NEW YORK — Vasiliy Lomachenko is back and ready to show what he can do with two healthy shoulders.
Injured while winning one lightweight belt, Lomachenko while try to add a second in his return from surgery when he faces Jose Pedraza on Saturday night in the Theater at Madison Square Garden (Sunday, Manila time).
Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs) is already a champion in three weight classes, but this is the first time he can unify belts within a division.
"It's the next step for my dream," Lomachenko said. "It's the next step for my goal, and after this fight I think my dreams come a little bit closer to me."
That could include a 135-pound showdown with unbeaten Mikey Garcia but seemingly won't include a fight with Manny Pacquiao, because Lomachenko, whose career is going along just fine, doesn't believe he needs to enhance it by beating what he said is an "old legend" about to turn 40.
"There are a lot of good fighters to fight who are comparable to me," Lomachenko said. "He's old. I think his career is done. I don't want to become a legend in boxing because of him."
But he can do it by unifying titles, and this is the two-time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine's first chance to do it.
He moved up in weight and won the WBA title from Jorge Linares in May despite tearing the labrum in his right shoulder in the second round. Lomachenko got up from a sixth-round knockdown to stop Linares in the 10th, then underwent surgery.
While Lomachenko was recovering, Pedraza (25-1, 12 KOs) won the WBO title from Ray Beltran to secure the fight with Lomachenko, who has eight straight victories by stoppage.
"We know that he's a great fighter. He's a complete fighter," Pedraza said through a translator.
Pedraza was out for 14 months after his lone loss, when Gervonta Davis took his junior lightweight title by stoppage in January 2017, but has come back strong by winning three fights this year. The victory over Beltran made him the second Puerto Rican man to win titles at 130 and 135 pounds, and an upset of Lomachenko would bring even more pride to his homeland that's still recovering from disaster.
"It will be the first Christmas after what happened with Hurricane Maria, so definitely me winning on Saturday would bring a lot of joy and blessing to the island," Pedraza said.
The undercard of the fight, to be televised by ESPN, includes 2016 Olympian Teofimo Lopez (10-0, 8 KOs) facing Mason Menard (34-3, 24 KOs) in a lightweight bout, and Isaac Dogboe (20-0, 14 KOs) defending his WBO junior featherweight title against Mexican Emanuel Navarrete (25-1, 22 KOs).
Then Lomachenko fights for the third straight time at Madison Square Garden and expects no problems with his shoulder. He said he's been able to use all his punches in sparring and may have benefited from the break for the injury, which delayed a planned August fight. He had nearly 400 fights as an amateur and has been on a quest to quickly accumulate as many titles as possible as a pro.
A fight with Garcia could provide him a chance for another, but the WBC's 135-pound champion is moving up two divisions to challenge welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. in March. Lomachenko has no plans to move up any further for now after beginning his career at 126 pounds, but he thinks a matchup with Garcia will happen, assuming he comes back down.
"I think this fight will happen," Lomachenko said. "Then, I don't know."