By Jake Donovan
A massive weekend in New York City dedicated in and out of the ring to Puerto Rico will now also include one of the island’s fastest rising young stars. Hours before Argentina’s Sergio Martinez defends his World middleweight championship versus Miguel Cotto this weekend, unbeaten super featherweight Jose Pedraza will ply his trade in front of a packed house at Madison Square Garden.
Pedraza’s status on the card was tentatively set for a six-round bout versus Arturo Uruzquieta, which will air live on WAPA-TV.
"Miguel Cotto is one of the best fighters to come out of Puerto Rico and I want to become a household name in my country just like he did," said Pedraza (16-0, 10KO). "I know with hard work, and the guidance of my promoters, Gary Shaw, Lou DiBella and Javier Bustillo, I can go far in boxing. My ambition is to be the next great champion from Puerto Rico."
The last time Pedraza (16-0, 10KO) was scheduled for a six-round limit was in his 5 th pro fight, as the 23-year old has been accelerated from rookie to prospect to budding super featherweight star all in just three years as a pro.
Included among the way was his most recent feat, claiming the IBO 130 lb. title in a 12-round landslide decision win over Alberto Garza this past March. With any belt comes obligations to defend and proudly represent, but approval was granted to Pedraza to appear in a non-title fight following a request from his promotional team, comprised of DiBella Entertainment, Gary Shaw Productions and Universal Promotions.
“We have the great opportunity for Jose to be placed on the June 7 th Cotto-Martinez undercard against Arturo Uruzquieta in a six-round bout,” co-promoter Lou DiBella explained in an exemption request to the IBO on Tuesday. “This is a huge opportunity for Jose to gain major exposure on what is one of the most prominent cards this year. It will allow him to be on the televised undercard in his home of Puerto Rico (time only permitted a six-round bout) and to be featured on a show on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day Parade in NYC.
“This will have a huge impact on the young man’s career and the significance cannot be duplicated on any other card. We anticipate a victory for Jose and he will proudly defend the IBO Championship in his next bout.”
Recognizing the opportunity for one of its champions to grow that much more in stature, the IBO willingly obliged.
“We are proud to have Jose Pedraza as our champion and we hope this fight will give him further exposure,” noted IBO President Ed Levine in a response to Pedraza’s promoters Wednesday afternoon.
The bout will mark Pedraza’s first appearance at Madison Square Garden. The rising Puerto Rican star – who represented his island in the 2008 Beijing Olympics – last appeared in New York City in 2011, where he fought his second and third pro fights.
Pedraza's last four bouts have been scheduled for 10 rounds or more, though agreed to the shorter distance for the sake of gaining TV exposure and being part of a festive weekend for his native Puerto Rico. A return to the advanced pace to which he's rapidly and effortlessly become accustomed will immediately follow, providing he emerges victorious this weekend.
"Pedraza can do it all," said Gary Shaw. "He has the ability to adapt to any style and his charisma is second to none, which is why he is loved by his countrymen in Puerto Rico. He's the next great fighter emerging from the Island."
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox