roman, Rey Vargas or TJ Doheny.
Teofimo Lopez Continues to Impress, Knocks Menard Out Early
Teofimo Lopez has been considered a top prospect pretty much from the moment he turned pro out after competing in the 2016 Olympics. That faith in his talent is why promoter Top Rank spotlighted the 21-year-old lightweight on Saturday night on ESPN.
And Lopez quickly made the most of his spotlight.
Lopez rocked Mason Menard just 23 seconds into the fight with a fast, hard right hand, continued his relentless assault, then finished Menard with another big right. The shot had a delayed reaction, which made the knockout even more worthy of the highlight reel as Menard teetered, then dropped face-first to the canvas like a tree felled by a lumberjack.
The fight was over just 44 seconds after it began. But the memory of it lingered, as ESPN then highlighted it both on television and other platforms afterward.
Lopez moved to 11-0 with 9 KOs. He said afterward that he wants to challenge for a world title in 2019. That may be premature. Three of the four major world titles at 135 pounds are held by Vasyl Lomachenko and Mikey Garcia, two pound-for-pound greats. The fourth will belong to the winner of a February fight between Richard Commey and Isa Chaniev. It’s more likely that Lomachenko, who is also promoted by Top Rank, would get to face the Commey-Chaniev winner instead.
That’s fine. It’s still early in Lopez’s career, as good as he has looked. He’s been a pro for barely two years. And it’s not like Menard, who is now 34-4 with 24 KOs, hadn’t lost before. He’d been finished in 27 seconds very early in his career before bouncing back an improving, only to get knocked out by Ray Beltran in seven rounds in 2016 and stopped by Devin Haney in nine rounds earlier this year.
Top Rank has a long history of developing prospects and contenders. It will continue to do so with Lopez, then will put him in a title fight when the time is right.
Claressa Shields Stays Busy (Again), Shuts Out Famke Hermans
Claressa Shields fought for the second time in three weeks and ended up with the same result, winning a unanimous decision via a complete shutout on the scorecards.
This time her foe was Famke Hermans, who just didn’t have the skills to deal with the younger, faster and all-around-better Shields.
The scores were 100-90 across the board. Shields is now 8-0 with 2 KOs. Hermans is now 9-2 with 3 KOs.
Shields was supposed to fight Christina Hammer last month in a unification bout for all four major world titles at 160 pounds. Hammer pulled out of the bout for medical reasons, postponing it until next year, and so Shields faced Hannah Rankin instead in November.
Shields has also been trying to persuade Cecilia Braekhus, long considered the best female boxer in the world, to face her. Braekhus competes at 147, though, and doesn’t want to move up to 154 reportedly because of the significant size advantage Shields would enjoy. Instead, Braekhus is mulling a circus of a bout with mixed martial artist Cris Cyborg.