Jose Pedraza has officially settled in as a junior welterweight.
The former two-division titlist picked up his second straight win at the weight, the latest coming in a lopsided unanimous decision win over Javier Molina.
Pedraza won by scores of 98-92, 98-92 and 99-91 on the respective cards of judges Julie Lederman, Patricia Morse-Jarman and Tim Cheatham in their battle of 2008 Olympians saw Saturday evening at The Bubble in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“They do call me the Sniper,” Pedraza (28-3, 13KOs) told ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna after the win. “When the opportunity comes, I have to be patient and take advantage of it.
“That’s what I was able to do tonight. I was able to wear him down, break him down and make him fight my fight. It was my experience at the highest level in the sport that allowed me to deliver this performance.”
Pedraza was enjoying his second Bubble fight in less than three months. The switch-hitting former junior lightweight and lightweight titlist from Cidra, Puerto Rico scored a lopsided 10-round decision over former title challenger Mikkel LesPierre in this very venue on July 2, proving just as dominant on Saturday.
Pedraza constantly boxed on his toes in the early going, with the traditionally counterpunching Molina waiting for opportunities to respond. Pedraza controlled the pace, pumping his jab and disallowing Molina the opportunity to let his hands go with constant in-and-out movement.
Molina began to physically run into issues in round two, which saw swelling develop under his left eye. Referee Russell Mora informed the ringside officials that it was the result of a punch, with Pedraza attempting to target the wound. More issues surfaced for Molina, who was on the receiving end of several headbutts—though all unintentional (or at least ruled as such).
One such clash of heads left Molina with a deep vertical cut along his nose and just outside of his left eye.Pedraza continued to come forward, looking to pump his jab but insteadheadbutting Molina twice more in round three.
Pedraza found his rhythm in round four, coming forward and shooting his left before getting out of harm’s way before Molina could even reset his feet. Molina walked straight in, following around Pedraza who switched over to southpaw where he was landing in combination while also scoring with left hooks to the body.
Both boxers fought through the sight of their own blood at the start of the second half. Molina’s corner—aided by assigned cut man Mike “The Mechanic” Bazzel—managed to keep his cut under control, although he was rapidly approaching desperation territory after losing most if not all of the preceding rounds.
Meanwhile, Pedraza remained calm even in fighting through a bloodied nose. The former two-division titlist thoroughly outworked Molina, whose mandate in round six was to double up on his right hand and walk down his Puerto Rican foe. A brief reflection of those instructions came midway through the round though with little success.
Pedraza was instructed to slow things down in round seven and save up for a big finish. Ever the technician, he saw an opening and took it in the form of a right hook from the southpaw stance. Molina was briefly wobbled along the ropes, but quickly recovered even in absorbing power shots in an ensuing volley.
Round eight saw Pedraza touch the body in effort to draw down Molina’s guard. When the opening didn’t provide itself, Pedraza settled for an overhand left which found its mark. Molina remained upright, though on the defensive as Pedraza intensified his attack, scoring with a left hand and right hook downstairs.
Molina was informed by his corner prior to the start of round nine that he needed a knockout to win. Pedraza was never going to allow that to materialize, reverting to straight boxing in round nine. A steady jab was finding its mark, as were straight left hands behind it. Pedraza continued to employ lateral movement to avoid even the threat of an incoming attack.
Pedraza sought to close the show in the 10th and final round. With the outcome never in doubt, the 31-year old Boricua had a knockout in his sights. A straight left hand caught Molina flush, driving him into the ropes with less than a minute to go. Pedraza continued to let his hands go, but settled for a landslide decision win.
A four-fight win streak comes to a close for Molina, who landed just 49-of-338 total punches (14%) as he falls to 22-3 (9KOs). The 2008 Mexican Olympian came in on the heels of a points win over former title challenger Amir Imam this past February, but was thoroughly outclassed on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Pedraza has his sights firmly set on the class of the division—along with a little bit of revenge should the situation arise.
Pedraza—who was 164-of-519 (31.6%) according to Compubox—dropped a clear-cut decision to Jose Zepeda last September, having since rebounded with back-to-back strong performances at the weight. Zepeda will face former 140-pound titlist Ivan Baranchyk on this very venue on October 3.
By that point, unified titlist Josh Taylor (16-0, 12KOs) will have faced mandatory challenger Apinun Khongsong (16-0, 13KOs), with a win on September 26 moving him closer towards an undisputed championship clash. Jose Ramirez already did his part, barely edging Viktor Postol on August 29 in Las Vegas.
Pedraza would love to factor into that mix somewhere, whether a crack at becoming a three-division champ or avenging his last loss.
“I do believe that I’m ready for that world title opportunity,” insists Pedraza. “If a unification bout happens between Jose Ramirez and Josh Taylor, I definitely want the winner of that fight. If for some reason that fight doesn’t happen, I do want to respectfully request a rematch with Jose Zepeda. He has a fight coming up and got the best of me the first time we fought. I know I can do better against him the second time.
“I had a really bad night. I just want to clear the air and prove I am the better fighter.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox