Jose Pedraza defeats Ray Beltran to win WBO Lightweight Championship in Arizona
By Hector Franco | Senior Writer and Editor
Published: August 26, 2018
GLENDALE, ARIZONA – 20 months ago Jose Pedraza (25-1, 12 KOs) walked out of the ring a defeated man at the hands of Gervonta Davis having lost his IBF 130-pound title. At that time Pedraza had one of the most mismanaged careers in boxing and was relegated to fighting just once a year. Since signing with Top Rank earlier this year, Pedraza’s career has taken a 180-degree turn.
At the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona Pedraza challenged veteran Ray Beltran (35-8-1, 21 KOs) for the WBO lightweight (135) championship. At the start of the fight, Pedraza was able to establish his jab and land a fair amount of uppercuts while using some lateral movement. In the second round, Pedraza landed a right hook from the southpaw stance that caused a cut over Beltran’s left eye. The Puerto Rican is known for his lack of concentration and focus in bouts. As the rounds went on Beltran began to close the gap and find his range and distance.
By the mid-rounds Pedraza was beginning to fight more of what would be perceived as a favorable style for Beltran. The number of jabs Pedraza was throwing began to decrease with each passing round. A vast majority of the fight was fought on the inside with both men taking rests and landing body punches. Beltran was the forward aggressor throughout the match; however, Pedraza in some rounds would back him up presumably to show the judges that he was in control of the fight.
In large portions of the bout, Pedraza lived up to his ‘Sniper’ moniker landing right hooks and straight left hands on Beltran as he was pursuing the Puerto Rican. By the championship rounds, the fight was close enough that someone needed to take charge to win the bout definitively. In the eleventh round, Pedraza landed a beautifully timed left uppercut that put Beltran down. For the first time in the fight, Beltran was severely hurt with Pedraza putting him up against the ropes and unloading punches. Beltran made it out of the round, but it was clear that he would have to come up with something dramatic to keep his title.
The final round mostly consisted with both men tying each other up with Pedraza landing the occasional jab. In the final moments of the round, Pedraza landed a right hand that stunned Beltran and put him up against the ropes. The Puerto Rican unleashed a fury of punches on Beltran not only to win the round but also put an exclamation point on his performance.
The judges scored the fight for Pedraza with scores of 117-110 twice and 115-112. The victory makes Pedraza a two-division titleholder and the current WBO lightweight champion. The knockdown in the eleventh round played a role in Pedraza getting the decision, but on two of the three judges scorecards, he did not need the knockdown. Pedraza outlanded Beltran 65 to 12 in jabs while landing 160 out of 556 power punches at a 29 percent connect rate.
In less than a year under the Top Rank banner, Pedraza has fought three times and regained a world title. The Puerto Rican may now have a date with WBA lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs) this upcoming December. Against Lomachenko, Pedraza will look to make a million dollar payday.
The win for Pedraza shows that being under the right management and having a promoter move you along correctly is a benefit. Pedraza is now the fifth current male champion out of Puerto Rico. Pedraza has been able to rebuild his career, and after being devastated by Hurricane Maria last September, Puerto Rico’s boxing scene appears to be successfully rebuilding as well.
(Featured Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank)