This weekend marks the return of two-time Olympic gold medalist and three weight World Champion Vasiliy “High Tech” Lomachenko (11-1 9KO). Lomachenko, 30, is widely regarded as the finest boxer on the planet and has built up an extremely impressive professional record since he turned over to the professional ranks after the London Olympics in 2012. He captured a World Title in the Featherweight division in just his 3rd fight and has since added World Titles at Super Featherweight and Lightweight to his collection.
In the opposite corner this weekend stands newly crowned WBO Champion, Jose Pedraza (25-1 12KO) who is making his first defence after defeating veteran Raymundo Beltran (35-8-1 21KO) by unanimous decision in August. Pedraza, 29, holds a victory over British super featherweight, Stephen Smith and has only tasted defeat once in a 26-fight professional career. That defeat came at the hands of the highly touted Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis (20-0 19KO) in 2017.
Facing Lomachenko is a daunting task for any fighter, he has beaten previous opponents into submission. However, not only did he touch the canvas during his last bout against Jorge Linares, he suffered an injury to his shoulder which has required surgery and intensive rehabilitation. Pedraza, a proud Puerto Rican, will be drawing confidence from any small factor he can, in the hope he can cause a huge upset in at Maddison Square Garden.
“Hi Tech” however, has truly mesmerized the boxing public with his displays up to this point and should he come through this weekend, as many expect, mega fights await in 2019. Lomachenko is quickly laying foundations that will see him remembered for many years to come and the Ukrainian’s speed, movement and ring intelligence is truly a pleasure to witness.
It is only a four-fight card in New York but the chief support includes undefeated WBO World Super Bantamweight Champion, Isaac Dogboe (20-0 14KO). Dogboe, who hails from royalty in his native Ghana has spent most of his life based in London. He has a truly remarkable backstory from sleeping with his Father in the same gym where he trained as youngster, his rise to becoming World Champion is nothing short of extraordinary. He faces Emanuel Navarrete (25-1 22KO) who boasts an impressive knockout percentage and will pose a serious threat to Dogboe’s reign as World Champion.
In the UK, former Welterweight IBF World Champion Kell Brook (37-2 26KO) returns to action at the Sheffield Arena as he faces little known Australian, Michael Zerafa (25-2 14KO). The fight is an official eliminator to challenge WBA Super Welterweight Champion Jarrett Hurd.
Zerafa, is rated at number 8 in the WBA rankings but he has spent the majority of his career fighting in his home country. He has been beaten on the two occasions he has stepped out of Australia in USA and Russia, respectively. Although fans have displayed understandable disappointment towards the matchup, Brook looked extremely well at Friday’s weigh in. The bout is officially matched at the 154lb limit but Brook came in close to 150lb signifying his intent to make a statement in the “Steel City”
A bout with arch rival Amir Khan, seems to have once again, escaped Kell Brook. Khan is seemingly close to agreeing a bout with welterweight sensation, Terence Crawford. It is no secret that the “Special One” is in the twilight of his career and a win on Saturday night puts him back on the edge of a world title shot in 154lb division but as he shown at yesterday’s weigh in, fights at 147lb should not be ruled out.
Olympian Josh ‘Pretty Boy’ Kelly (8-0 6KO) acts as chief support as he takes on former World Champion David Avaneysan (23-3-1 11KO). The fight is a significant step up for “Pretty Boy” and it’s a test that he will need to overcome if he is to fulfil his huge potential in 2019.
Trainer Adam Booth has described Kelly as “the most talented fighter he has ever trained’ and taking into consideration Booth’s career to date, it is lofty praise from a man who has trained the likes of George Groves and David Haye.
Avaneysan is by far, the most credible opponent that Kelly has faced. The Russian born welterweight, who is based in the UK, has operated on a far higher level in recent years. He comes to the ring still holding ambitions of his own and should Kelly come through this test, 2019 will be extremely exciting for the Sunderland man.
Further down the card, Dubliner Jono Carroll (16-0 3KO) makes his debut under the Matchroom banner. Carroll, 26, is in fine form of late and enters the ring on the back of arguably his most impressive performance when he stopped Dublin rival, Declan Geraghty in 9 rounds in June. Not usually renowned for his power, Carroll has now stopped his last two opponents and will be hoping to continue that streak against Frenchman Guillaume Frenois (46-1 12KO)
Frenois has held the respected EBU European Title in the past and as a 47-fight veteran he has earned his respect within the game. He boasts 12 KO’s in them 47 fights which suggest he may be relying on his experience and boxing ability to outsmart the younger and arguably fresher, Carroll.
Carroll knows this is the last hurdle before a potential world title shot against IBF world Champion Tevin Farmer (27-4-1 6KO). Carroll looked fresh and healthy on the scales and has promised a big performance in his first fight working with promoter, Eddie Hearn.
Anthony Fowler also appears on the card in his 5th bout of 2018. “The Machine” faces Argentinean, Jose Carlos Paz. Paz (23-7-1 13KO) fought WBO World Champion, Jaime Munguia just two fights ago and he represents a fair step up for 2012 Olympian, Fowler.
Fans are calling for Fowler to be matched against British Super Welterweight Champion Ted Cheeseman and should Fowler come through this fight, a match up with Cheeseman cannot be avoided in 2019.
Rounding up the card, Kid Galahad (25-0 15KO) ticks over as he hopes to face the winner of Josh Warrington vs Carl Frampton, which takes place later this month. Highly touted Qais Ashfaq (3-01KO) continues his progression against Liverpool’s Jay Carney. Interestingly, Carney will be the third Liverpool born fighter that Ashfaq will have faced consecutively.
Anthony Thompson, Terri Harper, Callum Hancock and Shakiel Thompson also appear.