By Jake Donovan
KISSIMMEE, Fla.—Jose Pedraza returned to the win column in a big way, scoring a 9th round stoppage of veteran spoiler Antonio Lozada in their ESPN-televised lightweight bout Saturday evening at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Fla.
A knockdown and ensuing flurry prompted the stoppage at 2:34 of round nine.
Pedraza was fighting for the first time since a decision defeat to Vasiliy Lomachenko in their lightweight unification clash last December. He couldn’t have asked for a stiffer test in upset-minded Lozada, a battle-tested Mexican slugger who remains best remembered for his knockout win over then-unbeaten Felix Verdejo last March.
It brought out the best in the former two-division titlist, as did the fight that rendered him as such.
“A loss doesn’t make me a lesser fighter,” Pedraza noted to ESPN’s Crystina Poncher through translator Gardy Lopez. “I learned from it and believe I came out better for it, as I showed in this win tonight.”
Both were cognizant of the other’s credentials, picking their spots but also not afraid to mix it up when necessary in a briskly paced opening round. Lozada—unbeaten in his last nine starts—came forward behind a loose but efficient guard, slipping punches on the inside but unable to react quick enough to pin down his slick foe.
Pedraza came out purposeful in round two, showcasing the skills that led to his landing major titles at 130- and 135-pounds. Lozada was a sitting duck for the switch hitter’s laser right hooks, thrown with precision and intent to frustrate moreso than harm. It worked as Lozada struggled to plant his feet long enough to landing anything meaningful in return.
The same pattern held true in round three, which saw Pedraza briefly fight out of a conventional stance before returning to southpaw where he caused considerable damage. Lozada was made to look as if he was punching under water, swinging with crisp right hands and left hooks that just weren’t able to catch up with Pedraza’s slick infighting skills.
Lozada found a home for his right hands in the middle rounds, even if the impact had minimal effect. The rangy Tijuana lightweight kept coming forward, hopeful the dam would eventually break and that he could force Pedraza into a slugfest. It never quite reached that point but made for competitive two-way action when preceding rounds suggested a rout.
As his opponent’s confidence grew, Pedraza sat down more on his punches as the fight transitioned into the second half. Lozada was mixing in the occasional left hook with right hands with which he saw improved success. Pedraza made Lozada pay for the ones he was able to slip, immediately returning fire and connecting with straight left hands.
The action in the ring prompted cheers from the heavily Puerto Rico-populated crowd, but referee Telis Assimenios managed to bring out the jeers with warnings for separate fouls in rounds seven and eight. Pedrazz was giving a finger-waving lecture for a body shot which strayed low late in round seven, then saw an 8th round rally stalled when he was warned for holding down on the back of Lozada’s head.
It didn’t take long for the crowd to rally behind their guy, filling the venue with chants of “Pe-Dra-Za” as the former champ went on the attack. Lozada was hurt early in the round and late with left hands to the body, leaving himself open for straight shots upstairs.
A round-ending flurry from Pedraza caused the crowd to erupt during the one-minute break, singing “Yo soy boricua pa que tu lo sepas” and dancing in celebration.
That was before the ending.
Pedraza felt the energy, as well as the sense that Lozada was a done fighter. The bout’s lone knockdown soon followed, flooring the Mexican with a straight left hand that rattled his jaw as he crashed to the canvas. Lozada beat the count, but couldn’t escape the onslaught. Pedraza’s ensuing flurry prompted the opposing corner to signal in surrender.
The loss snaps Lozada’s nine-fight unbeaten streak in falling to 40-3-1 (34KOs).
As for his conqueror, the future never looked brighter. Given his height and range, there exists the possibility of moving up in weight in efforts to become a three-division titlist.
However, there remains the matter of unfinished business in his current domain.
“I would like to win another title at lightweight before maybe moving up to 140 pounds,” insisted Pedraza, who improves to 26-2 (13KOs) with the knockout win.
The bout served as the chief support to the super featherweight title fight between Masayuki Ito and Jamel Herring.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox