Mancuso: World Champions Invade Garden

World champions and title fights have invaded New York City at Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn the next three weekends. It begins Saturday night at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden with Top Rank and the ESPN televised spotlight with lightweight champions Vasiliv Lomachenko and Jose Pedraza in a quest to unify the titles.

Next week it’s Canelo Alvarez in the main arena at the Garden and his quest for another championship at super middleweight. The Charlo brothers, champions in different divisions, defend titles on the same card at Barclays that will be televised on FOX December 22.

So this is Christmas time for a boxing fan in New York with a trifecta and that’s all good for the sport.

For now the emphasis is with Lomachenko. The defending WBA champion, 11-1, 9 KO’s, in his 13th fight as a professional, is always in that discussion as top pound-for-pound fighter.  Lomachenko has made New York and Madison Square Garden as his favorite venue to show the skills with a quick and powerful jab. This will be his third straight fight in New York with previous stoppages  over Jorge Linares and Guillermo Rigondeaux for the WBA and WBO titles.

So this fight needs no hype and it was sold out a few days after it was official.  Lomachenko has a following of Ukraine fans and Pedraza, 25-1, 12 K0’s, has his number of New York boxing fans from Puerto Rico. And with one agenda to unify the lightweight titles this adds to the drama.

All this hype for Lomachenko, a knockout artist, does not diminish the skills of Jose Pedraza. He can also punch and jab to the body and that hype of “Loma” in discussion of pound-for-pound does not get to him.  

“The closer the fight approaches, the more I see myself with my hands held high and with the two titles on my shoulders,” Pedraza said. “”I already fulfilled my goal of becoming a world champion and now I’m going after the goal of unifying titles.”

He became the latest champion from Puerto Rico in August with a unanimous decision win over Raymond Beltran for the WBA lightweight title. It won’t be easy because Lomachenko can also work the body and his opponent.

And for some reason, though, Pedraza is not concerned a bit about New York and the Garden bringing out the best in Lomachenko.

“The titles will return to Puerto Rico with me,” Pedraza says. “I know that it not be an easy fight. I will be facing one of the best fighters in the world. He has tremendous skills but I know that I also have great skills and the necessary focus to come out with the victory.”

Pedroza is conscious about his opponent, as he should be. He is also fighting for his homeland  Puerto Rico and their continued rebuilding after the disaster of Hurricane Maria last year.

“Puerto Rico deserves a moment of happiness,” he says. “I’m going to do it for them and my family.”

Things to look for are the one blemish on the record of Lomachenko, a controversial loss to Orlando Salido that he has never forgot. And against Linares, he sustained a knockdown that was quick in the sixth round. Later it was revealed that the champion suffered a severe tear to the labrum in his right shoulder against Linares.

“It was my first rest and first big vacation in my life,” Lomachenko said about the recovery from surgery in late August. That put him on the shelf and a fight was made for the titles in New York with Pedraza.

And despite a controversial loss to Orlando Salido, in his second fight, and a knockdown by Jorge Linares in his last outing, Lomachenko says he is ready and better.

The winner could get another unification bout in the new year. That all depends on what IBF and WBC champion Mikey Garcia has in the plan.  

This is that boxing season in New York the next three week. But  Lomachenko and Pedraza also welcome in that early holiday season for boxing fans in the Big Apple.

Comment: [email protected]  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso






About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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