Jose Pedraza Seeks Redemption in Arizona
By Hector Franco | Senior Writer and Editor
Published: August 24, 2018
This weekend at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, Cidra, Puerto Rico’s Jose “Sniper” Pedraza (24-1, 12 KOs) will challenge Ray Beltran (35-7-1, 21 KOs) for the WBO lightweight (135) title. For fighters, the first time you win a world title is seen as a significant change in your career. All the hard work you have put in for years has finally reaped some benefits, and the world feels under your control. All the pieces of the puzzle are coming together.
However, for Pedraza after winning his first world title in the summer of 2015, he saw his career begin to crumble and take a turn for the worse. The man known as the sniper first got the boxing world’s attention when he took on the Philippines’ Michael Farenas (42-5-4, 34 KOs) in his native Puerto Rico in November 2014. To this day this could be Pedraza’s finest performance as he was able to showcase his vast skill set. As future Hall-of-Famer Miguel Cotto’s career was winding down much of the attention in the Puerto Rican boxing scene was focused on Pedraza’s contemporary Felix Verdejo. Time has shown that Pedraza is the superior fighter.
Pedraza challenged for the vacant IBF 130-pound title against Russian contender Andrey Klimov (20-5, 10 KOs) in June 2015 winning a wide unanimous decision victory. The Puerto Rican’s performance against Klimov was impressive as he pitched a shutout on two of the three judges scorecards. Following the fight with Klimov, Pedraza ran into promotional issues leaving him spending more time outside of the ring than in one.
Pedraza would make his first title defense against Edner Cherry (37-7-2, 19 KOs) in a fight that could have been scored for either man. Pedraza came away with a close and controversial split decision victory. From this point, Pedraza’s career started going downhill. In 2016, Pedraza fought just once against the United Kingdom’s Stephen Smith (25-4, 15 KOs). The crafty Puerto Rican came away with the victory but failed to impress most fans with the performance.
Promoters whether they admit it or not have fighters that they look after more so than others. Under the Al Haymon umbrella, Pedraza was not one of the chosen favorites. Following his fight with Smith, Pedraza was set up with a match with Baltimore’s Gervonta Davis (20-0, 19 KOs) at the beginning of 2017. Despite being the older fighter with vastly more experience as a professional, Pedraza was the underdog. At the time of the match, Pedraza had been out of the ring for almost a year and had lost trust in his promoters.
The bout with Davis felt more like a set up to give the Baltimore native a title putting him in against a fighter who was unhappy and inactive. Pedraza fought the wrong fight against Davis, and the younger fighter took advantage. Instead of utilizing a game plan focused on movement, Pedraza went straight at Davis to his detriment. Davis was able to take advantage of Pedraza’s inactivity as he walked him down and put a beating on the Puerto Rican until the bout was stopped in the seventh round. This marked not only the end of Pedraza’s title reign but also the end of his tenure under the Haymon umbrella.
At the beginning of 2018, Pedraza signed with promoter Top Rank and was almost immediately put back in the ring. In March of this year, Pedraza returned to the ring for the first time in over a year since the Davis bout. Pedraza would win an eight-round decision over Mexico’s Jose Luis Rodriguez (24-12, 13 KOs). The Puerto Rican’s next fight would be against the 6 foot Antonio Moran (23-3, 16 KOs). Pedraza’s performance was inconsistent against Moran who would only have success when he was able to trade with the former 130-pound champion. Pedraza would end up winning a close ten-round decision to put in motion this weekends bout against Beltran.
Within less than a year of having been signed with Top Rank, Pedraza will have participated in three bouts. In the background of Pedraza’s fight with Beltran is the Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry. In the forefront, is Pedraza’s quest to regain a world title.
In Arizona, Pedraza will seek his own level of redemption to gain back what was lost in a sea of calamity from outside forces. Pedraza will fight for his own legacy, but also to begin to re-cement Puerto Rico as a powerhouse in boxing.
(Featured Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank)