Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Jose Pedraza fight predictions, card, odds, date, undercard

For the second straight year, pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko of Ukraine will get the benefit of what should be a large platform in front of a huge audience when he returns to the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York to defend his title. 

Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs), who forced Guillermo Rigondeaux to quit last December in their 130-pound title bout, will defend his WBA lightweight title this time around in a unification against WBO champion Jose Pedraza (25-1, 12 KOs). The placement and timing of the broadcast is significant (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET) because it immediately follows the Heisman Trophy ceremony, giving promoter Top Rank another opportunity to showcase Lomachenko's wizardry to the masses. 

The 30-year-old two-time Olympic gold medalist is expected to face a decent challenge against Pedraza, a native of Puerto Rico and former 130-pound titleholder who moved up to outpoint Rey Beltran in August. You wouldn't necessarily know that, however, looking at the betting odds where Lomachenko stands as an overwhelmingly massive favorite. 

Still, Lomachenko enters fresh off of shoulder surgery in his first fight since claiming his lightweight belt in a spectacular May knockout of Jorge Linares when Lomachenko, in his first fight headlining the big arena at MSG, was forced to get up off the canvas to win

One thing that fight seemed to do for Lomachenko is let him realize that his ceiling in weight after claiming three titles in as many weight classes through just 12 pro fights might be where he stands now at 135 pounds. 

"It was the first time I was knocked down as a pro," Lomachenko said. "After the knockdown, I came back and finished the fight. It was a tough fight, but I showed the heart of a champion.

"I believe I'll stay at 135 and focus on 135 because when I fought against Linares, I felt like he was bigger than me. In my weight class and closer to my weight class, we don't have a big superstar. Yes, we have big names at 147, but I can't move up to 147 now because it's too much [weight], I think."

Lomachenko shot down any further talk that he was still interested in a catchweight bout of some sort against secondary welterweight titleholder Manny Pacquiao, who returns Jan. 19 on PPV against Adrien Broner. 

"I'm not disrespecting Pacquiao, but I don't want to make my name bigger because I beat an old legend," Lomachenko said. "I have my own road. There are a lot of good fighters to fight who are comparable to me. He's old. I think his career is done. I don't want to become a legend in boxing because of him."

Lomachenko's ideal opponent at lightweight continues to be Mikey Garcia, who recently gave up his lightweight title in order to secure a challenge two divisions north against IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. to headline a March 16 pay-per-view card. Yet Pedraza still brings danger as a crafty counter puncher who goes by the nickname "Sniper." 

"His style is not very interesting and not comfortable for all boxers because he's always on defense and waiting for a mistake," Lomachenkon said. "If you've seen my fights, it will be similar to the [Miguel] Marriaga fight. They have the same style."

FavoriteUnderdogWeightclass

Vasiliy Lomachenko (c) -3500

Jose Pedraza (c) +1200

Lightweight titles

Isaac Dogboe (c) -800

Emanuel Navarrete +500

Junior featherweight title

Teofimo Lopez Jr. N/A

 Mason Menard N/A

Lightweight

Marriaga was dropped twice by Lomachenko in 2017 before his corner ended the fight after seven rounds in a one-sided affair. Pedraza's lone loss also came by knockout in 2017 against current junior lightweight champion Gervonta Davis. 

Still, Pedraza believes he will be able to show Lomachenko something different.

"Technically speaking, he has never faced a fighter like me," Pedraza said. "I had a great training camp for this fight. Lomachenko is a great fighter, a complete fighter, and I know that I will have to be at my best. I am prepared to put on a good fight."

Prediction

Pedraza is a very good fighter but the fact that Linares showed that you can be a great fighter and still get stopped by Lomachenko despite knocking him down doesn't bode well for his chances. Not only will Pedraza need to be sharp in his counter shots early to dissuade Lomachenko from showing his full arsenal, at some point he will have to seriously hurt him in order to win. 

Successfully doing so is easier said than done, of course, because of Lomachenko's brilliant footwork and the awkward angles with which he throws punches from. Unless Pedraza rolls the dice by trying to rough Lomachenko up in hopes of luring him into a brawl, this could be a long night. 

Pick: Lomachenko via TKO10

CBS Sports Insider

Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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