Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko had difficulty breaking down Pedraza’s style in the early going of their 12-round bout and went the distance for the first time since 2014, snapping a streak of eight straight stoppages.
Vasyl Lomachenko not invincible
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - December 11, 2018 - 12:00am

The man heralded as the world’s best pound-for-pound boxer today didn’t look too invincible against Jose Pedraza of Puerto Rico in a WBA/WBO lightweight unification showdown at the Madison Square Garden in New York City last Saturday night (Sunday morning, Manila).

Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko had difficulty breaking down Pedraza’s style in the early going of their 12-round bout and went the distance for the first time since 2014, snapping a streak of eight straight stoppages. Pedraza enjoyed a 5 1/2-inch reach advantage and constantly switch-hit to confuse Lomachenko who initially couldn’t put his punches together in combinations. 

But Lomachenko eventually floored Pedraza and did it twice in the 11th round. The Puerto Rican, however, refused to stay down, got up and finished the fight on his feet. To go the full route with Lomachenko was a feat in itself. Pedraza never hurt Lomachenko but then he isn’t known as a power hitter and his last seven wins were all on points. So it was no surprise that he never put Lomachenko on his back foot. What was surprising was it took Lomachenko so long to floor Pedraza and couldn’t score a stoppage even if it had to be apparent from the onset that the Ukrainian could take the Puerto Rican’s best shots without flinching. On the flip side, Lomachenko displayed patience and poise in methodically crumbling Pedraza’s fortification.

Lomachenko himself has no one-punch knockout power. The Matrix will wear down his opponents and bludgeon them into submission but his arsenal doesn’t include a dynamite killer blow like the shot that Manny Pacquiao used to send Ricky Hatton to dreamland. Before facing Pedraza, Lomachenko scored eight stoppages in a row and earned the nickname NoMasChenko as Nicholas Walters, Jason Sosa, Miguel Marriaga and Guillermo Rigondeaux quit in succession to save themselves from more punishment. It’s often said that Lomachenko doesn’t just beat his opponents, he humiliates them.

After annexing the WBO title to add to his WBA recognition, Lomachenko declared he won’t stop until the two other belts from the IBF and WBC are his. The unified IBF/WBC lightweight champion is unbeaten Mikey Garcia and Lomachenko has called him out for a duel. Somebody forgot to mention to Lomachenko that Garcia is moving up two weight classes to challenge IBF welterweight titleholder Errol Spence at the AT&T Center, formerly the Cowboys Stadium, in Texas, on March 16.

Lomachenko has lost only twice in his amateur and professional careers. He was outpointed by Russia’s Albert Selimov at the 2007 AIBA World Championships and bowed to Orlando Salido on a split decision as a pro in 2014. Lomachenko was in his second pro appearance when he battled Salido who had then logged 55 fights. For the record, Lomachenko’s last fight as an amateur was against Filipino Charly Suarez whom he beat on a five-round decision in a World Series of Boxing pairing in 2013. Suarez was floored by a body punch in the third round but got up to survive the distance.

When Lomachenko halted Jorge Linares to wrest the WBC lightweight crown last May, he was floored by a right straight in the sixth round. That showed a crack in the Ukrainian’s armor. Against Pedraza, he settled for a win on points and gave away rounds where he lacked aggressiveness because it took him some time to figure out how to dismantle the Puerto Rican’s defense. That showed another crack in the armor. And of course, Salido showed Lomachenko isn’t unbeatable.

But even as Lomachenko has shown signs of vulnerability, it doesn’t diminish his stature as an emerging legend. In fact, it humanizes him and enhances his image as a hero who also bleeds and weeps. Lomachenko won his first world title in his third pro fight, his second in his seventh and his third in his 12th. He’s in the record books as the fastest fighter to win world titles in two and three different divisions. He’s also the fastest man to be named Fighter of the Year after only 11 bouts. The Matrix may be a fighting machine but he’s a human being, too and that makes him even more of a credible hero.

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