Vasiliy Lomachenko is shifting away from a larger arena to attract a larger audience, accepting a Dec. 8 lightweight-unification bout at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater against Puerto Rico’s Jose Pedraza.
Rather than remain in a previously announced Dec. 1 Forum card that was to be streamed on ESPN Plus, World Boxing Assn. champion Lomachenko (11-1, nine knockouts) will participate in an ESPN-televised bout that will have the Heisman Trophy presentation ceremony as its lead-in.
The card, which will begin at 6 p.m. Pacific, will open with top lightweight prospect Teofimo Lopez and is expected to follow with super-bantamweight champion Isaac Dogboe defending his belt in the co-main event.
It will be Lomachenko’s third consecutive bout at an MSG property after stopping previously unbeaten fellow two-time Olympic champion Guillermo Rigondeaux at the theater in December 2017, and claiming his lightweight belt by stopping Jorge Linares in May at the full arena.
“I am ready to fight an excellent opponent like Jose Pedraza,” Lomachenko said in a prepared statement. “There is something special about fighting in New York City and at Madison Square Garden. The fans … are true boxing fans, and I can’t wait to put on another spectacular performance for them.”
The left-handed Pedraza (25-1, 12 KOs) showed an effective jab in piling up early rounds in August while wresting the World Boxing Organization belt from Ray Beltran.
Veteran promoter Bob Arum says the Oxnard-trained Lomachenko “knows that in … Pedraza, he faces a tough opponent with a style that may give him a lot of trouble.” Lomachenko is returning from shoulder surgery required from an injury suffered in the Linares bout. Before that, he stopped four consecutive opponents on their stool.
“My goal has always been to unify the titles, and Pedraza is standing in my way,” Lomachenko said.
Although promotional differences could make for a difficult negotiation, the public outcry for a 2019 Lomachenko-Garcia match would be intense.
Arum’s company, Top Rank, has yet to decide what it will do with the Dec. 1 date at the Forum. There’s flexibility to move it since the card was to be streamed on ESPN Plus, and such a move would be iced if that night’s Deontay Wilder heavyweight title defense against Tyson Fury lands at Staples Center.
One Top Rank official said the company has looked at placing super-middleweight Gilberto Ramirez’s title-defense rematch against Jesse Hart on Dec. 1, acknowledging the date and venue are in flux.