By Cliff Rold
Many felt he was lucky to defend his title last time out against Edner Cherry. 26-year old IBF 130 lb. titlist Jose Pedraza (22-0, 12 KO), 129, of Cidra, Puerto Rico, made his own luck this time around, scoring a knockdown in the ninth en route to a unanimous decision over 30-year old Stephen Smith (23-2, 13 KO), 129, Liverpool, Merseyside, United Kingdom. Pedraza halts an eleven fight win streak for Smith, the younger brother of 154 lb. titlist Liam Smith.
The referee was Eddie Claudio.
Both men landed well in spots but the fight never really seemed to catch fire in the early going. It was clinical stuff full of feints and footwork and stiff single shots but not much sustained leather. Smith won at least a few rounds though Pedraza seemed ahead.
Matters changed in the last four rounds. Pedraza landed a right hand in the ninth to send Smith tumbling down, an official knockdown though Smith was back up quickly. He didn’t seem too hurt but Pedraza jumped on him with some more hard shots and Smith held on.
Smith gamely fought back hard in the last three rounds, landing some big shots in the tenth to keep Pedraza honest. In the last two rounds, they stayed close enough and fatigue made both men more offensive. It worked to Pedraza’s benefit, as his heavier hands never let Smith have much of a chance to score the miracle comeback he needed.
The scores came in fair at 117-110 and a matching 116-111. Speaking through a translator after the fight, Pedraza gave Smith respect for being a tough twelve rounds and acknowledged the controversy of his last outing, crediting his preparation for this one. Whether Cherry will get an earned rematch remains to be seen.
The bout was televised in the US on Showtime as part of its “Championship Boxing” series, promoted by DiBella Entertainment.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]