Jose Pedraza: Puerto Rico's last stand
By Hector Franco
January 12, 2017
BROOKLYN, NY- This Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY Jose Pedraza (22-0, 12 KOs) will defend his IBF 130-pound championship against Gervonta Davis (16-0, 15 KOs). This will be the third title defense for Pedraza who last defended his title against Stephen Smith (23-3, 14 KOs) in April 2016. Since then Pedraza hasn’t stepped inside the squared circle. Pedraza fell victim to the inactivity plagued by many Al Haymon clients in 2016.
It was strange when the fight between Pedraza and Davis was first discussed. Davis is still relatively new on the scene being ranked at the eighth spot in the IBF 130-pound rankings. 130-pounds is one of the most stacked divisions in the sport of boxing and with many fighters in the division signed with Haymon. It's surprising that Pedraza hasn’t faced any fellow titleholders or well-known names.
Pedraza first caught the attention of the boxing public back in November 2014 when he put a beating on Michael Farenas (41-5-4, 33 KOs). Farenas at the time was a solid contender who had given trouble to former world champion Yuriorkis Gamboa. He also got a draw with former WBA 130-pound kingpin Takashi Uchiyama. Needless to say, Pedraza opened some eyes with that performance.
Afterward, Pedraza won given a shot at the vacant IBF 130-pound title against Andrey Klimov (19-3, 9 KOs). Pedraza dominated Klimov from beginning to end showcasing to fans as to why they call him “sniper.” Following his title win over Klimov, Pedraza fought Edner Cherry in a fight that could have gone either way. He then faced Stephen Smith in a relatively uneventful fight. Pedraza along with his fellow countrymen Felix Verdejo (22-0, 15 KOs) have both lost steam going into 2017. But the Davis fight for Pedraza is an opportunity to grow his name in and out of his island nation.
Pedraza holds an advantage over Davis in the professional ranks having faced tougher competition at a championship level. It can be argued that he also has more experience as an amateur as well. Pedraza won the gold medal at the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games in 2010. He also won medals at the Boxing World Cup, World Amateur Championships and Pan American Games in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The kid from Baltimore, Maryland wasn’t a slouch as an amateur as he amassed a record of 206-15. Davis’ connection with Floyd Mayweather may have been the reason he got this opportunity against Pedraza. Regardless of how the fight came about Pedraza will be fighting for more than just his title.
Pedraza at this moment is the only Puerto Rican world champion based on the island. Other champions like Danny Garcia, Jason Sosa, and the Serrano sisters are Puerto Rican but are not a mainstay on the island like Pedraza. Sosa is the WBA titleholder at 130-pounds and could be set up for a fight with Pedraza in the future as both men are Haymon clients.
The man known as the “Sniper” is also the first boxing world champion from the town of Cidra in Puerto Rico. Cidra is relatively small compared to the major cities on the island such as Ponce or San Juan having a population of approximately 50,000. Boxing is still a major sport on the island of Puerto Rico and being a world champion representing the island has always been an honor and responsibility. Pedraza being the only world champion from Cidra may have more pressure on his back than most.
With all of the economic and political turmoil currently plaguing Puerto Rico, many are looking for Pedraza to give the island a boost with a victory on Saturday night. The Sniper from Cidra will be taking a stand in Brooklyn this weekend not only for himself but also for his people. There are those who fold under that pressure and others who rise above it. Pedraza will have his opportunity to show the world where he stands this weekend.
(Featured Photo: Brynn Anderson/AP)