The best boxer on the planet didn’t come in on a clear signal for large swaths of Saturday night, as Vasyl Lomachenko got some static from Jose Pedraza and maybe some interference from a layoff following shoulder surgery. Then came an electrifying two-knockdown 11th that shot the true Loma through in 4K.
That Lomachenko was going to win didn’t seem much in doubt, even though Pedraza could make an argument for snagging as many as four rounds; he ultimately won by 117-109 twice and 119-107. The thing is, when you’re the pound-for-pound king, you’re held to a different standard of expectations. And Loma just didn’t look as great as usual for the bulk of the night, not throwing his right much save for a jab, perhaps cautious about his surgically-repaired shoulder, or gun-shy because of it. He also appeared a step slow, unable to pivot in his trademark fashion, maybe because he hasn’t fought since May.
Then there’s what Pedraza brought to the situation. He came in as the #3 man in the lightweight division, behind the transcendent talents of Loma and Mikey Garcia. Clearly, the man can fight. And he offered some ultra-specific challenges Loma hasn’t seen much as a pro. His movement of head, hand and foot slowed Loma’s volume and fritzed his targeting system. He was landing, too, albeit not at too high a rate. All in all, he was keeping rounds closer against Loma than we’re accustomed to, based on Loma just making everyone give up after a couple rounds of confusion, frustration and pain.
Hell, he tagged Loma pretty much at will in the 10th. There still wasn’t room on the cards to win it, but it sure seemed like it could get interesting in the final two rounds, anyway. Loma had other plans. He caught Pedraza with an uppercut in the 11th that put him on his heels, and approximately 1,563,912 punches in combination later, Pedraza fell. Then Loma did it again. And any notion that the fight was there for the taking went from “vanishingly small” to “not a fucking chance.” The 12th was rendered pointless.
There’s probably another factor at play here in Loma’s performance, and it’s that he’s not really a lightweight. He’s more than good enough to compete and even excel here. It’s just that it’s a bit more dangerous here for him, with guys who have long frames like Pedraza and the ability to withstand his punches where smaller men might not.
We’ve seen this before, where the best of the best end up moving too high, with Loma’s most immediate predecessor as pound-for-pound king, Roman Gonzalez, eventually landed in a weight class where he got knocked out. Loma appears to be fighting at the maximum weight where he can be really good, still, even great, and any higher he’ll get by on pure ring IQ but put himself at greater risk of suffering a loss.
Garcia, in fact, is doing the same and in an even riskier way: He’s moving up to 147 after proving he was about at his limit at 140, and he’s doing it against another of the planet’s best boxers, Errol Spence. Loma said he wants Garcia, as he should, because we all really, really do. Loma-Garcia is a pretty pure toss-up, whereas Spence is heavily favored against Garcia. Would that Loma-Garcia still has juice should Garcia lose to Spence, and would that the Top Rank-Garcia feud not rear its head when it comes time.
On the undercard Emanuel Navarete cruelly ended Isaac Dogboe’s junior featherweight momentum, delivering a severe beatdown that maybe should’ve been stopped before the final bell. And super-prospect Teofimo Lopez starched fellow lightweight Mason Menard to put Mason Menard in his second highlight-reel KO loss.
(Image of Vasyl Lomachenko vs Jose Pedraza via)
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) December 9, 2018