The No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer in the world is back in action on December 8 at New York’s Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden as Vasyl “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko looks to unify the WBA and WBO lightweight titles against Jose “Sniper” Pedraza. The current WBA champion, Lomachenko, has opened as a -1200 favorite while the current WBO champion, Pedraza, comes back at +700.
Pedraza has been favored in four of his last five fights and was knocked out by WBA junior lightweight champion Gervonta Davis in the lone fight in which he was an underdog. Meanwhile, Lomachenko has been favored in each of his last six fights, with an average closing line of -777. It was no surprise to see Lomachenko as a heavy favorite, but I was expecting him to come in as more of a favorite somewhere in the -1600 range.
BREAKING DOWN LOMACHENKO VS PEDRAZA
Lomachenko (-1200) is a highly intelligent fighter who has flawless footwork and terrific hand speed. The southpaw won back-to-back Olympic gold medals, in 2008 at the Beijing Games in the featherweight division and in 2012 at the London Games in the lightweight division. Hi-Tech has an 11-1 record with his only loss coming in a controversial split decision to Orlando Salido for the WBO featherweight title in just his second professional fight. Salido came in overweight for that bout and landed a few low blows, yet was rewarded with the split-decision win.
The Ukraine native has been in world championship fights since his second professional bout and hasn’t gone to the judges’ scorecards since his fourth professional fight in 2014, winning his last eight bouts all by T/KO in three different weight classes. Lomachenko was enrolled in traditional Russian dance when he was nine years old, following five years of boxing, and his dance skills have translated to the ring as his footwork is second to none, making him nearly unhittable.
Pedraza (+700) defends his WBO lightweight title for the first time after earning a unanimous-decision victory over Ray Beltran in August. That method of victory is a typical route for the Puerto Rico native, as 13 of his 25 professional wins have been by decision, while his other 12 victories came via knockout. Sniper switches stances smoothly and moves around the ring nicely but lacks true knockout power, having not earned a T/KO victory since 2014. Pedraza suffered his first career loss in January of 2017 when he was knocked out by Gervonta Davis, but he has bounced back from that defeat to win his last three fights.
It’s hard to bet against Lomachenko – he is so creative inside the ring, moving in and out of range while throwing a flurry of punches without absorbing any damage in return. Four of his last five opponents have failed to get off their stools between rounds as they typically are frustrated as they are getting swarmed but can’t land anything themselves. Pedraza is going to have to outpoint Lomachenko to earn the victory and that is a tough task to do and I’m not sure he’s the man to do it.
Prediction: Vasyl Lomachenko (-1200) via knockout