Vasiliy Lomachenko’s first Ring lightweight championship defense figures to be a ratings smash.
That’s because his 135-pound unification bout with Jose Pedraza will receive a lead-in from the Heisman Trophy ceremony on ESPN. Lomachenko vs. Jose Pedraza was finalized Monday for December 8 at New York’s Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, industry sources told The Ring.
The 135-pound title tilt was originally pegged for December 1 at The Forum in Inglewood, California, an arena owned by the Madison Square Garden Company. However, the opportunity to piggy-back on the presentation for college football’s highest honor was too good for Top Rank to pass up (the ceremony also takes place in New York.)
Pedraza (25-1, 12 knockouts) punched his ticket to the biggest fight of his career when he outpointed Ray Beltran last month. The 29-year-old Puerto Rican grabbed Beltran’s title with the victory, and now finds himself in a lightweight title unification matchup with the boxer many count as the best in the sport.
“New lightweight champion Jose Pedraza has the style to give Lomachenko a hell of a lot of trouble,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum tweeted after Pedraza beat Beltran.
Pedraza figures to present a more difficult style for Lomachenko than Beltran would have posed. He’s a smooth boxer with an impressive amatuer pedigree. The former 130-pound titleholder can box and move. Still, he’ll be a massive underdog against the likes of Lomachenko.
After all, Pedraza was dominated and stopped by Gervonta Davis in his only other fight on the elite level. And Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs) is a step above that.
The 30-year-old Ukranian will be fighting for the first time since he underwent surgery in Mayto repair a torn labrum. The two-time Olympic gold medalist suffered the injury in his first bout at 135 pounds — a 10th-round stoppage of Jorge Linares to capture The Ring’s lightweight championship.
The bout will be Loma’s third consecutive bout in New York (he stopped Guillermo Rigondeaux at the same venue in December).
Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger