By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Jose Pedraza showed some rust Saturday, particularly defensively.
The former 130-pound champion still performed well enough to overcome Mexico’s Jose Luis Rodriguez in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Puerto Rico’s Pedraza, now campaigning as a lightweight, defeated Mexico’s Rodriguez by unanimous decision in his first fight in 14 months, an eight-rounder on the Amir Imam-Jose Ramirez undercard.
All three judges scored the fight a shutout for Pedraza (23-1, 12 KOs), who won 80-72 on each of their cards. Rodriguez, who has lost by knockout or technical knockout four times in his 13-year pro career, slipped to 23-12 (13 KOs).
Pedraza, 28, fought for the first time since Baltimore’s Gervonta Davis stopped him in the seventh round and took the IBF super featherweight title from him in January 2017 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. The fight also was Pedraza’s first since signing with a promotional deal with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc.
Pedraza began tightening up his defense in the fourth round, after allowing Rodriguez to land too many left hooks and right hands earlier in the fight. Pedraza also was effective at times while fighting out of a southpaw stance.
Pedraza started the fifth round fighting left-handed, which caused Rodriguez to switch southpaw to combat Pedraza’s effectiveness. Rodriguez had some success with his right hook once he began fighting left-handed, too.
The more skillful Pedraza began opening up on a fading Rodriguez late in the sixth round. He landed two hard right hooks during the final 40 seconds of that round that stopped Rodriguez in his tracks.
Pedraza continued controlling the action and building on his big lead during the seventh and eighth rounds.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.