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The Return of “The Matrix”

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There are agents among him who see a glitch or two. Amid a sea of humanity in Hulu Theater, turned blue and yellow oasis inside of Madison Square Garden by the return of pound-for-pound world #1 and WBO/WBA lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko, “The Matrix” (12-1, 9 KOs) dodged enough bullets from an upgraded Jose “Sniper” Pedraza (25-2, 12 KOs) to claim the distinguished distinction of unified champion. 

In the process, the fight game’s Neo (now making it clear that lightweight, the domain of Duran, is where his legacy will be defined) must return to ‘The Source’ (father/trainer, Anatoly), and come up with a bigger red pill. Not that he’s malfunctioning, more to keep him functionally dangerous to the specter of Teofimo Lopez (11-0, 9KOs),  who scored yet another savage one-punch, 1st round KO, this time over Mason Menard. 

There is a fierce rivalry brewing between the two camps, palpable all during Fight Week in a way that lingers now. That confrontation is on the horizon, in a way that may inspire raised eyebrows and a tilted head to the side from rising star Shakur Stevenson.

These are perilous times for Vasyl LomaLomachenko, suddenly now compared to a jealous Clubber Lang type on his undercards out to expose an inner Hollywood Rocky in Teo Lopez; and an undisciplined, out-of-shape mega-talented Gervonta “Tank” Davis, all because of what wasn’t done to Pedraza by either a possessed Davis, or a somehow very compromised “Sniper” in January 2017. Amazing what happens when a fighter doesn’t quit or get stopped in circa 2018.

“Pedraza came to win… there’s no comparison to what he showed against Tank to what he showed with Lomachenko,” offered retired great “Super” Zab Judah, on hand at MSG to witness Loma V Pedraza. “He showed what you can do to Lomachenko if you can match his speed and mess with his rhythm.” 

And yet, Loma beat Pedraza, a world champion reborn, by something like 10 very compelling rounds to a very clear two. The New York Knicks can become superhuman on any given night facing the Golden State Warriors. And still lose.

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That Loma V Pedraza became it’s own Sugar Ray Leonard V Wilfred Benitez, complete with that near dazzling finish in the 11th, was classic. It had nearby ESPN on-air personalities Stephen A. Smith and Teddy Atlas (who’d foreseen Loma by wide UD) bristling with raw excitement on the set. The greats do that. It’s not only that he’s a ring general anomaly, but a very daringly effective aggressor all too willing to demonstrate this with flair. That he can compete like a gladiator with such insouciance is remarkable. 

Lomachenko is the game’s consummate capitalist, a consumer of souls beyond comparison, qualities that when combined with unique ring aesthetics make him beautiful to watch, all while his dance partner can be ignored. That Pedraza brought his “A” game and was not in this position, was probably annoying to a Rembrandt painting in B who only cares for the flaws. I guess he’ll fall off a cliff in 2019. 

Senior correspondent for NY Fights and author of upcoming book, "The Fist Club." Conscious indie recording artist "T@z" and humanist advocate for the Green Party.

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